Few shows on the newly launched Apple TV+ caught my attention like For All Mankind did last year. Created by Ronald D. Moore (Outlander, Battlestar Galactica), Matt Wolpert, and Ben Nedivi, the series depicts an alternate version of American history. In this alternate history, the Space Race never ended. The Soviet Union got to the moon before the United States, NASA trains a whole team of female astronauts, and they start building settlements on the moon.
Featuring all of their main cast members, For All Mankind divided their Comic-Con at Home panel into three separate parts, focusing on the female astronauts on the show, the segment of episodes at Jamestown, and then finally looking forward into the next season.
One of the main aspects of the series is how it deals with NASA aggressively introducing female astronauts into NASA and getting them up in space due to the pressure from the Soviet Union. In the “Women of All Mankind” panel, Wolpert moderated with Wrenn Schmidt, Sarah Jones, Jodi Balfour, Krys Marshall, and Sonya Walger.
“I think when you lockout 50% of your population from bringing all of their talents and intelligence to the things that they love best you really lose out by not having those resources,” said Schmidt, on bringing in women early into the Space Race.
Marshall chimed in, “Women don’t have to be pitted against men in order to have a place in society, we can just be there in addition to and be allowed to contribute and just trust that that contribution will be worthwhile.”
“It doesn’t have to be an intrinsic power dynamic at play between men and women [there] is collaboration and there are strengths and weaknesses to celebrate that only benefit the environment holistically, and I think the importance of modeling behavior in society is huge,” said Balfour. She concluded, “It’s hard to speculate what the world would look like, but one could certainly suggest that it would be a less conflictual place where gender dynamics are concerned.”
This mini panel also delved deep into the intersectionality of a character like Danielle, played by Krys Marshall, and playing a Black woman in spaces where she might be the only Black person in the room. Also, dialogue between Sarah Jones and Sonya Walger on the nuances of portrayal when it came to Tracy and Molly’s two very different versions of women.
Relating to the lockdowns from the Covid-19 pandemic, the second mini panel, “Stranded at Jamestown” focused in on episode seven of the first season, “Hi Bob” where Ed, Danielle, and Gordo are cramped at Jamestown together while Gordo slowly has a breakdown and the group is forced to make a difficult decision. Featuring Joel Kinnaman, Shantel VanSanten, Krys Marshall, and Michael Dorman, the panel was moderated by Nedivi.
Marshall described the experience as a true bonding experience. Because the scenes were shot in sequential order, Kinnaman, Marshall, and Dorman were able to slowly play out the scenes of the episode. “There were times when we were actually lying in these bunk beds ragging [on] each other, pulling each other’s legs, and you know having a good time, and yeah, I feel like we got to know each other really quick,” Marshall explained.
“We were definitely a quaranteam during those two weeks,” Kinnaman joked.
Marshall added, “It was a blessing because then we didn’t have to fake it. We didn’t have to do any acting. It’s just like we actually got to spend that time together and it was lovely, and exhausting, and powerful all at the same time.”
“It was a roller coaster but what a beautiful part of storytelling in terms of the human condition in the way that we’re so vulnerable, and we can fracture when we’re under pressure,” Dorman elaborated. His character Gordo suffered from a mental breakdown during their time at Jamestown. “It was a really, really special story to tell.”
The three discussed their different approaches to their characters’ reactions to the change in the climate at Jamestown, and then the discussion also touched on Karen’s (Shantel VanSanten) experience on earth and her isolation during Ed’s missions.
Finally, Ronald D. Moore moderated the final panel where he was joined by Joel Kinnaman, Shantel VanSanten, Michael Dorman, Sarah Jones, and Wrenn Schmidt where they look into the future of the show. Season 2 will pick up ten years after the events of Season 1 in 1983. Regan is president and the Cold War is now very hot.
For Kinnaman and VanSanten’s characters Ed and Karen, this is also a decade after the death of their son. Kinnaman voiced his struggles playing his character after the jump. During the time in-between, Ed’s life has changed drastically. He’s made sacrifices in his career and decided to put his family first after having gone through the tragedy of losing a child. He expressed difficulty on playing a character after having ten years to work on the trauma.
“I was in desperate need of a cathartic moment in a way, I think,” Kinnaman explained. “I needed to have the experience of the character going through the grief and I didn’t really get that in the beginning because that’s not the part of the story that we were told we were telling. So that was difficult and then I think it’s going to be very interesting to watch because it’s an angle that I think is not so [commonly] shown.”
VanSanten agreed with the sentiment, saying she felt uncertain about where her character would pick up after the season. “I was shocked when I read the first few episodes. And I can’t say that it was an easy transition, it felt jarring.” She explained that she journaled experiences and memories for Karen during that time, looking at her relationship with Ed and their family. It sounds like Karen will be quite a different person when we meet her in 1983 again.
Obviously ten years is going to have a major impact on these characters’ lives. While it sounded like Gordo will still be struggling with his personal life, Tracy has flourished. Jones describes her character as a bonafide celebrity. “It’s a double-edged sword. On one hand, there’s a feeling of validation to what she’s doing, and that she really worked your way to be where she is. And on the other hand, it’s not at all what being a part of the NASA program is about.” She added that the experience allowed Tracy to see where Gordo was from the beginning of their marriage.
For Schmidt, it sounds like Margo will be faced with the bureaucratic side of being the boss and having to face not just the technical problems at NASA but also the administrative ones.
The panel ended with a look at Season 2, in a trailer showing the Cold War, Ed in the classroom, Regan in the White House, and astronauts with guns in space! Whew, that is a lot to take in. There is still no release date on the second season, but it doesn’t look too far off given that they have completed filming.
You can watch all of the first season of For All Mankind on Apple TV+!
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