News

Ronald D. Moore on That For All Mankind Tragedy and Outlander’s Revolutionary New Season

His Apple TV+ series has seen its share of losses, but the pain of the most recent is particularly acute. Plus, Outlander does the American Revolution in season 5.

by | December 13, 2019 | Comments

For All Mankind introduced a devastating tragedy with its eighth episode, “Rupture.” It was not the first of the freshman Apple TV+ series – and surely won’t be the last.


Spoiler Alert: The following contains plot points from For All Mankind season 1, episode 8.


The alternate-reality sci-fi series poses the question: “What might have happened if Russia had won the race to the moon?” It stars Joel Kinnaman as NASA astronaut Edward Baldwin and Shantel VanSanten as his homemaker wife Karen Baldwin. An accident strands Ed on the moon, worrying Karen to distraction and leaving his preteen son Shane (Tait Blum) lonely, eager for attention, and rebellious. In one defiant act, Shane disobeys his mother, who has grounded him, and takes off on his bike to play in a basketball game. Karen later finds out that Shane was hit by a car during that ride and must deal with the life-threatening injury without her husband.

The series also stars Michael Dorman as Gordo Stevens, Sarah Jones as Tracy Stevens, Wrenn Schmidt as Margo Madison, Jodi Balfour as Ellen Waverly, Krys Marshall as Danielle Poole,  Sonya Walger as Molly Cobb, Chris Bauer as Deke Slayton, Arturo Del Puerto as Octavio Rosales, and Olivia Trujillo as Aleida Rosales.

The death of a child is a particularly heartrending moment in a TV show, so we caught up with series co-creator and executive producer Ronald D. Moore (Outlander, Battlestar Galactica) to hear about Shane’s death and how it folds into his plans for series, which has two more episodes left in its first season, starting with Friday’s “Dangerous Liaisons.”


Season 1 | Episode 2 Joel Kinnaman in “For All Mankind,” now streaming on Apple TV+.
(Photo by Apple TV+)

Debbie Day for Rotten Tomatoes: “Rupture” was a very emotional episode, and it occurred to me that in your work, you feature extraordinary people in ordinary circumstances. It flips that screenwriting convention – “an ordinary person in extraordinary circumstances” – on its head.

Ron Moore: Ed Baldwin is doing this extraordinary thing … He’s on the moon and he’s by himself and he’s in this situation and the Soviets are out there and he has no one else to deal with. And what would be the consequences of something very common … a car accident killing his son back on Earth, and how that would rock his world … In that sense, we were just interested in the human quality of it, that he’s on another planet or he’s on a moon, he’s 200,000 miles away from home, and yet this very pedestrian accident happens and that it would devastate him. And that the entire sort of massive team would have to come together to figure out what to do, and do they tell him and do they not? We just really liked the idea that at the heart of it was something that just happens to people every day, that it’s such an everyday occurrence. And yet to put it in this extraordinary context would be kind of unique and interesting.

I like that the flight director comes up with the brilliant idea of asking his wife whether or not they should tell him.

Moore: Yeah. It says something about the time, and it said something also I think even about our own kind of bias in terms of just watching it. Because you kind of assume all these official people should make that call and you kind of forget the human component of, “Well what about his wife or his spouse? What about his family? How did they feel about it?” Cause they’re the ones going through the tragedy. And then it’s not just about official NASA policy, it’s about these people. And then there’s an underlying current of there were three men standing in that office looking at Margo and not one of the three of them even occurred to them to talk to the wife first. And that was sort of an interesting comment on gender and roles at that time and notions that persist today as well.


Season 1 | Episode 1 Wrenn Schmidt in “For All Mankind,” now streaming on Apple TV+.
(Photo by Apple TV+)

Margo, for me, is a really interesting character. Maybe I just identify with her being kind of a workaholic, but she’s a character out of time in the opportunities that she’s made for herself in that environment. And I was just wondering if you could talk a little bit about building those female characters that flout the conventions of that period?

Moore: It goes back to the original concept of the show, which was, “We’re going to do an alternate history, and we’re going to change things. And we’re going to say that by losing the race to the moon, ironically good things happen to the United States and the world, and let’s make it not just technological progress, let’s make it societal change and cultural change and what does that mean?” And he said, “All right, let’s tell the story of this young woman that you meet as a version of Wernher von Braun, and let’s see her climb the ladder in a way that wasn’t possible in that era.” Who would that be? What would the qualities that you would need to thrive in the 1960s and into the ’70s and make that kind of climb? And especially if she was tutored by someone like Wernher von Braun. And we kind of said, well, “She would have to literally be a workaholic.”

