Female characters give ‘For All Mankind’ strength

Rick's Reviews

Sarah Jones stars in the Apple TV+ series “For All Mankind.” (Photo courtesy of Apple TV+)

(KGET) — A trademark of television productions created by science fiction legend – and Chowchilla native – Ronald D. Moore has been the creation of strong female characters. It was Moore who made Starbuck a female when the new “Battlestar Galactica” launched and his Claire Randall (Caitriona Balfe) in “Outlander” is a female hero for multiple ages.

Moore’s latest offering, the Apple TV+ series “For All Mankind,” continues that approach. The series that looks at what would have happened if the Russians had won the race to the moon features a group of female astronauts who joined the space race during the presidency of Richard Nixon. Even the female characters who are Earth-bound are strong.

The ten-episode second season of “For All Mankind” will debut with the first episode airing Feb. 19 on the streaming service. A new episode will be released every Friday on Apple TV+.

As for the strong female characters, Sarah Jones plays Tracy Stevens who goes from astronaut wife – being married to the character played by Michael Dorman – to space explorer. Jones – a Florida native whose previous work includes “Texas Rising” and “Vegas” – has seen her character make the trek from space hero to media sensation for the second season.

Jones was not certain her character was going to be that strong when she signed on to the project. It took some assurances from Moore that a heroic trajectory was planned for Tracy.

“If you remember in the first season, in the first couple of episodes, Tracy hasn’t begun her journey,” Jones says. “She’s introduced as an astronaut’s wife and housewife. I was concerned about that and Ron sort of had to give me a layout of where Tracy is going. That intrigued me.”

It all worked out for her but in the end, Jones knew the opportunity to work with Moore was too good to pass up no matter what initial concerns she faced.

The fact that her character is not only an astronaut but is married to an astronaut has given her the chance to deal with situations at home but also at work.

“I think that she is constantly seeking validation,” Jones says. “In the first season, Gordo (Dorman) was a predominant aspect of her life where she was seeking that validation but if you can’t find it for yourself, it never goes away and I think that’s something Tracy has to reckon with in the second season.”

As for how dramatically her character has changed between the two seasons, Jones laughs and agrees that the differences are rather remarkable.

Shantel VanSanten’s character of astronaut wife Karen Baldwin never leaves the ground but her character shows the kind of strength and courage it takes to take care of a family while worrying about a husband who is alone on the moon. Both come with their own potential for tragedy.

“When we think of a housewife role, we don’t think of it carrying as much of the weight of having to be brave,” VanSanten says. “But in the midst of season one, some of the choices she had to make were some of the most difficult choices a mother and a wife would ever have to make.

“And while some of the audience members may not have agreed and done the same, I think she did it with the best of intentions. It may be a little easier to get into a tin can and go into space than it is to be left behind and have the task of human life.”

VanSanten only had a few hours to decide if she wanted to be part of the “For All Mankind” cast. In the end, she decided to accept the challenge based on knowing that Moore has written strong roles for women over the years.

VanSanten’s previous credits include “Shooter” and “The Flash.” At the same time she was working on “For All Mankind,” VanSanten was filming the Amazon Prime Video series “The Boys” where she plays Becca Butcher.

She recalls sitting on her bed with two scripts from each show trying to prepare for the upcoming days of filming.

“I honestly had this overwhelming feeling of gratitude,” VanSanten says. “I know how hard I fought to be where I am and feel grateful to be able to play two amazing characters at the same time. It was a crazy mind place to be in.”

There’s more to come for all of the characters on “For All Mankind” as season two of the space drama unfolds in 1983 at the height of the Cold War with tensions between the United States and the USSR at a boiling point. The space race goes from being focused on science and space exploration to the militarization of NASA.

Also starring in “For All Mankind” are Joel Kinnaman, Michael Dorman, Wrenn Schmidt, Jodi Balfour, Krys Marshall and Sonya Walger.

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