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Why For All Mankind's Space Scenes Look So Realistic - Exclusive

Technically, For All Mankind is a sci-fi show. The Apple TV+ series, which was co-created by Battlestar Galactica's Ronald D. Moore, is set in a universe in which Russian cosmonauts beat America's Apollo 11 to the Moon, fundamentally changing the course of the Space Race and the Cold War.

However, For All Mankind isn't set on a distant world in some far-off galaxy. It takes place on an Earth very much like ours, with (mostly) the same technology that real-life astronauts used in the early '70s. For All Mankind isn't just making stuff up — all the space-faring tech on the show is based on the real thing.

Actress Krys Marshall, who plays astronaut Danielle Poole on the series, recently spoke with Looper about how For All Mankind's crew ensures that the show's outer space sequences are as accurate as possible. "Each thing that we do in every sequence is as real as it can be," Marshall said. "We're not just pressing buttons."

Of course, Marshall and her castmates aren't astronauts, but they've learned from someone who is. Garrett Reisman, a former astronaut who was part of the first spacewalk on the International Space Station, serves as an advisor on For All Mankind and doles out advice to the cast. Marshall said of Reisman, "He teaches us everything from how to pronounce the different terms to how to move when we're on the Moon."

For the series, Reisman is joined by technical advisors Michael and Denise Okuda, who have worked both with NASA and on science fiction series like Star Trek. "We've got a really competent group that keep us honest," Marshall said. Advising the cast of For All Mankind is a full-time job, too. As Marshall shared, "We're also able to group text, call and email. If we're at home working on something and it doesn't make sense, they explain it to us."

As far as scenes on the Moon or in the lunar Jamestown base are concerned, production sometimes uses a combination of wire work and CGI to simulate the low-gravity environment, but normally the solutions are a lot simpler. Most of the time, the cast just moves differently. "When we're walking on the surface of the moon we do a bunny hop," Marshall asid. "A 'skip-to-the-loo' that makes it look like we're in low gravity." That's all there is to it.

How Krys Marshall got into character

For All Mankind's devotion to authenticity isn't limited to its space scenes. In order to prepare to play Dani, Marshall took a deep dive into the history of the Space Race as well as the culture and history of the '60s and '70s.

"I didn't have a great understanding of what the Cold War was when I started this project, and so I had to play a quick game of catch up," Marshall said. To do so, she binged documentaries as well as films like The Right Stuff, Apollo 13, From the Earth to the Moon, and even sci-fi projects like Ad Astra.

But, like Marshall noted, there's more to Danielle than her job. "She's a woman, she's a wife, and she's living in the post-civil rights era," the actress stated. And so, Marshall immersed herself in old R&B recordings from the era, including songs by Aretha Franklin and Diana Ross. She researched Malcom X, Martin Luther King Jr., and the civil rights movement. "Our story doesn't touch on that because we began in 1969, but I imagine that Dani had her hand in that as well," Marshall explained.

While For All Mankind has explored social issues like addiction, gender discrimination, and PTSD, its first season only briefly touches on race. That's going to change with season 2, Marshall said, as Danielle, the first black astronaut in the For All Mankind universe, will be front and center in that collection of episodes.

"Unfortunately for Dani — and the same is true for me — everything that she does is filtered through the lens of being a woman and being a black woman," Marshall said. "We definitely address that later. I won't say how much and how, but it's going to be good."

For All Mankind's dedication to exploring real-life problems as well as the cosmos is another way that the Apple TV+ series grounds itself. The show may not take place in our reality, but it captures everything that makes the actual America unique. As Marshall said of For All Mankind, "Our show, in my opinion, is the epitome of what is really beautiful about our country."

To Marshall, that's one of the show's big strengths: "I think that the terms 'patriotism' or 'American pride' have become bastardized by a really small minority. I think that a show like ours can bring back to the true essence of what it means to be proud to be an American."

For All Mankind's first season is currently available on Apple TV+. Season 2 is filming now.