From executive producers James Parriott and Michael Edelstein comes “Defying Gravity,” a sexy, provocative space thriller set in the very near future against the background of our solar system, in which eight astronauts from five countries (four women and four men) undertake a mysterious six-year international space mission covering eight billion miles.
Hurtling into the vast challenge of infinite space, the eight astronauts and the ground personnel who support them are on a mission that has a powerful and awesome mystery at its core. The intimate and interconnected relationships among the astronauts and the ground crew, as well as their past actions, have a strangely karmic effect on the present. Episodes are divided between the present, as the Antares travels towards Venus, and the past, with flashbacks to earlier years when the astronauts were in the grueling selection and training process.
The show is engaging – a combination of LOST and GREY’S ANATOMY – mystery series with relationship problems thrown in, and the cast is 100% likeable. I had the chance to chat with Ron Livingston earlier this week to talk about how he got involved, what he can “spoil” and why he thinks both guys and girls will like it!
So start by telling me about how the role came together, how you got involved, all of that good stuff!
Well, I sat down in a meeting with Jim Parriot and Michael Edelstein, and they said, we want to make a sort of sexy, smart, exciting, funny relationship drama. And I said, well, okay, what is a relationship drama? They said, you know it’s like GREY’S ANATOMY, the idea where you take a lot of people, and put them in the work place and in between all the work, during the day, they’re kind of flirting with each other, and trying to work out relationships. So I said, oh kind of like a soap opera, and they said, oh, no no no, not like a soap opera! It’s a relationship drama, and I said, oh ok, what’s the difference? And they said, well it’s night time so we can take our clothes off! I said, what’s the work place and they said, oh you’re astronauts, and you’re halfway to Venus, and I said, oh good! I’m in! That’s basically it.
So you knew the story really, before the character. Did you have a hand in shaping how the character comes together?
The story was pretty much fully formed. I think, this is not one of those shows where the writer creates it, and he doesn’t know where to go. He’s got it fully formed and mapped out in his head. They get fleshed out as he writes them, his staff. That’s something that really drew me to it was that he really had a strong vision of what the show was, what it looks like, where the characters were going.
And with a story like this, too. Astronauts on a ship, with confined location, you kind of have to have an idea of where the story is going.
I think so, yeah. I think on any show it kind of helps, but this show in particular. Jim’s been around a long time, he’s one of the best in the business, and I think this is a story that he’s been working on for a while. It’s got a little bit of everything in it. We wanted to make a show that’s kind of sexy and exciting, the kind of thing that guys and girls would watch together, instead of he wants to watch it, and she wants to change the channel. It’s something that they’re going to look forward to.
I’ve seen the first few episodes, and by the end, it was like, okay, let’s get the next one on there, so I can find out what happens!
Yeah, yeah! It hooks you pretty quick! I think the stories get their hooks into you! The cast is terrific. It’s been really fun to do. I really kind of enjoyed it!
Had you known anyone in the cast prior to filming?
No, I met everybody the first time. Laura Harris is terrific. You see the scenes between she and Christina, and it feels like a different show a little bit. I think that’s one of the great things. You get men and women on the show, you know the guys kind of bring a different feel to it, and then you go to the women and they make it about something else. Everybody’s kind of working it out together, and I think that’s the way that relationships work. It’s like a GREY’S ANATOMY model, where we get a lot of our stories from the different ways that men and women think. They think of problems in a different way, and they find problems in different places. My character, Donner, in particular. He’s a guy who is getting a second chance that he never thought he would get before, on this mission. And the wrinkle is that he’s also somebody that’s been a little bit of a womanizer, and now all of a sudden, he’s stuck on this ship with not one but two women that he has a history with. And so, kind of immediately, there’s a bit of a triangle going on. He’s a guy who likes to cut and run, but unlike Jack Berger, he’s got nowhere to go up there to hammer it out. So it gets fun right away. Everybody on the show, all the characters, they bring their own sort of baggage and secrets that they bring with them. The unfolding of those kind of secrets, is a very important kind of big part of the show. At the same time that they have to go out and explore the planets, they also are exploring each other, and exploring themselves.
Did you have to go through a lot of training to get into the mind of an astronaut?
Mostly situps, to try to get the abs of an astronaut. I did a lot of research on my own. I worked with a couple of simulators. Just learning how the mechanics work, to know what I’m talking about. The people at NASA were really helpful, very open as well as being informative. One of their jobs is education at NASA, so they are an excellent resource for anyone who wants to learn about what exactly it is that they do, and how the space program works.
What can you kind of tease about what is coming up, what to expect?
There’s some trick or treating in space that’s fantastic. There are a lot of twists to this show. Everywhere you look, there’s a little something more than meets the eye. With the flashbacks that we’re doing, we also get to go into the characters, at the very beginning when they’re meeting each other, so they get to go find out what makes them tick. It’s kind of hard to tease anything before people have seen the show, because I’m not sure they’ll know what I’m talking about, ha, I’d say there’s the trick or treating scene that’s kind of fun. We have some good stuff! I guess the thing that’s not really a spoiler at all would be the visual effects, the special effects that they did, to really get the feel of space and the ship and the planets, it’s literally out of this world. It’s absolutely fantastic. It’s a marriage of the best of movie making special effects has to offer technically today, and they also have the resources of all the terrific images that the space program has been able to gather from the planets and from space, to kind of fit them all together, and making it really feel like you’re there!
Tune in Sunday night on ABC for the two hour premiere!
Photo Credit: ABC / Kharen Hill