Margo said, I think in episode 8 says, “You’ve got to be better than the boys in order to advance the society at the time.” You kind of start with that premise and then you carve out the particular character and you just say, “Who is Margo and where she’s from and what are her values and what are the things that matter to her?” And this program is very important to Margo and she invests a lot of herself and self-worth into the success or failure of the space program. In her opening scene, she’s sleeping in her office, and she’s not just crashing on the couch; she has built an entire structure in that office that allows her to sleep. Mirrors that turn into plaques, and she’s got all her things figured out in a way that they vanish and no one even knows.

And she’s given a lot of thought and time and energy to creating that structure for herself. And that was just an interesting comment to sort of, that’s how we introduce her. And it kind of says almost everything you need to know about Margo in season 1. That’s sort of where it all began.


Season 1 | Episode 3 Jodi Balfour, Sonya Walger, Sarah Jones, Krys Marshall and Cass Buggé in “For All Mankind,” now streaming on Apple TV+.
(Photo by Apple TV+)

There are many extraordinary female characters in the show. Even the journey that Karen Baldwin takes. At the beginning, she embodies that ’50s/’60s housewife model. Can you talk about what showing her path means when you’ve got all these extraordinary, accomplished women around her?

Moore: It was an interesting question we talked about a lot in the room. If you take the stereotypical astronaut wife that we’ve come to know, right? And books and television, even the magazine articles — Time certainly painted a portrait of who that person was. And now we’re going to say, “The world changes radically and it’s going down this other path, and people like Tracy Stevens are going to become astronauts, and Margo Madison is going to ascend the ranks.” OK, what happens to Karen Baldwin? What would she do and what does she hang on to? And you know, how was she forced to change? And you’ll see as we get into the last couple of episodes how the death of Shane really does dynamite that whole world. At first, she was just trying to hold on to what she knew back when at the very beginning Ed’s career’s in trouble, because of what he said to the magazine.

And then Karen clicks into Karen-planning-mode. Well then, you’re going to go back to the Navy and this and this and this and this, because that’s how Karen copes and deals with things. Then when her friend Tracy enters the program, that kind of is the first thing that starts to sort of threaten her worldview: Well, wait a minute, wait a minute. Women are doing this? Because that wasn’t something that I thought was possible and no one told me that that was an option. And you see … she’s somewhat hostile to the idea, but as time passes she gets over that, she copes again, she makes new plans, she figures out how to keep her world intact. She’s helping out with raising the Stevens’ children and her friendship with Tracy survives it all and she’s moving on. She’s a survivor, Karen, she moves on and she’s going to cope.

Now the death of her son really does sort of start a whole new chapter for Karen. So it was really sort of plotting out how do we evolve that character while at the same time being true to her and the women that were like her at that period? It didn’t seem fair to just say that Karen would wake up one day and just be a completely different person or that she would just jettison her entire upbringing and her entire worldview. It felt like that would have to be an evolution. And then you would have to justify how those changes are made for a character like her.


For All Mankind video screenshot (Apple TV+)
(Photo by Apple TV+)

Can we talk about how 109 deals with grief in all of its forms?

Moore: Yeah. 109, we had to sort of face it directly. Two characters like Karen and Ed dealing with a profound loss and not being able to be there for each other and how they would individually do that. And a lot of us in the writers’ room, we had either gone through similar things or we knew close relatives who had, so we drew on a lot of that, of personal experience of people’s responses to grief. And it did feel like once Karen had gotten over the planning of Shane’s funeral arrangements and all that, that then she would be sort of left at loose ends. Like once that was complete, she had nothing left; there would be an emptiness there and she retreat, would try to retreat as far as she possibly could away from the world and away from everyone else.

And on Ed, lone, isolated, tired, had been told he was being rescued over and over and over again. And had to hear about this over the phone, that he would just shut down. He would just shut down, turn off the phone, refuse to talk, and he would just be alone with his grief. And that each of them in their own way was kind of doing the same thing. That they were both retreating from the world and they both just wanted to be left alone and manage their grief in their own way. And again, it seems like that’s who the characters were in that era, and they weren’t seeking therapy and they weren’t trying to talk through their feelings. They didn’t have any of those skills and those tools, and if they didn’t have each other, if they weren’t able to comfort each other, they didn’t want to be comforted by anybody, and they just started to step back from their lives.

The character of Aleida Rosales she’s the kind of character that, in a big cast like this, could get lost. What was the intention behind making a storyline out of that family’s journey?

