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Netflix’s ‘Away’ uses Mars mission to tell a timely story of isolation and aspirational ideals

Netflix is taking us to Mars, and we got the inside story on how it’ll look. As part of the CTAM (or Cable Telecommunications Association for Marketing) summer press tour for Netflix, reporters got a deeper look at their upcoming drama, Away, which dramatizes in the near future, the world’s first human-led voyage to Mars. It stars Hilary Swank at U.S. Commander Emma Green, along with actors Ray Panthaki, Ato Essandoh, Mark Ivanir and Vivian Wu as members of her multi-national team of scientists and astronauts.

Executive producer Jason Katims (Friday Night Lights), creator/EP Andrew Hinderaker and showrunner/EP Jessica Goldberg virtually collected their core cast to reveal an extended trailer and explain how they believe the show itself has evolved into an even more timely tale for our pandemic reality.

Opening the conversation, Katims explained: “We had shot the first season and were in post when we all had to go home and work remotely. Editors and producers and VFX were sending cuts back and forth trying to figure out how to do this without human interaction. We found ourselves rewatching cuts of the show that resonated like we never imagined. It’s about [the characters] not being with people who are most important to you, making life decisions without your husband or kid, and not being able to step out into the world.” And while Katims said the show is about many things, the core of the series is clearly even more rooted in revealing the human spirit and how, when its tested, what its capable of accomplishing.

The 10-episode series debuts on September 4, 2020 and was born out of Katims reading astronaut Chris Jones’ Esquire essay about being out in space while his family was rooted on Earth. While he admits he’s not a “space show” guy, the idea stuck with him. “It really appealed to me, doing a show that was epic and grand with gravitas about space, but also about personal relationships.”

He then connected with Hinderaker, who wrote the pilot, and Goldberg, who ran the day-to-day of Away. For his part, Hinderaker admitted that the hopefulness of space exploration was what hooked him. Yet in the year since they started production, he added that, “I do think now, more than ever, it’s also time to remember what [humanity] is capable of, and to remember what happens when we believe in science and the world works together.”

The show’s cast was equally inspired by the hopeful nature of the series. Swank, also an EP on the series, said of her character, “The writers wrote such an immensely layered human being in [Emma]. I love that the Commander is a woman and that’s not the drama of the story. The drama is a story about richly different racial backgrounds, people working towards a goal but also the gravitational pull to their families on Earth, so it’s also a love story. It’s a dream come true of Emma’s to lead a mission to mars, and being an unexpected mother and these other humans on this mission learn to break through stereotypes to connect us all.”

Actor Ato Essandoh, who plays Kwesi, the least experienced Botanist of the team, added that what the story reveals to the audience a metaphorical path of clarity for how humanity is reacting to our current COVID-19 crisis. “Will we ever be able to shoot again?” he said with uncertainty about how U.S. film and television production has been grounded since March. “What we used to take for granted is now being challenged. To tell any story, we all need to come together and agree on the problem. It can’t be done piece-meal. It’s about finding what will get us all to agree on the problem, and work together despite different religions and creeds.”

All 10-episodes of Away drop on September 4, 2020 on Netflix.


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Away: Netflix Show’s Cast Describes Gravity Training — TCA

For Hilary Swank and the rest of the cast, simulating spaceflight conditions meant plenty of physical preparation and learning a new way of movement.

Turns out that making a journey to Mars isn’t easy, even when you’re stuck on Earth.

Speaking virtually at the Television Critics Association’s Summer Press Tour on Tuesday, the cast and crew behind the upcoming Netflix drama “Away” spoke about the challenges of pulling off the scenes of the series that take place in space. The show centers on a group of five astronauts, pulled from countries around the world, to take part in the first manned mission to Mars.

For those playing the central crew — Hilary Swank, Ato Essandoh, Vivian Wu, Ray Panthaki, and Mark Ivanir — the accompanying physical prep was no joke.

“Pretending that you’re in zero-gravity, it takes a lot of effort and a lot of effort to make it look effortless. We were harnessed by the lower part of our hips, and they were acting as a pendulum. So we’d squeeze our glutes to move us forward, and then squeeze our abs to move us backwards,” Swank said. “The whole time we’re squeezing these muscles so tight, trying not to talk funny. You naturally want to talk like you’re in slow motion, which people don’t do in zero gravity. It was, I think, for all of us a lot more challenging than we realized it would be.”

“In the boot camp, we did a lot of just incredible work on I remember when the first time I did my inversion, I was really excited, but at the same time, I had this headache that lasted for a day,” Wu said.

Making matters even more complicated is the system of wires that allowed the actors to move throughout the shuttle set as if there were no gravity.

“Hanging from wires for 19 hours a day didn’t seem like it was going to be great. But we figured all of this out,” Essandoh said. “I don’t remember days going over and over and over because we were trying to figure out the wires. We figured out the dance and the language so quickly and we were adapting to changes on the fly.”

“It takes a real effort on all of our parts to be on our A-game. One person could be doing the perfect flyby with a monologue and if this person standing here interacts, we have to redo it. It’s a real dance in space. We all thankfully cared so much about one another and making sure that each person is supported. Everyone just came so prepared,” Swank said.

That physical aspect of the performance meant that what these performers wore made a huge difference. Swank said that the fabric and construction of the suits was as close to space-ready as the show could get.

“We worked so hard to make this feel as accurate as possible,” series writer and producer Jason Katims said. “We started designing that spaceship probably about nine or 10 months before we actually started shooting. Those spacesuits took us months and months to make those. We were basically, like, ‘We have to cast our actors so that we can fit them for the spacesuits.’”

Of course, any show that heavily features space travel involves a certain amount of isolation. Series showrunner Jessica Goldberg closed the panel talking about how the action of the series continues on Earth once the mission’s crew has started their journey outward.

“What a bizarre thing that we ended up living in that world now where a lot of communicate with loved ones has to be done over Skype or Zoom or the way we’re doing this now,” Goldberg said.

“Away” is set to premiere Friday, September 4 on Netflix.


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See first photos of Hilary Swank on a mission to Mars in Netflix’s Away

Away is coming to Netflix this fall.

The upcoming drama series stars Hilary Swank as Emma Green, an American astronaut and former Navy pilot who’s described as “headstrong, empathetic and highly intelligent.” Emma is the commander of the first mission to Mars. But as she prepares her international crew for the mission, she has to grapple with the fact that it means leaving behind her husband, Matt (Josh Charles), and teenage daughter, Lex (Talitha Bateman), for three years.

The series, created by Andrew Hinderaker, follows Emma on her journey as the personal dynamics and effects of being away from home become more and more complex. Jessica Goldberg serves as showrunner with Jason Katims, Matt Reeves, Andrew Hinderaker, Edward Zwick, Hilary Swank, Adam Kassan, and Jeni Mulein all on board to executive produce. Rounding out the cast is Mark Ivanir, Ato Essandoh, Ray Panthaki, Vivian Wu, and Monique Curnen. The series will debut globally on Friday, Sept. 4 on Netflix.

Check out a teaser for the series above and first look images below.

– Television Away > Episode Stills > 1×01 – Pilot