During a routine mission aboard the International Space Station, a fatal accident changes the course of astronaut Jo Ericsson’s (Noomi Rapace) life. Once she returns to Earth and struggles to reconnect with her family, her sanity is compromised as her world is turned upside down. Is she losing her grip on reality? Or is there a deeper scientific conspiracy at play? That push-pull dynamic is part of the emotional foundation of Apple TV+’s upcoming sci-fi series, Constellation, the first three episodes of which will premiere on the streamer on Wednesday, February 21.
“We really wanted to make it authentic.”
Created by Peter Harness (Doctor who) and with Jonathan Banks (Break bad) as quantum physicist and retired astronaut Henry Caldera, James D’Arcy (Officer Carter) as Jo’s husband Magnus, and Will Catlett (The Last Days of Ptolemy Gray) as Jo’s astronaut companion Paul Lancaster, the eight-episode first season takes viewers on a mind-bending thrill ride around the world – and into the claustrophobic confines of the ISS – to shed light on the physical and emotional toll the space travel has on astronauts.
“We really wanted to make it authentic,” says Harness Other way around during the program’s official press day. “The ISS, the reality of what it’s like to be an astronaut up there with these kinds of interdepartmental politics, and the toll that being an astronaut can have on you. We wanted to record these things as accurately as possible. If it’s completely grounded and believable, and your characters are believable, then you deserve permission to do something weird on top of that.”
And just to be clear, things get weird in the series. Aside from seeing the world through the troubled eyes of this story’s protagonists, Constellation takes a stab at quantum physics and the theoretical possibility that the reality we live in may be an illusion. To go to those remote places in the series, they had to make the environment in the series as believable and recognizable as possible.
Finding Realism in Zero Gravity
Having famed astronaut Scott Kelly on set as an advisor not only helped the actors prepare their minds and bodies for life in space, but he also inspected the set of the International Space Station and gave it its official stamp of approval. approval.
“He worked with the actors, the stunt coordinator and myself and showed us how to move in space,” says director Michelle McClaron. And in case you’re wondering, replicating the pace at which astronauts move in zero gravity while in front of the camera was a complicated challenge.
“There is great dignity in these men and great strength in them.”
During the 2024 Television Critics Association Winter Tour panel for the series, Will Catlett shared how important movement was in his scenes: “Less is more, less is more. If you press too hard on the ISS, on this side of the wall, you will be sent in the other direction at 50 kilometers per hour.” Whether Rapace and Cartlett were dangling from a system of wires or lying prone on wheelchairs – the balance between moving gracefully and rushing intensely to save a life was no easy task. The duo also did all their own stunts.
“It’s quite a challenge to shoot an action scene with a lot of energy when if you move too fast you’re dead,” McClaren adds. ‘When Naomi had to rush through the ISS, she couldn’t really rush. And that was something that Scott really ground into our heads to make it as realistic as possible. Rapace underwent physical training to bring her astronaut experience to life on screen. “We were on wires, we were working on our bodies,” she says. “I trained a few months early because I needed to work a lot on my core strength, my balance and my body control.”
Tackling some of the show’s spacewalk scenes required Rapace to perform while wearing an actual Orlan suit, the Russian version of NASA’s Extravehicular Mobility Unit — the space suit cosmonauts wore when they worked on the exterior of the International Space Station. It’s one thing to act in such a heavy outfit while being hoisted onto a platform, but when the only person you can hear is the director’s voice in your helmet, the claustrophobic nature of the shoot takes on a whole new level. form. “Michelle was basically like God in my head,” Rapace adds. “I just followed what she said because I couldn’t communicate with anyone else.”
Their focus on authenticity also meant that these astronauts were brought to life with a certain sense of balance and responsibility. It’s a story component that stuck with Banks. “I have always respected the heroism that was required,” says De You better call Saul alum says Other way around. “I think about the intelligence of these astronauts, the scientists who were up there, and the motor genius and the physicality of it all. There is great dignity in these men and great strength in them.”
In space, no one can hear you scream
At first glance it would be easy to classify Constellation as a science fiction thriller. And it is. However, Harness has also injected horror elements into the series, making it feel like the show could cross the line into body horror or ghost story territory at any point. That creative choice was definitely by design.
“There were strange, creepy stories about what astronauts experience in space – they hear dogs barking, and sometimes they see strange things outside the capsules,” Harness said during the TCA panel, detailing the lesser-known physical and mental changes in space. space emphasized. traveling can leave a legacy, even changing someone’s DNA.
“Astronauts usually show significant deterioration in their vision after they return,” he continued. “There are strange physical changes happening, not just the kind of muscle wasting and the molecular side of things. I find it so interesting to look at the Earth, for anyone who has ever been there. Understandably, this is something that has shaken them to their core. And maybe people have awakened spiritually and seen things in a completely different way.”
“There were strange, creepy stories about what astronauts experience in space.”
Constellation is a science fiction story, a conspiracy thriller and a horror story. The series combines a plethora of heavy concepts and raises questions about how we perceive the world and how it actually exists.
Harness has a multi-season plan for the series. But whether Apple wants to stay in the space that long remains to be seen. Right now, his goal is to tell a thought-provoking story that will make you pay more attention to your surroundings and loved ones, while pondering some bigger existential questions.
Or maybe he just wants to scare you a bit.
“William Shatner came back from space last year and said, ‘I just felt this overwhelming sense of sadness and fear,’” he says, laughing.