Space Babies and Water Wars — Mars 2 Stars on the Complications of Colonization

Jihae, Alberto Ammann, and Clémentine Poidatz give us a preview of the Red Planet–set series.

by | November 12, 2018 | Comments

Executive producers Ron Howard and Brian Grazer breathed life into the Red Planet for near-future sci-fi fans by developing a docu-drama series set in 2033 that explores humans’ first interplanetary colonization effort. National Geographic series Mars, based on the 2015 book How We’ll Live on Mars by Stephen Petranek, returns Monday night for its second season, which catches up with its fictional characters nine years later, settling into their new home and sparring with corporate interests trying to gain a foothold in mining the planet.

Is it too soon for capitalism on Mars? Season 2 explores that subject and interpersonal relationships of the earliest settlers, as the “docu” part of the series equation gives way to more storytelling. Six-episode season 1 got mixed reviews, garnering a 61% score on the Tomatometer, with critics praising the 2033 visuals of the fictionalized story but also noting stuttering transitions between the documentary-style interviews with space experts including SpaceX founder Elon Musk, The Martian author Andy Weir, space advocate Robert Zubrin of the Mars Society, and astrophysicist and TV host Neil deGrasse Tyson.

Mars 2, Alberto Ammann and Sammi Rotibi (National Geographic)
(Photo by National Geographic)

Director Everardo Gout returns for the new season, as do stars Alberto Ammann, Jihae, Anamaria Marinca, Clémentine Poidatz, Sammi Rotibi, and Cosima Shaw. Joining them for season 2 are Gunnar Cauthery (Genius), Levi Fiehler (Mission Control), Evan Hall (Orange Is the New Black), Jeff Hephner (Chicago Fire), Akbar Kurtha (24), Esai Morales (Ozark), and Roxy Sternberg (Emerald City). “Big Thinkers” Musk and Weir also return, joined by former NASA Chief Ellen Stofan, former NASA astronaut Leland Melvin, theoretical physicist and futurist Michio Kaku, The Planetary Society CEO and television host Bill Nye, and others.

Rotten Tomatoes caught up with the cast of the series during a set visit in Budapest, Hungary last year. South Korea–born artist Jihae — as she is known in her music career — plays two roles as Hana Seung, commander of the International Mars Science Foundation’s original Mars mission crew, and her twin sister Joon, former secretary-general of IMSF who, at the opening of season 2, is joining her sister on Mars. Jihae also appears in Peter Jackson’s upcoming Mortal Instruments. Argentinean actor Ammann, known to U.S. audiences for his role in acclaimed Netflix drug-trade drama Narcos, and French actress Poidatz play lovers — Olympus Town’s hydrologist and geochemist Javier Delgado and physicist Amelie Durand — who have a baby on the way.

The three Mars stars previewed the new season and told us about the challenges of playing space and the very big problem of being a child of Mars.

Marta spies on a Lukrum drill site.(National Geographic/Richard Donnelly)
(Photo by National Geographic/Richard Donnelly)

Should humans be allowed to risk their lives for space exploration and Mars colonization efforts?

Jihae: During the research I did for playing this role, you learn how much time, how much devotion and dedication it takes for astronauts to do what they do. Not only that, when they go up there, they are signing a will. They know it’s a very good chance that they could die and they could not come back. That’s quite a sacrifice that they would train as long as they do rigorously and really not have a life otherwise, and then risk all of that and do all of that and risk their lives to go up there. Such huge respect for the people who do that, because they also have to be very intelligent, and they also have to be — there’s so many factors that’s required for one to have such a profession.

Should we? You know, I’m on the fence, because there’s so much that could be taken care of on Earth, you know? A lot of problems. What, 80 percent of the world population lives on less than 10 dollars a day? The poverty, the refugee crisis, climate change — there’s so much to take care of on Earth, and my gosh, it takes so much money to go to space. When I heard Elon Musk say that space exploration is an existential imperative, I thought, “That’s a little extreme,” you know? But when I really dug into it — as to why he said that — a lot of leading scientists believe that there’s so many ways and reasons why Earth could go extinct and why the human species could go extinct, and it only makes sense for us to explore another planet.

Javier holds Amelie in his arms.(National Geographic/Attila Szalay)
(Photo by National Geographic/Attila Szalay)

What is it like, Clémentine, playing the first pregnant person on Mars, having the first Mars baby?

Poidatz: My character Amelie, she’s going through a crazy journey because at the beginning of this series, I want to go back to Earth … I mean, I’m going to lose it if I stay here. We live under domes. The first season was all about going to Mars, trying to survive there, but it was very probable that we were all going to die during that first mission. And it was kind of a survival mission. After nine years in Olympus town, what do you do? You know? In nine years. And you have the possibility to go back to Earth. So that’s the beginning of the series.

