There’s a lot going on with “Lost in Space,” Netflix’s big budget remake of the classic science fiction series, from the writing to the production details to how the adults of the cast approached the project, given their relative lack of experience with the genre.
And that showed when IndieWire interviewed stars Parker Posey, Molly Parker, and Toby Stephens during the lead-up to the show’s premiere. Below are seven things we learned from talking to the cast, like the fact that the spacesuits worn by the Robinsons and Dr. Smith were “torture devices,” and the family connection Parker had to the production before she signed on.
Most of the Cast Was New to the World of Sci-Fi
While Parker has been acting for 25 years now, this was her first time going into space. “It’s not my world, for sure,” she said. “I am learning more and more about it and gaining in that respect about what is possible in the sci-fi genre. Like the ability to be able to tell truth in this outer space.”
This meant her first time dealing with a lot of new elements of filmmaking. “I had trepidation — I hadn’t done very much green screen work, I hadn’t done a lot of work with visual effects and special effects,” she said.
However, that ended up being less of a concern, because Parker said that much of the first season was shot on location. “I had incorrectly assumed we would be on the stage all the time, because it’s a sci-fi show,” she said.” But in fact we were on top of mountains, and on top of glaciers and out in the snow and the rain. They really wanted the show to feel like a big adventure and to have that kind of cinematic scope to it. It’s unbelievable.”
Parker did say it was a more grueling experience than she had expected. “Having known that, I probably would have gone to the gym a little bit more before working on shooting,” she said, “And I think that I will do that before next season.”
The wardrobe, in particular, was an issue: “The spacesuits look awesome. They are torture devices. That was quite shocking — although the adults would moan and complain all the time about them and the kids were like ‘These are so cool. Can I wear it home?’ And you’re just like, ‘Oh God, get this thing off me. It’s breaking my back.’ We were completely pathetic.”
For Toby Stephens, “Lost in Space” Was the Perfect Follow-Up To his Last Show
Stephens was also a relative newcomer to acting in the genre, though he described himself as a huge sci-fi fan from a young age.
“I was seven years old when ‘Star Wars’ came out,” Stephens said. “That just kind of blew my head off. ‘2001,’ ‘Blade Runner.’ All of these, all of the stuff like that. This is the one genre I completely expected to be in.”
Just prior to doing “Lost in Space,” Stephens had been starring in the pirate period drama “Black Sails,” and shifting to the character of John, he said, was a relief. “The character of Captain Flint, who I was playing, was a very nihilistic character that was on this kind of tragic course toward death,” he said. “So to get something so polar opposite was really fun. It just sort of ended up being the perfect antidote to having done something like ‘Black Sails.'”
As Sci-Fi Newbies, Most of the Cast Had Never Been to a Convention Before
IndieWire initially spoke to Posey just before she was preparing for her first trip to a pop culture convention; “Lost in Space” debuted a sneak preview at WonderCon in Anaheim, CA this March. “It’s like Burning Man but it’s inside, right? Is it air conditioned?” she asked. (IndieWire confirmed that it was.)
A few days later, when we spoke to Parker, she described the experience of appearing at the con as “pretty amazing… I’ve never been to one of those conventions before,” she said. “They’re wild. It was really exciting. We had a huge audience screen the first episode and got to see it on a huge big screen.”
It was then noted that there’s a strong chance that at future conventions, people might cosplay as Maureen Robinson. “That’s weird,” she noted. “Well, maybe I could put on like a Maureen Robinson mask and then I could go out there and see what’s actually going on.”
Season 2, If It Happens, Will Continue Incorporating Flashbacks
Co-creator Matt Sazama noted that while the flashbacks to planet Earth which feature heavily in the first episode of the series weren’t in every episode of Season 1, the writers did plan to keep including them in the (as-yet-un-greenlit) Season 2.
“It’s really nice to be reminded, when you’re in such a crazy, weird, science fiction environment, of the reality of life on Earth,” he said. “We feel like it’s a nice way to both ground the audience in a way that I think is relatable, and also to shed some light on some of the character stories that you can’t really tell in real time. It’s a lot of fun to write, and the actors love performing them, so I think that will definitely be a part of the series as we go forward.”
One detail IndieWire mentioned enjoying in the flashbacks was the rack at the door of a shop, where customers could leave the gas masks they need to survive the polluted atmosphere of the planet. “That was pretty cool,” Sazama added. “Kind of disturbing, but cool. I think they already do that in Beijing or something.”
Maxwell Jenkins Grew Up In the Circus
Parker noted that all of the kids who make up the Robinson clan “are so lovely. Like really good humans with really good families. They’re loved and valued and respected and so lucky.”
This isn’t always the case, she said: “When you work with kids you don’t know what you’re going to get… It’s never the kids, it’s their parents, and sometimes it can be really hard.”
Parker mentioned that Jenkins, who plays Will Robinson, has a pretty unusual background, as far as child actors go. His parents founded the Chicago-based Midnight Circus, where he began performing as a toddler. The organization, per its website, devotes itself to social causes, animal activism, and fundraising for charities.
Parker Posey Loved Acting With the Robot
Posey was a big fan of the original series, and when considering the project she had one request for the producers: “When I met with them on Skype I was like ‘Please, am I going to have scenes with the robot? Do I get to talk to him? Do I get to take control of him?’
“I love when actors talk to inanimate objects, like ‘The Muppet Show’ or robots, and treat them like something real. I think it’s really good, for the imagination of anyone watching, to watch actors interact like that. It’s really fun to talk about ideas and science fiction, to be in a future show, it ups the ante.”
On set, the robot was played by actor Brian Steele, who Posey enjoyed working with for the physical realness of the scenes. “The robot is like unknown possibilities. No one knows what this robot contains and what it’s made of. It’s a mystery, and Brian is terrific,” Posey said.
Molly Parker’s Brother Helped Build the Set
Parker originates from Canada, and her brother, she said, was foreman of the construction crew. “So not only was I blown away by what they did, but I knew all of the ins and outs of what it took. And it’s incredible what these people made,” Parker said.
Knowing how much Netflix would invest in the series, in general, was a reason why she signed up for the project. “It’s a testament to Netflix. It is something that I though about considering whether or not to do the show. I knew Netflix had the resources, and the willingness to really make the show on a level that was big enough it could compete in that sci-fi world,” she said. “Because people have such sophisticated taste now, it needed to be big, and it is.”
Posey agreed with Parker, saying, “The set’s so gorgeous. The first time we saw it, everyone was going for the knobs and playing with them and pretending. So that was really fun in this blockbuster way. It was fun to be around all that.”
“It’s fun to be part of something so big,” Posey added. “I’m not usually thought of for those types of movies.”
“Lost in Space” Season 1 is streaming now on Netflix.