Moore: It was an initial impulse at the very creation of the show to have a young character that we could watch grow up over the seasons, because the show is multigenerational. It goes through many decades, and I wanted someone at the outset who was very young and then it became, “Let’s make it an immigrant story. Let’s make it a story of how broad the space program is, that it’s not just inspiring people in the United States. It’s actually inspiring people around the world, and here’s this young girl who comes to the United States from Mexico.” It becomes an immigrant story. Then the challenge became how do you keep her on the show? Because she obviously can’t impact a big story for a very long time. And it was a lot of work, and we did struggle with at times to be honest, to figure out how to keep her relevant to the show when so many of the things were going on.

But we did have a belief that ultimately this is a clearly critical character in the life of the show later on. In a way it’s almost an origin story. It’s an origin story of a superhero or something: start at the beginning, see how she got involved with NASA, see who she knew and what the challenges are and then throw a curve ball in her world towards the end of the first season and then come back second season and see what happened to her a decade or so later.


Battlestar Galactica (Syfy)
(Photo by Syfy)

For All Mankind, you’re back in space. Was that intentional? Were you’re looking to go back to space?

Moore: Well, I was certainly open to the idea. I mean I do love space and science fiction. It’s just been part of me since I was a child. So you do it for a long time. It’s Star Trek and then Battlestar and you need to get away and not do it continuously. But then I kind of felt sort of ready to come back and there were new things to do and new things to say in the field and so it was really fun to come back and do a space show again. And I hope it won’t be my last.

Yeah, I hope it won’t either. I don’t know if you know, but Battlestar took like top spot in our list of the best sci-fi shows.

Ron Moore: I did see that. I couldn’t believe it. I was very touched by that. It was like, Wow. Really? Yeah, I’m not sure. I’m not sure I would have voted it that high. I don’t know that the child in me can actually put Battlestar above the original Star Trek series, but I do appreciate the honor.

See, I would agree with you if you’d said The Next Generation, but the original Star Trek, really?

Moore: The original, it’s brilliant. It changed the genre.

One of the things that I really liked about Battlestar and one of the things that weighed in its favor for that ranking was just the amount of time spent on developing character, and they’re not just red shirts or blue shirts or yellow shirts. Each character has an intention, and it’s something that I’ve seen more lately. I’d say it shows how influential you’ve been in this medium, that you see, for instance, in The Expanse, this focus on character and a lived-in quality for the show.

Moore: I appreciate that. It’s very kind. I would love to think that we had that kind of influence, and those qualities were very important to us in Battlestar, and we spent a lot of time focusing on them and saying that this is really what matters and this is really what will distinguish the show and this is what you’re capable of doing in science fiction. It’d be great to think that that’s influenced others. And that it continues to go in that direction.


Outlander 502 - Sam Heughan, Caitriona Balfe, Sophie Skelton, Richard Rankin (Starz)
(Photo by Starz)

Now Outlander was a little bit of a detour. I was surprised to see you on that title. Similarly, I think you’ve given the story more heft than some other people might’ve.

Moore: Diana [Gabaldon] had created a great universe in Outlander the books. And I just thought once you translate that to television, one of the first things you have to realize is that, “Yes, you’re going to see the universe” and “Yes, you’re going to see the world, Scotland.” That’s all fascinating stuff, but what the television audience really cares about are the characters because that’s who they get attached to. That’s really what they’re all about. That’s what they want to see. How does this week’s event impact my favorite characters? So again, at Outlander, we also made it a concerted effort to really try to get inside Claire and Jamie and Frank.

We certainly played a lot more of Frank in the show than really the books did, because I kind of felt that there was an opportunity there to really show the triangle and to really get inside Claire a little bit more, to understand who she was, because her whole journey in the first season was about trying to get back to Frank. And so you had to kind of understand and really buy into the notion that Frank was an important character in order to really understand Claire.

Outlander does really well on the Tomatometer, too. Is there anything you can say about the new season that we can look forward to?

Moore: Getting closer to the American Revolution, the split between Jamie and Murtaugh is going to come to a head and be very difficult for both parties. You’re going to see more of Stephen Bonnet, Jocasta, and all the characters who set up season 1, and there’ll be another character returning in the next season that we said goodbye to last season. There’s a lot of fun stuff. It’s just sort of a big, sprawling epic really is what it is —what it always has been.

For All Mankind is now streaming on Apple TV+; Outlander season 5 premieres on Sunday, February 16 on Starz.


