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INTERVIEW: Cynthy Wu on FOR ALL MANKIND & being the first [SPOILER] on Mars

Well, we can't say we didn't see that coming!

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Credit: Apple TV+

Editor’s Note: The following article contains spoilers for Season 3, Episode 8 of For All Mankind.

The most recent episode of For All Mankind was wild for many reasons, but on top of people dying, equipment getting destroyed, and emotions coming to a head, the big reveal at the end of the episode was that Kelly Baldwin (Cynthy Wu) is now pregnant. Not only is this devastating because the father, Alexei Poletov (Pawel Szajda), died in this episode of a subdural hematoma, but having a baby while in space presents a whole new set of issues.

The season has been a crazy one for Kelly. After spending her time in Antarctica doing research at the beginning of the season, we learn that Kelly did indeed complete her time at Annapolis and became an astronaut like her father. When Ed (Joel Kinnaman) asks her to join him on the NASA flight to Mars, she eagerly agrees. But, when Dani (Krys Marshall) is chosen as the lead for Sojourner 1, Kelly decides to stick with NASA and earns a spot for herself on board.

We caught up with Cynthy Wu and talked to her about Kelly’s journey to Mars, what it’s like being the first pregnant woman in space, her romance in space, and her character’s journey so far. Don’t forget to also catch up with our interviews with Krys Marshall (Dani Poole), Casey Johnson (Danny Stevens) and Joel Kinnaman (Ed Baldwin), and Edi Gathegi (Dev Ayesa).

Credit: Apple TV+

Therese Lacson: When you signed on for this job in the previous season, did you ever think that Kelly’s path would lead her to be pregnant on Mars?

Cynthy Wu: Absolutely not. I was not expecting a pregnancy to culminate at all. Obviously, we know Kelly has a romantic liaison with Alexei Poletov. There was that hilarious scene where they’re in what we call the swamp where we’re growing all the plants. And it was kind of funny and they’re just, you know, having fun in there. I did not know that that would become a pregnancy. I was like, “Oh my god, it’s just young people doing what they do!” So, my jaw was on the floor when I found out that the writers made her pregnant.

I was horrified and terrified because it’s not just that she’s pregnant. She’s not on Earth. We don’t have prenatal care up here. What position now has Kelly placed all of her crew members in? I mean, it’s a huge responsibility and massive guilt and so unprofessional. It’s one thing to be human and make romantic connections, but it’s another thing to really, really mess up professionally, you know? So yeah, oh god, I did not expect that.

Lacson: Yeah, definitely not! But I really love that Kelly got a romantic relationship this season, especially with a bit of spice to it, given that she is with NASA and Alexei is with the Soviets. What was your reaction to getting to explore that side of Kelly’s life that we haven’t really seen up until now?

Wu: It was a lot of fun. In Season 2, I think we saw Kelly super serious because she has this teenage angst, right? She’s fighting her parents and wanting to go to Annapolis and her parents are saying no, and there are a lot of harsh words around that and tears. Then also her looking into her past and her biological family. So, Kelly was grappling with a lot of teenage angst I feel in Season 2, and so in Season 3, when we started off with Kelly, she’s just this young woman happily doing her research, walking in and fighting for the job she wants, and then she’s in space with her team.

I felt like we just got to see a really fun side of Kelly. I feel like your 20s are like the best time of your life, at least, in some aspects. And so she got to kind of play with the whole radio DJ thing. You got to see a lighter side of Kelly, which I really enjoyed tapping into because I knew that the writers would eventually drop some crazy stuff down the road. So I was just relishing it, like, “Oh, this is good. This is the fun, sweet stuff before shit hits the fan.”

Credit: Apple TV+

Lacson: One thing I do wish we saw more of is her being in touch with her identity as a Vietnamese woman, is that something that you would like her to explore in the future? I know that we explored that in Season 2, but I’m curious if you have thought about that when thinking about your character.

Wu: That was one of my favorite things about playing Kelly. Season 2 was this whole journey she goes on in finding her biological family and trying to come to terms with who she is and her identity. I think we all can relate to that, whether we’re adopted, whether we’re Vietnamese. We all want to know where we’re from and at some point in our lives, we try to understand who our parents are and why we are the way we are. So I really enjoyed that aspect of playing Kelly in Season 2 and tapping into all the research of Operation Babylift.

Certainly, there was an immense amount of journaling because I’m not adopted, but my father fought in the war in Vietnam and my understanding of the Vietnam War was always kind of shaped through what he had told me stories on the battlefield and friends he’s lost and how our families forever changed coming to America. I never even thought about babies and children who were placed on airplanes to forever leave their homes and not know where their biological family is. That was a wonderful thing for me to explore in Season 2.

I certainly wanted to see more of that in Season 3 moving forward for Kelly, and I have asked her writers about that, but that’s just something I can advocate for as an actor. It’s up to our writers to see where they want to take all the characters because they have the bigger picture in mind. Thank you, it’s something I do think about throughout the season. […] It’s something I bring up with our writers, so I think they know I love that about her and so we’ll see.

Credit: Apple TV+

Lacson: What has been the most rewarding aspect of being on this series?

Wu: There’s so many things that I enjoy about being on this show. But I think this has been the first time I’ve got to tap into a role for multiple seasons and grow in this character. For me, playing Kelly from Season 2, who was 17 years old to then jumping to her mid 20s, I get to grow so much with the character and I also get to remember what it was like being a teenager and living in that skin. It’s very gratifying as an actor to get to jump all these decades. [It’s] an immense amount of growth and just thinking how you change and how you stay the same. So I truly enjoy it, it’s such a gift to be able to play a character, season to season, that jumps time. And you just see them grow. And, as you know, our writers challenge us with crazy storylines. So yeah, it’s kind of like the cherry on top of growing. It’s like, “Well, you’re really going to grow, because we’re gonna make you pregnant in space!”

For All Mankind streams exclusively on Apple TV+ every Friday.

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