Hilary Swank Explores the Unknown in “Away”
For the young six-year-old growing up in the Pacific Northwest, it was a nightly ritual to look up into the sky, stare at the stars, and dream that one day she would become an astronaut. While the career path for Hilary Swank would take a different path, some forty years later, the two-time Golden Globe and Oscar winner finally got her wish fulfillment.
In the new Netflix sci-fi drama Away, Swank plays Emma Green, one of a five-member international crew that embarks on the very first human mission to Mars. The three-year journey soon takes its toll, not only on the astronauts aboard but their families they leave behind.
In preparation for the series, Swank attended space camp, visited Mission Control, and talked to astronauts aboard the International Space Station as she immersed herself in her childhood dream of exploring the unknown that is our solar system.
How cool was it to finally strap on that spacesuit and act out your childhood dream?
When you see someone walking on the Moon or the potential to walk on Mars, or even the rocket liftoff, you feel what a grand adventure that is. But what we don’t think about is how much work goes into all of that. There are so many minute details and so much training to go on a mission into space – it is really detailed. The training is so extensive, especially when they have to take into the possibility of what could happen. They have to be prepared for anything.
Did you get to experience weightlessness?
I would say no. We were never weightless like astronauts would be. But we went to a lot of effort to make it look effortless.
How did they accomplish that?
We had wires attached to the lowest part of our hips. We would then have to squeeze our abs to go backward and squeeze our glutes to go forward. But you cannot make the sound like you would in the gym because you are supposed to be in zero gravity. It took a lot of training and a lot of getting into good ab and glute shape.
Much is made in the series about a woman in command and leaving her family. It shows that it can be done.
With equality happening, more opportunity is presented to women and so they have to learn how to balance work and family. Men are having to find that fine line as well. There is a balance of pursuing your dream and finding time for work and family, no matter your gender. Life is just getting busier. We have so many ways to communicate and make things more efficient, just not more effective. We are just busier so, for many men and women, it’s all about finding that balance. It’s a challenge.
We live in such a politically hostile climate and here are these five people from different backgrounds and cultures but they get along because they have a common goal. Why can’t we be like that?
I know. The show is such a great reminder of that, working together for a common goal. It breaks through stereotypes and what we think of people. We all stereotype because that is how we categorize and define walking through the world. But it shows how dangerous stereotypes are because underneath it all, we are all human beings just trying to experience life. To live our fullest purpose and find our way. That to me is what is so beautiful about storytelling at its core. It is so universal.
What would you say that core is?
I would say we all want to give and receive love. And having a dream and wanting to persevere.