Written by: Angelica Monk
Looking for your next binge-worthy series? Look no further than Netflix’s original series, Lost in Space. The show is a re-imagining of the classic 1960s TV series, updated for today’s audiences.
Lost in Space follows the Robinson family, space colonists who crash land on a distant planet. At the end of the first season, they somehow survive their ordeal but find themselves in a precarious position, yet again. I chatted with the cast members of the show: Molly Parker (Maureen Robinson), Toby Stephens (John Robinson), Ignacio Serricchio (Don West), Max Jenkins (Will Robinson), and Mina Sundwall (Penny Robinson). We discussed their characters and their experience on the series.
How did you become part of the project? What drew you to the role, and were you a fan of the original series?
Molly Parker: I did not grow up watching the original series. I didn’t have that much TV in my house when I was little. I remember seeing bits of it. When my agent first called me about it, I thought, “I don’t know if that’s what I need to be doing.” Then, I read the script and I got on the phone with the creator. It was exciting that this character on the show was inverted from the kind of archetypal gender roles of the mom and dad. She’s a hero. She’s coming from this kind of really scientific, engineering, logical brain, and every problem has a solution. She’s not particularly emotionally intelligent, which is not the place that a lot of female characters are written from. Yet lots of women come exactly from that place. I just love that she’s quick to action. My first questions [in playing Maureen] were really like, “What’s wrong with her?” She’s a brilliant scientist and she’s this great mother, but she does all these things. What’s her problem? What makes her interesting? That was exciting about doing it. Certainly, I think people can see her as the sort of American hero, which makes me laugh, but then I’m always trying to scrape out the corners of those places and find where she’s wrong and where she’s flawed and where she’s screwing up. There’s lots of opportunities for that, because basically, for all her good intentions, she is the one that wants to go to space. She’s the one that puts her family in a situation where they’re constantly almost dying. [Laughs.]
Toby Stephens: I wasn’t really a fan of the original series. I didn’t really watch [the show]. I saw a couple of episodes when I was a kid. It wasn’t that I didn’t like it, I just didn’t really know it. I was much more of a Star Trek person when I was a kid. That was my meat and potatoes in terms of sci-fi. I watched Space 1999, which we used to have in the UK, and Doctor Who, but I didn’t really watch Lost in Space. Then when this came along, I was dubious only because I had that distant recollection of what it was. I remember the film remake being a bit of a disaster. So, I thought, Is this something that’s going to be worth doing? I read it and then I thought, “This is great. I love this. I love this take on it.” I like that it was very believable, somehow. I believed in this family. What’s great is that it’s a family that is not some sort of perfect apple pie family. It’s this kind of slightly dysfunctional, very real family with real problems that just happens to be in this context of being lost in space. l like the fact that its sci-fi — it’s not a space opera. It’s couched in some kind of scientific reality. I actually found that really interesting. Then I knew Neil Marshall, who was directing the first few episodes and was one of the original creators, spoke to me about it. Then I spoke to Zach [Estrin, showrunner], who talked me into doing it. He told me the story arc of John and Maureen, particularly. I really liked the idea of him being this archetypal character. The strong father, but he wasn’t a very good father. He was learning to be a better father. That really appealed to me. I think what I liked about it was that a lot of parents who are watching it with their kids can really identify with those characters. Most parents are good people struggling to do the right thing for their family, and at times feel like they’re failing. You’re doing this tough job, being a parent and not getting it right.
Ignacio Serricchio: Yes, I was obsessed with the original series because Guy Williams, after he finished Zorro, I wanted to know what else he had done after Zorro. I noticed he did Lost in Space. I wasn’t a fan of space and science fiction, but what caught my eye with this show was that it was so family oriented. My family is absolutely everything in my life. I could relate to that. When I was a little kid, I watched the reruns. I loved the family dynamic. On top of that, there’s a robot and a chimp. Chimps are one of my favorite animals. I think I’m a chimp. I actually think I’m devolving as we speak. I find more hair on my shoulders; I’m walking with my legs open more. It’s a weird transformation. [Laughs.] The project caught my eye, and I got the audition. Immediately, I got super giddy, but at the same time, I told myself to control myself. I said, “You’re probably not going to get it. They’re going to go with a white person. I don’t know why my mind was thinking this way. I thought, Don’t get too excited, because it’s going to be heartbreaking. So, I went into the audition very relaxed, just going to do whatever I wanted to do to entertain myself. I least will get out of it a fun experience. Then, they called when I was in Vancouver shooting Girlfriends Guide to Divorce. My manager called me saying, “They want to fly you down to meet you and read for the part,” and I said, “Do they fly everyone down because they have a lot of money? Or is it like on a special thing?” These are all questions that are going through my head. Then, it turned out good.
