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‘Away’: The Cast of Netflix’s Astronaut Drama Conquered Zero Gravity ‘Boot Camp’

For Hilary Swank and the rest of the cast, simulating spaceflight conditions meant plenty of physical preparation and learning a new way of movement.

AWAY (L to R) RAY PANTHAKI as RAM ARYA and HILARY SWANK as EMMA GREEN, in episode 109 of AWAY. Cr. DIYAH PERA/NETFLIX © 2020

“Away”

Diyah Pera/Netflix

Turns out that making a journey to Mars isn’t easy, even when you’re stuck on Earth.

Speaking virtually at the Television Critics Association’s Summer Press Tour on Tuesday, the cast and crew behind the upcoming Netflix drama “Away” spoke about the challenges of pulling off the scenes of the series that take place in space. The show centers on a group of five astronauts, pulled from countries around the world, to take part in the first manned mission to Mars.

For those playing the central crew — Hilary Swank, Ato Essandoh, Vivian Wu, Ray Panthaki, and Mark Ivanir — the accompanying physical prep was no joke.

“Pretending that you’re in zero-gravity, it takes a lot of effort and a lot of effort to make it look effortless. We were harnessed by the lower part of our hips, and they were acting as a pendulum. So we’d squeeze our glutes to move us forward, and then squeeze our abs to move us backwards,” Swank said. “The whole time we’re squeezing these muscles so tight, trying not to talk funny. You naturally want to talk like you’re in slow motion, which people don’t do in zero gravity. It was, I think, for all of us a lot more challenging than we realized it would be.”

“In the boot camp, we did a lot of just incredible work on I remember when the first time I did my inversion, I was really excited, but at the same time, I had this headache that lasted for a day,” Wu said.

Making matters even more complicated is the system of wires that allowed the actors to move throughout the shuttle set as if there were no gravity.

AWAY (L to R) VIVIAN WU as LU WANG, MARK IVANIR as MISHA POPOV, HILARY SWANK as EMMA GREEN, RAY PANTHAKI as RAM ARYA, and ATO ESSANDOH as DR. KWESI WEISBERG-ABBAN in episode 101 of AWAY. Cr. DIYAH PERA/NETFLIX © 2020

“Away”

Diyah Pera/Netflix

“Hanging from wires for 19 hours a day didn’t seem like it was going to be great. But we figured all of this out,” Essandoh said. “I don’t remember days going over and over and over because we were trying to figure out the wires. We figured out the dance and the language so quickly and we were adapting to changes on the fly.”

“It takes a real effort on all of our parts to be on our A-game. One person could be doing the perfect flyby with a monologue and if this person standing here interacts, we have to redo it. It’s a real dance in space. We all thankfully cared so much about one another and making sure that each person is supported. Everyone just came so prepared,” Swank said.

That physical aspect of the performance meant that what these performers wore made a huge difference. Swank said that the fabric and construction of the suits was as close to space-ready as the show could get.

“We worked so hard to make this feel as accurate as possible,” series writer and producer Jason Katims said. “We started designing that spaceship probably about nine or 10 months before we actually started shooting. Those spacesuits took us months and months to make those. We were basically, like, ‘We have to cast our actors so that we can fit them for the spacesuits.'”

Of course, any show that heavily features space travel involves a certain amount of isolation. Series showrunner Jessica Goldberg closed the panel talking about how the action of the series continues on Earth once the mission’s crew has started their journey outward.

“What a bizarre thing that we ended up living in that world now where a lot of communicate with loved ones has to be done over Skype or Zoom or the way we’re doing this now,” Goldberg said.

“Away” is set to premiere Friday, September 4 on Netflix. 

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