The following interview contains spoilers for Season 3, Episode 2 of For All Mankind.
For All Mankind is well on its way with Season 3. This season, with the mission to go to Mars planned not only for NASA and the Soviet Union but also for the private company Helios Aerospace, it’s an even bigger space race, this time to the red planet. However, unlike Season 1, NASA has changed in the 20 years since they landed on the moon and established Jamestown. Among those changed is Danielle Poole, a NASA astronaut and newly minted commander of NASA’s mission to Mars. Played by Krys Marshall, Danielle has grown from the role of a rookie into an experienced and talented leader in 1993.
In the most recent episode, “Game Changer,” we saw Molly (Sonya Walger) get fired by Margo (Wrenn Schmidt) after she appointed Ed (Joel Kinnaman) to the position of commander for the Mars mission. Going against Margo’s orders and against logic, since Danielle is far more qualified for the mission, the excited Ed quickly loses the wind in his sails when he is told by Margo that he’s been taken off the mission. Appointed in his place is Margo’s first choice: Danielle.
After finding out that Danielle is his replacement, Ed meets with her and complains. Surprisingly, to her face, Ed essentially calls Danielle a diversity hire because she is a Black woman. Despite their years working together, and the tasks that Ed knows Danielle is capable of exceeding at, his internalized racism and misogyny still manage to rear their ugly head. We spoke with Krys Marshall about that scene and how she reacted to it.
“It both pissed me off and I also loved it at the exact same time, because I think that that is what I’m talking about, about the multifaceted dimensions in a real character. It’s very easy to just say Ed Baldwin’s a good guy, we’ve got this alternate timeline, and so Kumbaya. Now, Danielle’s gotten a position that he hasn’t, and he’s happy for her. That’s not real. Even though these two have known each other for many years. They were marooned on the Moon for months. Danielle has seen him be a father, lose a child, become a dad again to an adopted daughter. They have really been through it. He’s seen her lose a husband to suicide. You couldn’t have thicker thieves than Ed and Danielle.
“And at the same time, he also can’t help but see her through the veil of his lived experience as a straight white man. He’s accustomed to being in the position of authority, position of power, a position of prestige or privilege. So, as a viewer, it pissed me off like, ‘How dare he do that to Danielle! Screw that guy!’ But as a storyteller, and as an actor, you’re like, ‘Yes, yes, yes. Yes. This is gonna be so much fun!’
“And there were versions of that scene that were really hot, very angry, and I really pushed back on him. And then there are some versions where I was just more shocked and more disappointed, and the version that they used was more of the more subdued version, and I think that’s very true. What I also love about Ed and Danielle is that he can step in it, hurt her feelings, totally disrespect her, and also be dead wrong – I mean, she’s way overqualified, better than he’ll ever be – and they still move through it. They still go on to love each other. They’re still going to support one another. They still go on to have each other’s backs. That part of our alternate timeline I do wish there was more of in the world, when two people are able to see differently, come from different perspectives, both ideologically, and also racially and gender wise, but also still find common ground and still love each other and get the job done. So yeah, I love the dynamic.”
Of course, fans of the show will know that Danielle and Ed have an intricate shared history. In the first season, Danielle, Ed, and Gordo (Michael Dorman) were a part of Apollo 22. This is where the iconic, “Hey Bob,” line first came up and where Gordo suffered a severe case of psychosis. In order to protect Gordo’s career, Danielle breaks her arm and uses it as a cover to bring Gordo back to Earth. Gordo is hailed a hero, but the crew of Apollo 22 knows the truth. Over the years, Ed and Danielle have become close friends, but that doesn’t mean their friendship is perfect.
The years have also helped Danielle to develop her own voice as a leader, and Marshall explained that she thought the first and second seasons only showed a single dimension of Danielle. “She is the one who is the voice of reason, she is the one who’s warning Ed about Gordo. He’s not doing well, somebody’s listening to me,” she said, referencing the Apollo 22 incident. “In Season 2, she’s doing a lot of the same sort of thing – warning folks about the program, saying we got to move forward with this handshake, nobody listens to her, and eventually she does it on her own. I think that oftentimes when you have people of color in stories, women in stories, they can oftentimes be a single dimension.”
But, Season 3, she said, offered her a new opportunity at exploring Danielle’s character, as well as new challenges for Marshall as an actor. “Those who like Danielle Poole will see that her world expands, and in seeing more of her, we also see some things in her that we don’t like as much,” Marshall explained, pointing to surprises that she encountered reading the script. “That was a challenge to read some scenes and think, ‘Wait a minute! Danielle’s doing what? That’s not something I would do.’ But also acknowledging like, oh, she’s a human being and she’s gonna make mistakes, she’s gonna step in it, she’s gonna make a choice that I wouldn’t make. She’s gonna do some things that are ugly or not very nice or insensitive. Leaning into that and feeling like this is an opportunity to play was really fun for me.”
New episodes of For All Mankind stream on Fridays on Apple TV+.