Max Jenkins: What got me involved in the project, actually is a funny story. I came home from school one day, doing my normal thing as a sixth grader. I go upstairs and I see this copy of a script on a table. I start reading through it. Then, I asked my mom, “Hey, mom, what’s this Lost in Space?” And she goes, “Yeah, that’s the script but we’ll pass on it because it takes you away from home too long.” And I said, “It has a robot, and I get to be in space. I get to wear spacesuits. I really want to do this.” One thing led to another, and now I am Will Robinson. I watched the original series, and our director for Season 1 recommended a few movies: Black Stallion, ET, and my favorite, of course, The Iron Giant. I also got to become friends with the original Will Robinson, Bill Mumy. That really helped me form my character. We became great friends. We bonded over music, and we bonded over Will Robinson, our love of sci-fi, and comic books. He’s a big Bucky fan, and I’m a big Captain America fan.
Mina Sundwall: I auditioned for the role of Penny. I got a call from my agent that they were doing a remake of Lost in Space and that they were looking for a Penny Robinson. I met with the showrunner, Zack Estrin, and some of our producers and our writers. I was drawn to Penny immediately because I see a lot of myself in her. She can be very sassy and very quippy. She thinks more than she says a lot of the time, in the sense that she is one step ahead of a lot of people, even if they don’t know it, which I was really drawn to immediately. She’s very smart. She’s very generous. I admire her and I respect her a lot, especially after now having been with her in my head for two seasons. I’ve seen her grow a little bit. Immediately, I was drawn to those qualities about her. I did see the original series, and I thought that it was very funny. I love it a lot. It’s definitely different from our version of the show. Yes, it is. It has its own charm that I love a lot.
What can you tell us about Season 2?
Toby Stephens: The next season picks up where we left off, and it just expands everything. What I love about an American TV series is generally if it’s successful, they want to make it even more successful. They want to take all the way, and they’re constantly improving things. That doesn’t necessarily mean you just spend more money and throw more money at it. It’s more about how can we take this and make it better, more entertaining, more fun for the audience, and just make the story more satisfying? It’s really a continuation of where we were, but expanded. Who were the robots? Where did they come from? What is the mythology behind them? What is the science behind them? Who made them? Where is Will’s robot? Are we ever going to see him again? We know all of that stuff. What is Smith going to do next? They’re stuck with Smith; she’s stuck with them. How far is she willing to go to survive? How does this family dynamic develop as the kids grow older? We watch them grow older, and we watched the parents grow. How does that change the dynamic? It just seems to get bigger and bigger.
Ignacio Serricchio: I can tell you that it’s going to be incredibly mind-blowing. Honestly, just from me being on set, I knew that it’s going to be gigantic. I cannot even wait as a fan to watch it when it comes out. I’m a fan of our editors, and I’m a fan of our effects department. Those are things that I have to wait to see until it comes out so I can watch it with everyone else. There’s so much of it that we don’t get to see in the final product. I know it’s going to just blow everyone away. I’m going to react the same way people who were not in the show are going to react. That’s what I can tell you. I’m really, really excited as a fan, not just as an actor.
Max Jenkins: The second season is going to be humongous. It is going to be out of this world, no pun intended. We have an amazing new director. He’s our producing director, and he really led us through this journey. His name is Alex Graves. He directed for Game of Thrones and Homeland. He took us to Iceland, which was really amazing. We spent about a week or so in Iceland, filming from glaciers to waterfalls to black sand beaches. That was really amazing. We went to Drumheller, Alberta, where you see a bunch of dinosaur bones lying on the side of the road. He really helped me build a new Will Robinson, which was amazing. He really helped me age Will Robinson up a little bit. He made him older, a bit stronger, a bit wiser, but he didn’t change who Will Robinson was.
Mina Sundwall: For the family in general, I have to say, look forward to bigger, more scarier, more answers, more questions — exploring much more space, more robots, more creatures. For Penny, as far as growth goes, it’s a lot about finding her position and what she can contribute to the family, given that she isn’t the science one. Towards the end of Season 1, she felt quite lost and a little useless. In Season 2, you see her begin to find what she can contribute and use that to help the situation. I don’t think that her growth is done whatsoever. I think that it’s only started.
The Robinson Family and company will return for a second season. Netflix has not dropped a release date yet but rest assured another season will be on its way. In the meantime, you can stream Season 1 of Lost in Space on Netflix. The complete first season is also available on Blu-Ray and DVD. The Blu-Ray/DVD combo pack features extras and behind the scenes you won’t see anywhere else. Here’s hoping we’ll see the Robinsons soon.