New Delhi: Apple TV’s latest psychological sci-fi thriller not only boasts of an amazing ensemble cast which includes Noomi Rapace of The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo as well as JamesD’ Arcy of Oppenheimer fame, but also brings together the best creative minds in Hollywood.
Directed by Michelle MacLaren of “Breaking Bad” fame, it was created and written by Peter Harness (Wallander, The War of the Worlds). In an exclusive interview with Zee News English, Peter Harness and Michelle Maclaren spoke about the casting and making process.
Q: Peter and Michelle Congratulations! How did this idea come about and what was the challenge of bringing this from word to screen?
Peter Harness: I’ve always been very interested in space and the reality of space travel, and things around it. But I’ve also been aware that there are some kind of spooky stories surrounding space as well as several conspiracy theories. I don’t mean, whether we go to the moon or not, but there are odd things that go on up there that are not often reported because astronauts might be a bit afraid to report them. You know, they see light flashes going through the capsule or they see weird things outside in space. I thought it would be really interesting to, write something about what it’s like to go into space, the effect that it has on your mind, and then what it’s like to come back to Earth because there’s this thing called the Overview Effect, which I think all astronauts go through, which is seeing the Earth from a distance seeing everything you’ve ever known and everybody you’ve ever known from a distance, that changes you and one comes back changed. I wondered whether, you know, we could do something like ask the question Is it the astronaut who changes or is it the Earth who changes?
Michelle Maclaren: What was challenging was doing zero gravity. But most importantly, it was about the character and relationships, Peter’s beautiful writing inspires us visually. So the task was taking this very realistic story, on a level that has a somewhat fantastical element and making it very grounded. In doing so we did a lot of research on real space travel. We consulted Scott Kelly, who’s an astronaut and has been up there longer on ISS ( The International Space Station) and talked to him about his personal experiences of being there, and how it affected his life after he got back to Earth. There were many, many different challenges in approaching it but we started with a visually inspiring script.
Q: What is the thrill of making a sci-fi film?
Peter Harness: think it’s very thrilling necessarily. It was hard, because like Michelle says there are all kinds of wirework and things like that. We built it very accurately, but it is quite hard to shoot a version of the ISS and I mean it’s very authentic, but difficult to shoot. We got a lot of great landscapes as well. We went above the Arctic Circle in Finland, which was huge and epic and we went to Morocco.
Michelle MacLaren: I would say it’s thrilling for me since it was way outside of my comfort zone. I love to be challenged. I had never done Zero Gravity before and the thing about doing something that is a grounded, character-driven action thriller, that has a sci-fi element to it, so you get to stretch reality a little bit further than we normally do. It was thrilling and exciting to play with multiple realities. Shooting in the Arctic Circle and shooting in Morocco, which anywhere you can point the camera is fantastic, and it’s one off my bucket list. It’s amazing. We would go into the woods and get on snowmobiles and ride through these trails and then come out on an open lake and see the stars and sometimes see the northern lights and it was epic.
Q: What was the casting process like, and getting Noomi Rapace to play Jo?
Peter Harness: Noomi was I think always in our heads for Joe because the character is Swedish. She’s a very strong character with a very vulnerable side, it always seemed to me that Naomi was the perfect, casting for it and as soon as we, and as soon as we shared it with her, she was desperate to do it. I think she felt that while she said that it’s like you’ve read my mind, she also felt very much that the character was. I mean constellation is about the stars aligning, and it felt that the stars aligned with that.
Michelle Maclaren: I think Naomi was at a place where she was considering taking a break from her last project. And she read this and she felt as did I that it was written for her. She is a very strong, powerful woman and she’s a mother, which is so important to this character that first and foremost, she’s a mom, and then she’s an astronaut. And so she’s got to be this powerful, survival-fighting character who’s trying to get back to Earth to be with her daughter, and Noomi just related to that on so many levels.
Q: What are the challenges or do you feel as creators there is more liberty when you have a platform like Apple TV to tell the story across episodes?
Peter Harness: It is challenging to get anything made. This is an original story and it’s not a known concept, and it’s challenging because it’s in space, and it’s challenging because it’s in a whole bunch of different countries. But we overcame the struggle because we had, such a fantastic team.
Michelle Maclaren: It’s a massive, massive collaboration. Peter wrote a nonlinear story and that was a huge challenge in itself. We had to work closely together because our stories were interwoven and that was exciting.We’re dealing with multiple locations, and multiple time zones. I think we were constantly checking each other and it was worth every minute.
Constellation premieres on February 16 On Apple TV.