Tag Cloud

Crackle documentaries green book Amazon Prime Video Year in Review FX blockbuster Marvel travel Nickelodeon Fantasy Chilling Adventures of Sabrina political drama Shudder cats Rom-Com slashers witnail Logo A&E adventure parents TCA 2017 critics BBC America Academy Awards cults 45 MCU films medical drama police drama sitcom Schedule Fox News Cannes Superheroes sequel award winner CW Seed hispanic Pop TV The Walking Dead strong female leads chucky Star Wars supernatural APB dark Nominations scary movies YouTube Red Quiz BBC One VOD Lucasfilm Amazon Prime miniseries theme song criterion Travel Channel WGN SXSW Grammys Sundance Awards Tour Epix spy thriller series ABC Family psychological thriller 21st Century Fox Election war Baby Yoda AMC Martial Arts discovery diversity TruTV Netflix Horror SDCC Warner Bros. Pop Spring TV Heroines true crime canceled screen actors guild Certified Fresh El Rey CNN TBS Action asian-american Christmas Starz Oscars TIFF cancelled television video on demand Spectrum Originals Set visit Cosplay comedies spider-man werewolf First Reviews Writers Guild of America VH1 YouTube Premium FX on Hulu Tumblr psycho The CW Hallmark Christmas movies screenings DC Comics RT21 Trivia Masterpiece Marathons Lionsgate FXX facebook tv talk Women's History Month DC streaming service BET Awards MSNBC E! aliens Calendar technology Toys Song of Ice and Fire 2020 ITV CBS All Access video Box Office Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt revenge Pet Sematary Infographic what to watch zombies period drama GoT Bravo Disney+ Disney Plus X-Men 2016 Mary Tyler Moore IFC Films binge 4/20 USA mission: impossible Nat Geo franchise Vudu dragons rotten movies we love Reality Competition CMT VICE Summer Polls and Games TV 2018 Columbia Pictures justice league MTV PBS Shondaland spinoff Apple Sci-Fi science fiction thriller RT History First Look Ellie Kemper TV renewals New York Comic Con disaster Family 2017 breaking bad Star Trek Elton John child's play Paramount Network Lifetime Christmas movies WarnerMedia cops Opinion Thanksgiving Captain marvel Valentine's Day foreign Avengers Amazon Mary Poppins Returns Holidays Best and Worst sag awards cinemax die hard toy story 20th Century Fox children's TV Disney Plus festivals A24 Funimation Black History Month PaleyFest Netflix Christmas movies sports 2015 halloween History latino Television Critics Association Musicals dc anthology 24 frames nature BAFTA Black Mirror Musical joker Extras Hulu Disney ESPN teaser Pixar crime Sneak Peek Food Network Sundance TV Super Bowl Freeform stand-up comedy Ghostbusters Endgame doctor who OneApp romance Winners Anna Paquin Acorn TV Adult Swim YA NBC GLAAD mutant jamie lee curtis TCA Winter 2020 Comedy Central GIFs reboot Hallmark cancelled TV shows Disney Channel IFC zero dark thirty dramedy Lifetime Turner finale spanish language christmas movies stoner vampires DGA Animation CBS Tomatazos twilight boxoffice versus anime Pride Month universal monsters TCA YouTube streaming SundanceTV transformers quibi Television Academy OWN crossover BBC cancelled dogs San Diego Comic-Con cancelled TV series 71st Emmy Awards Brie Larson Rocketman Emmy Nominations mockumentary DirecTV cars free movies Film Festival Mary poppins Syfy directors Tubi Tarantino politics TNT Dark Horse Comics See It Skip It documentary Binge Guide Reality concert spain a nightmare on elm street Music Countdown Marvel Television TCA Awards Podcast social media composers independent Trophy Talk robots golden globes name the review Awards Paramount Crunchyroll Character Guide docudrama Country Video Games Interview talk show reviews Biopics Discovery Channel Teen Watching Series Emmys ghosts TLC Photos serial killer dceu Comedy canceled TV shows The Purge singing competition richard e. Grant HBO Go Mystery casting Universal television south america news romantic comedy animated Classic Film space renewed TV shows Pirates TV Land Apple TV+ Apple TV Plus Stephen King Premiere Dates biography Trailer USA Network movies E3 Mindy Kaling Superheroe Mudbound book Turner Classic Movies Kids & Family Drama The Witch FOX crime thriller Film DC Universe NYCC The Arrangement Amazon Studios Sony Pictures Marvel Studios game show zombie BET HBO Max crime drama satire unscripted LGBTQ Fall TV Spike historical drama LGBT comic Arrowverse based on movie Rocky American Society of Cinematographers kids Peacock batman TCM comiccon Holiday Esquire comics Red Carpet President Disney streaming service Showtime game of thrones cartoon blaxploitation PlayStation 2019 Creative Arts Emmys Ovation hist cooking HBO Britbox best ratings ABC Walt Disney Pictures Western Chernobyl Sundance Now National Geographic indiana jones Winter TV adaptation emmy awards all-time natural history Hear Us Out Cartoon Network Comic Book harry potter indie movie Rock Comics on TV elevated horror 007