Categories Articles & Interviews

Hilary Swank and Cast on Away’s Hope, Isolation, LGBTQ+ Storyline

There was no telling quite how relevant the themes of Away would be when the mission-to-Mars series began production. The Netflix series that stars Hilary Swank as Emma Green, the commander of a years-long global mission to the Red Planet, offers plenty of nail-biting spacewalks, but it’s also grounded in themes of isolation and hope that are particularly resonant since life effectively changed last March.

The series revolves around an international effort to land a crew on the moon that is then rocketed to Mars in a tightrope of timing and launches. Swank’s team is made up of Vivian Wu’s Lu, a chemist from China who’s keeping an important secret; Mark Ivanir as a Russian cosmonaut; Ray Panthaki as a navigator representing Iran; and Ato Essandoh as a British botanist on his first space mission.

Meanwhile, Emma’s husband, Matt (Josh Charles), is not only keeping the home fires burning, but he’s also one of the heads at mission control. Talitha Bateman plays their daughter, Alexis, a teen who grapples with accepting the perils of her mother’s dangerous mission with the more relatable story of going through high school without her mom there.

As with any great space story, as the crew of Atlas 1 sets off on the mission (spurred in part by environmental factors and the waning sustainability of life on earth) they face daunting rescues as things fail to function while alternately coping with the boredom and paranoia that accompanies isolation. On top of that, there’s an LGBTQ+ storyline that is revealed a few episodes into the series.

The Advocate chats with several of Away’s cast members, including two-time Oscar winner Hilary Swank, who discusses the extraordinary time at which the show is being released and how having hope is a thread throughout the series that is relatable to so many now.

Spoilers ahead for anyone who hasn’t seen Away’s third episode.

“In the end, it is really hope that we hold on to to get us through to the other side. Hope is the connective tissue of the whole story, kind of like the superglue, if you will, is hope in everything,” Swank says. “Globally, we’re all having to hope right now and having to really work together to get through this time.”

Away also takes on issues around race and gender. Swank addresses those aspects of the series as well.

“It breaks through stereotypes of race and gender. It reminds us of how dangerous stereotypes are and that at the core of everything as we work on this mission to Mars, that we have to work together and support each other’s strengths and that the commonality after we break down stereotypes is the connective tissue of being a human,” she says.

“Emma Green is this female commander of this mission, and that’s not the drama of the show, whereas five years ago that would have been,” she says about how the series tackles gender. “Instead, it’s just this woman who is best qualified and has to earn everyone’s trust like anyone else in that position would.”

In the series, her character delivers a monologue about love and embracing sexual and gender identities that is deeply moving. An ally to LGBTQ+ people, Swank addresses queer rights as well in her talk with The Advocate.

“As we all know, and the message that we continue to put out there, is that love is love. We have to continue to talk about it, and we have to continue to be inclusive of whatever shape and form that takes. Love feels like love no matter what package it’s in. I think we’re making leaps and bounds in that area. I still think we have a long way to go,” she says.

“Being silenced is a type of violence. I think the more we continue to talk about it, the more we break down, again … going back to a stereotypical way of looking at anything, how dangerous that is,” Swank adds. “I’m so excited that this show touches on it as well and that we can continue that conversation within it.”


Categories Articles & Interviews Away Tv Show

Hilary Swank on the Away Episode That Left Her Sleepless

Given the absolute hellscape we’re currently living in, the idea of leaving planet Earth altogether and starting a new life in outer space doesn’t sound unappealing. But Netflix’s new limited series Away takes place in the Before Times, a more innocent era when coronavirus hadn’t uprooted life as we know it, so this is not an easy decision for Hilary Swank’s Emma Green to make.

Emma is a NASA commander at the top of her game, who’s been training for years for this three-year mission to Mars. She’s also a wife and mother, and her commitment to her mission is tested in the show’s very first episode when her husband (Josh Charles) suffers a sudden heart attack. Faced with an agonizing choice—abandon the mission her entire career has been building towards, or abandon her ailing husband and teenage daughter in the middle of a crisis—Emma makes the difficult decision to put her work first. It’s the kind of tough call we’ve seen scores of male heroes make in cinema over the years, but feels quietly revolutionary coming from a woman.

Swank speaks to about the refreshing gender dynamics of Away, her disappointment in this year’s Oscar nominations, and how this space saga mirrors the loneliness of lockdown. Continue reading Hilary Swank on the Away Episode That Left Her Sleepless

Categories Articles & Interviews Tv Show

Two-Time Oscar-Winner Hilary Swank Realizes a Childhood Dream With Her New Netflix Series, Away

When Hilary Swank scooped two Oscars in the space of just five years — for Boys Don’t Cry (1999) and Million Dollar Baby (2004) — she became one of Hollywood’s biggest stars. Since then, the 46-year-old Nebraska native has navigated the industry on her own terms, appearing in weighty dramas such as The Homesman (2014) and prestige TV in the form of FX’s Trust (2018), but also taking regular breaks from acting.

In 2015, she founded the Hilaroo Foundation, a nonprofit that supports underprivileged youth and abandoned animals, and the following year launched Mission Statement, a clothing line specialising in luxury ethical wardrobe staples. Between 2014 and 2017, she also cared for her father, who was recovering from a lung transplant. When she and entrepreneur Philip Schneider married in 2018, her father was well enough again to walk her down the aisle.

Swank returned to work with turns in the sci-fi thriller I Am Mother (2019) and satirical horror The Hunt (2020), but her next role is her most prominent in more than a decade: that of soft-spoken, sensitive American astronaut Emma Green in Andrew Hinderaker’s 10-part Netflix series Away which starts streaming this Friday. Tasked with leading a mission to Mars, she must unite an international space crew composed of a jaded Russian cosmonaut (Mark Ivanir), a secretive Chinese chemist (Vivian Wu), a British-Ghanian botanist (Ato Essandoh) and an Indian co-pilot (Ray Panthaki). In order to make history, Emma also has to leave behind her husband Matt (Josh Charles) and daughter Alexis (Talitha Eliana Bateman) — an arrangement complicated by the former’s ailing health and the latter’s coming of age.

We recently spoke to Swank about her grueling zero-gravity scenes, the illuminating conversations she had with some of the world’s greatest female astronauts, and why taking on the role meant partly fulfilling a childhood ambition. Continue reading Two-Time Oscar-Winner Hilary Swank Realizes a Childhood Dream With Her New Netflix Series, Away