Among the Stars is a six-part docuseries with fly on the wall access into the wider world of NASA, with cameras on Earth and in space. NASA astronaut Captain Chris Cassidy is on a quest to get back in his spacesuit for one last mission. This series follows Chris and the wider team who take on missions that risk life, limb and reputation for the greater good of humankind. It premiers tonight on Disney+.
What was it like having all that access to NASA and its inner workings?
It was unbelievable. I never wanted to leave. Everything was fascinating to me. It was just a joy and was really amazing to be inside. I think just how much I loved it. Seeing new places helped us find new story avenues that benefited the show.
It seems like the original storyline was supposed to be solely about Chris Cassidy and his final trip into space but then things sort of changed a little. Can you talk about the change in storyline and how you adjusted it?
When making a documentary, you need to be open to what’s going to come to you. Chris was our way into NASA, opening the doors to the agency. In this show, he was the one who opened the door and takes you in for the first time. I was always hopeful that we would be able to tell the story.
When we were making Sunderland Till I Die, we downloaded sports documentaries. We learned that they work best by embedding with a team and our vision for this Among the Stars was to take that model and apply it to NASA. Our thing was just to tell the story of the teams at the space agency. It was always our ambition to grow beyond a single story line. We wanted to tell interesting and fascinating stories as they unfold.
Just in terms of sort of a narrative arc, it feels like you had two climaxes in the series. You had the Nail Biter episode and then the final episode with Chris Cassidy. Did you know that the Nail Biter episode was going to be so compelling? Was the narrative arc going in that direction already? Did you just work with what was available?
It was a combination, of working with what was available. But we knew that we couldn’t quite get to everything. How you balance that in the story is an interesting question. We were lucky to be able to shift gears a little bit after that storyline. I think it gets a little bit more personal with Chris at that point in time. I tried to stay as open as possible throughout the process.
How did you decide what to prioritize? Some things sort of fell on your lap, you still had to make, you know, decisions on what you want to prioritize. Take for example the AMS? How much did you want to play that angle up? Dr. Ting is also a compelling character. How did you decide what to prioritize?
We wanted to make a compelling drama that propels you forward through the story. You need things to come together to make them work. You really need to be on the ground, following those storylines and picking up new ones as they come in and work backwards too. Any time you open a door at NASA you are going to find something fascinating in that room. You can stay for hours.
IMAGE CREDIT: NASA.