If you flash through Hilary Swank’s career, you might decide that society is improving, after all.
There she was in “Iron Jawed Angels” (2004), as real-life militant Alice Paul, surviving arrests and hunger strikes while fighting for women’s right to vote.
And here she is in “Away,” which Netflix debuts Friday – 100 years and nine days after that voting-right became official. She plays the captain of a Mars mission.
“We’ve definitely come far in the last hundred years,” Swank told the Television Critics Association recently. “And we still have so much more to accomplish in equality for women. But … the show is such a beautiful reflection of where we’re headed.”
Not long ago, the story might have had lots of consternation about a woman being in charge. Now that’s a non-issue; emotions involve all the characters – female and male – separated from families.
“Some of the most extraordinary scenes are the ones between space and Earth,” said Andrew Hinderaker, who created the series. “Some of the scenes between Hilary and Josh (Charles, who plays her husband) or between all the astronauts and their families. The phone calls that sustain us.”
The non-fiction story this is based on, he said, included “an astronaut whose wife would send him recordings of the rain and of crickets, just to give him a tether back to Earth.”
Things are complicated further by Charles’ character’s medical problems.
“He is sort of away from his own body” and from his wife, Charles said. He’s “trying to co-parent a daughter who is sort of becoming away from the little girl that she was.”
This was filmed before the pandemic, said producer Jason Katims (“Friday Night Lights,” “Parenthood”), seemed to take on new meaning while being edited during the COVID era.
“The show started to resonate in a way that we had never imagined,” he said. “Like the idea of not being able to be with the people that are most important to you. (This) is about the human spirit.”
Would the “Away” people want to do a real space mission?
“I actually wanted to be an astronaut before I wanted to be an actor,” Swank said. Still, “I don’t think I would want to go to Mars if it took three years. But the moon – a hundred percent.”
Hinderaker agreed. “I’m on the first trip to the moon,” he said. “Mars – 30 million miles is a long way to go. There’s a lot of stuff that could go wrong. I might hesitate there.”