[email protected]: What We Learned from Nat Geo’s “The Right Stuff” Panel

National Geographic’s first scripted series for Disney+ is coming this fall with the premiere of The Right Stuff. [email protected] gave fans a first-look at the series with a panel today that included the release of a clip from the series. The setup is that Alan Shepherd receives his welcome letter to the space test pilot program a day later than he should have. Enjoy.

The Right Stuff is based on the bestselling book by Tom Wolfe and looks at the early days of the US Space Program and the first American Astronauts. The panel was moderated by former NASA astronaut Dr. Mae Jemison.

The virtual panel included the following panelists:

  • Patrick J. Adams as Major John Glenn
  • Jake McDorman as Lieutenant Commander Alan Shepard
  • Colin O’Donoghue as Captain Gordon Cooper
  • Michael Trotter as Gus Grissom
  • Aaron Staton as Wally Schirra
  • Micah Stock as Deke Slayton
  • James Lafferty as Scott Carpenter
  • Nora Zehetner as Annie Glenn
  • Shannon Lucio as Louise Shepard
  • Eloise Mumford as Trudy Cooper
  • Eric Ladin as Chris Kraft
  • Patrick Fischler as Bob Gilruth
  • Mark Lafferty, showrunner and executive producer
  • Jennifer Davisson, executive producer

Watch The Right Stuff [email protected] 2020:

Highlights of the panel included:

  • Showrunner Mark Lafferty shared how he read the book in high school, which was important to him. He considers it an evergreen story and wanted to tell it in a different way as a family drama. He started planning the series two years ago and feels like the story reminds us of what we’re capable of as a society when we come together to enact change.
  • Executive Producer Jennifer Davisson says the second season will tell other stories, including Katherine Johnson, whose story inspired the 20th Century Studios film Hidden Figures, and Ed Dwhite Jr., the first African American test pilot trainee. The second season will also get into more complex race issues of the era while the first season features a narrative about women’s rights.
  • Patrick J. Adams (Major John Glenn) did a lot of research on his character, including reading all of the letters he wrote to his wife Annie, played by Nora Zehetner. The two read the letters out loud to each other to help establish their onscreen relationship.
  • Jake McDorman (Lieutenant Commander Alan Shepard) talked about how Patrick took the initiative to connect all of the cast members and provide them with resources to help learn more about their characters.
  • Patrick Fischler (Bob Gilruth) had to do a deep dive to find information about his character, who led a very private life. He found an interview with him in the aerospace archives where he talked about how hard he took any mistakes and said that every loss of life was like losing a child. The actor fittingly had a Disneyland park map behind him.

  • Filming took place throughout Florida and Michael Trotter (Gus Grissom) shared that Coco Beach is very different now than it was during this story, so they couldn’t film in the actual locations these events took place in. They did, however, take a trip to see the early launching pad and control rooms.
  • Colin O’Donoghue (Captain Gordon Cooper) shared that the size of the NASA building where they built the shuttles was massive. His favorite part of filming was sitting in classic American Corvettes since he doesn’t see those in Ireland where he lives.
  • James Lafferty (Scott Carpenter) found it interesting that they went up in space without knowing how zero gravity would affect the human body or if you could even hold food down in that environment.
  • Shannon Lucio (Louise Shepard) used her experience of instant fame from being on The O.C. to relate to her character’s struggles with dealing with essentially being the first lady of space.
  • Mark Lafferty said he and Jennifer Davisson watched a lot of movies and shows about space and felt like personal conflicts of characters are often nuanced with characters treated like Gods, which is how the media portrayed them back then. They wanted to hold them up as real men and women who did amazing things, but portray them as relatable human beings.
  • Mark cringes when the wives are described as ‘The wives” because it lumps them into a category where they are just related to someone who did something important. He and Jen were passionate about telling Annie Glenn’s story of perseverance and strength of character, someone who didn’t have the government behind her pushing what she did. Trudy Cooper was a pilot in her own right and didn’t want to be defined by her husband. As the show goes on, they won’t view Trudy’s inability to become an astronaut as a failure but as opening a door for the first American woman in space.
  • Jennifer worked hard to not make each wife feel like a cookie cutter and by the end of the series you should feel that they’re just as heroic as the men, even though they weren’t the ones making headlines.

National Geographic’s The Right Stuff will premiere this fall only on Disney+.

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