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Hilary Swank on playing Emma in Netflix’s sci-fi series ‘Away’

Hilary Swank on playing Emma in Netflix’s sci-fi series ‘Away’


Academy award-winning actress Hilary Swank plays Emma Green, an American astronaut and former navy pilot on Netflix’s new science-fiction drama “Away”.

Leaving her husband and daughter behind, Emma Green embarks on a three-year mission to Mars with an international space crew. The mission is expected to be treacherous and there’s the risk it will be a one-way trip.

Swank spoke to IOL Entertainment about her new role.

What made you want to be part of this project?

When I read this script, I loved it for many reasons, but the biggest reason was because of this human quality of having a dream and living that dream, but then on the flip side, having this family that is your life.

The series was based on a non-fiction article about a male astronaut. How did you approach this character as a female lead?

Being a strong woman often comes with name-calling, and that’s something that men generally don’t have to deal with. However, when you come from a military background like the character I play, Emma, it’s a little different, because everyone has that way of working and communicating. Almost all astronauts come from some aspect of that and they understand that language, but I think that there are definitely different types of hurdles that women go through to gain respect.

As the series starts, you learn that we’ve all been working together for two years so there’s a type of respect there, but then there’s so much more respect that has to be gained from the astronauts having the experience in space together.

The beauty of that is that there are relatable moments for women who see the challenges there, but it transcends gender in a way and becomes more about a human being gaining trust. For me as a woman, I want to walk in my strength and not be small, so it’s nice to be playing a woman of strength that can do it so gracefully.

What did you love most about playing Commander Emma Green?

Emma Green is a woman with strength, but also vulnerability. I find that often when you speak about a female character who has strength, she lacks vulnerability because for some reason that’s seen as a weakness. In a way, it’s championed as a strength and I love all of the facets of who she is.

She doesn’t always have the answers. She wrestles with a very human struggle, which is balancing family and work life. When you have a dream and your goal is to go to Mars it’s a lifelong plan, and then when you have a child that becomes a dream as well. She is navigating these two worlds and also the hope, the strength, the hard work, tenacity, and drive it takes to be chosen to go on a mission to Mars.

When it comes to Emma’s husband, Matt, who is played so beautifully by Josh Charles, the drama in the show isn’t about them fighting over who’s going to go. He’s not saying that he can’t believe she’s going to go or that he’s emasculated because she’s going. He actually champions Emma to make it for the both of them. That’s rare. It’s usually about men and women fighting because of ego.

What did you think about the decision Emma has to make to leave her family behind when they need her most?

Throughout the season, Emma is really struggling with the fact that she’s going to be away from her daughter for three years, maybe for the rest of her life if she doesn’t make it back.

There’s no blueprint for that. I think that one of the most harrowing things you could ever imagine is that you’re not going to see your child again, and your child is going to be without a mother because of a choice that you made.

How do you live with that decision? I think she feels a lot of guilt over leaving and even more so when she finds out that her husband, who suffers from a life-threatening disorder, has had a stroke while she’s on her way to Mars.

Emma comes to the quick decision that there’s no question that the right thing to do for her and her family is to go home. However, her daughter and husband convince her to continue on her mission to Mars and assure her that they’re going to be okay, that no matter what, they have each other.

What are you excited for viewers to experience?

I think the show is incredibly rich and real. It explores things that scare us as people. It offers us a reminder of the need for hope and how important it is to work together no matter who we are or where we’re from.

There is a reminder of persevering, of being more open-minded, of being there for one another, being selfless and, at times, being selfish. It’s a beautiful slice-of-life story.

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