The baby is an accident, because the radiation exposure is very high on Mars. We’ve been told that it’s not possible to have kids on Mars. So, I mean, it was a big accident. And I found out that I’m pregnant, (and) for me it’s the end of the world because it means no Earth again. It means that I can either get an abortion, but I didn’t feel like it … I’m like, this baby is not going to be able to go back to Earth because of, you know, the organs or the bones are never going to be able to adapt to Earth gravity. So the baby will be stuck on Mars. And Javier and Amelie will be stuck on Mars, too.

But of course, bringing life to Mars is also part of our mission, so what’s better than a baby? Than a human being? So, yeah. And I think that there is a lot of pressure for Amelie because it will be the first Martian.

In Season 2 of MARS, the mission to colonize Mars becomes a battle between science and self-interest when a privately held corporation makes its home on the Red Planet. (photo credit: National Geographic/Dusan Martincek)
(Photo by National Geographic/Dusan Martincek)

With all of the new cast, including a new doctor, how are you dealing with all these new people coming in, as an actress and as your character?

Poidatz: As an actress, it’s great. At the same time, last year we were such a small family; it was, like, completely different. We didn’t have a proper showrunner, sometimes we were receiving the scripts like the night or the next morning, and for me it was super stressful. I was so bad in sciences when I was a kid; just to get to play an astronaut-slash-doctor on Mars, in English was like — and because they wanted to get it right, and stick to the reality, they were changing the script all the time. So it was very tiring last year.

But we created that bond that was — we were only, like, six actors last year … And so I was kind of scared for that second season when I heard there were like 10, 12 new actors coming. It was, like, How are we going to do it? When you share something, sometimes it’s hard to share it. I’m being super honest, (I was) just kind of scared. But they’re great. They’re all super nice.

And because we’re all coming from different places, you feel free to be yourself. Because you don’t know them, you don’t have ex-boyfriends in common, you don’t have the same agents, you’re not fighting for the same roles. And we are all so different that you can actually allow yourself to be yourself. I find it very refreshing compared to the French industry that is so small and I’m always doing the same kind of roles, and I’m always working with same kind of directors, the same actors, and we all know each other. And I find it very, I mean, refreshing to be working with people who are not at all — who are completely different from you. And it’s very, I think that’s something that I really love about it. We have completely different energies. All of us. All of us. We’re completely different.

IMSF Commander Hana Seung, played by JiHAE. In Season 2 of MARS, the mission to colonize Mars becomes a battle between science and self-interest when a privately held corporation makes its home on the Red Planet. (photo credit: National Geographic/Dusan Martincek)
(Photo by National Geographic/Dusan Martincek)

Jihae: [Welcoming the new cast] wasn’t hard. Yeah, because there’s five of us. Really, we went through hell last year. We went through a lot last year, and we had a lot of fun together, and we really bonded for the three months we were together, so it wasn’t hard having — was it six, seven? Seven, eight? Something like that — new people. It’s fun. The more, the merrier?

So Amelie is staying and there will be two doctors —

Poidatz: Yeah. And by the way, I was very scared, because a friend of mine auditioned for this role, the new doctor, and he called me and we hadn’t received the script, so all I knew was that my character wanted to go back to Earth. And Stephen Petronick, who became a very good friend of mine, who I think is the best human being in the galaxy, Stephen told me, “Hey, you know what, your dream came true, you’re going to have a baby with Javier.” But my friend who auditioned for the role of Dr. Johar in Los Angeles, he told me, “So I’m auditioning to replace you on Mars.” And I’m like, “What?!”

So they were looking for a character, a man, who was also empathetic and very nice and kind, because they wanted someone to replace Amelie. And so he was like, “I’m so sorry to tell you that.” I’m like, “I knew that I was going back to Earth, but I thought that I was going to be pregnant at some point.” And so I started to freak out, I was like OK, they fired me. I’ll only be in one episode, that’s fine, but I started crying, and I didn’t even have the courage to go to anyone asking what was happening to my character.

In Season 2 of MARS, the mission to colonize Mars becomes a battle between science and self-interest when a privately held corporation makes its home on the Red Planet. (photo credit: National Geographic/Dusan Martincek)
(Photo by National Geographic/Dusan Martincek)

Alberto, your character is in charge of the water. And so this corporate entity comes in to mine the water. Can you say how your character responds to this intrusion into his work?

Ammann: I think for Javier it’s not so, so terrible. I think he doesn’t like Lukrum or this. I think for Javier, it is the business  it’s that he doesn’t like the business. For him it’s not a business. I think he’s quite relaxed in the way that he knows that it’s going to be a lot of work anyway, so these guys can be there, doing whatever. But I don’t think Javier is challenged. I think that the big concern is what happens if we bring all our sh– from Earth to Mars.

Did you say “sh–“?

Ammann: Yes, sorry.

No, no, no. I meant that someone said that the only thing that Mars was missing in order to be Earth was sh– — actual human excrement — that the methane would actually help it create an atmosphere. That’s why I thought, Are you speaking literally? 

Ammann: No, actually I was trying to say our bad things, our bad behaviors.

Poidatz: The baby’s a good thing, right? Good diaper.

Mars season 2 premieres Monday, November 12 at 9 p.m. on National Geographic.

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