10… 9… 8… 7… The countdown is on for the season four premiere of Apple TV+’s history rewriting space race drama, For All Mankind. Lucky fans at last month’s New York Comic Con (like myself) already had an early screening at the “For All Mankind’s Alternate New Millennium” panel. While we promised to keep the episode details to a minimum, there was much more to discover during the event.
On hand was a panel of producers, artisans and consultants to discuss what goes into telling the multiple decade-spanning, alternate history version of space exploration. Included on the panel were EP/Creator Ronald D. Moore, EPs/Creators/Showrunners Ben Nedivi and Matt Wolpert, NASA Tech Advisor Garrett Reisman, Production Designer Seth Reed, and Costume Designer Esther Marquis.
As with each season of For All Mankind there is a time jump when we enter the fourth season. Which means, not only do the characters’s storylines have to shift ahead, so does the alternate world and science history of the series – this is a monumental task. “Each season sort of begins in a writer’s room, kicking around with a lot of ideas,” said Moore. “You start talking about what era we’re in, what happened in between seasons, and what are all the various ways that things could have changed, and what things would be the same.” He continued, “You start literally putting a couple hundred possibilities, everything from pop culture to technology to character’s lives, geopolitics.”
This season, as seen in the trailer, revolves around space mining – a concept that is not only being explored in the world of science fiction, but also has numerous real-world groups pursuing it. And where there’s money there are also hurdles including, “Lots of clearance issues, of course,” explained Reed. “The very concept of pushing an asteroid with a spacecraft, believe it or not, was subject to clearance. So I actually needed to send those images to our clearance people. Of course, I checked with Garrett and Ben and Matt, but that cleared anything.”
You would expect going into space in real-life as an astronaut who 95 days on the International Space Station would be far and away your career highlight. Reisman, the series’ NASA Tech Advisor, described his unexpected second career in Hollywood, “I mean, I’m tickled pink. I still keep expecting this to end someday.” Reisman continued, “The likelihood that I was gonna end up in a writer’s room, or on the set of a TV show like this, was like nil.”
The unique perspective and first hand knowledge an actual astronaut brings to the table is invaluable. “During the pandemic, we had Zoom sessions with the cast. Especially the ones that were gonna have scenes in microgravity,” said Reisman. “Because there’s the tendency for actors to try portraying in microgravity as just everything happens very slowly. And that’s not really the way it is.” (You can hear more from Reisman about his contributions in our video interview below.)
The attention to the scientific details are what separates the series from so many others out there. The work of the team does not go unnoticed by fans or the space exploration community itself. In a case of life imitating art, costume designer Ester Marquis was commissioned to design space suits that would go beyond the Hollywood sound stage and into space. Reisman started the story of how it came to be, “ got a call one day from this company Axiom, which is making a private space station. And they also contracted me the lunar suits for Artemis for NASA. Tthey said, we gotta show this thing in like two weeks, and we need to put a cover on it, because we can’t let everyone see the proprietary technology. Do you know somebody that can make them look good? And I say, yes, I do. And I gave them Esther’s email and she ended up designing real spaces.”
“I designed the spacesuit cover, which is not the spacesuit,” continued Marquis. “It was for their worldwide reveal. I just finished designing their flight suit for their mission, their Artemis 3 mission.”
Like the team at NASA, the team behind For All Mankind like a challenge, for the fourth season that meant landing on an asteroid. “Ben and Matt called me up and they said, hey, we want to go take this spaceship and capture an asteroid, and not like a little tiny asteroid, like a big one,” Reisman recalled.
“I was like, ‘Whoa, that’s gonna be tricky.’ One of the things that’s tricky about that is that all asteroids spin. So if you go up to it with a spacecraft, you’re gonna have to constantly be going around, and you can’t orbit it because it doesn’t have enough gravity.” As someone who has seen the episode, the results are breathtaking and induce some major breathholding.
The series is certain to inspire a new generation of engineers, scientists and astronaut – something that does not go unrecognized by the show creators. “Honestly, that to me is the greatest gift of doing a show like this,” said Nedivi. “Whenever we hear about someone who’s inspired by the show to enter, become an engineer, or get involved in NASA, or want to do that, it’s so fulfilling. If it helps inspire younger people to get more involved, maybe that can get governments to get more involved, and corporations, and then really the dream of the show becomes the reality.”
Beyond the captivating science, the series is always focused on the history and humanity of its characters. “The show started with this rivalry between the USSR and the U.S., and now by season four, the two sides are working together for a common cause. In the world we live in today,” explained Nedivi “The things we’re reading on the news right now, it’s really dark, it’s really depressing, and I think it’s unique to have the opportunity to work on the sci-fi show that is optimistic, that speaks to what’s possible and not a more dystopian dark future, and it’s one of the things we’re really proud of.”
When asked to describe season four of For All Mankind in three words, Wolpert quickly and enthusiastically responded, “Asteroids, asteroids, asteroids!” Nailed it!
Watch my full interviews with Wolpert, Nedivi and Reisman (below), as well as the season four trailer and exclusive pics from the NYCC panel – which was just part of our extensive coverage. Season 4 of For All Mankind premieres on November 10th exclusively on Apple TV+.
NYCC PANEL PHOTOS