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'Mankind' star Joel Kinnaman: Space exploration is 'aspirational and positive'

Joel Kinneman can now be seen in Season 2 of For All Mankind. Photo courtesy of Apple TV+
Joel Kinneman can now be seen in Season 2 of "For All Mankind." Photo courtesy of Apple TV+

NEW YORK, Feb. 19 (UPI) -- Altered Carbon, The Killing and Suicide Squad star Joel Kinnaman says he hopes his space drama, For All Mankind, gives people something to look up to.

"Space exploration in reality and as fiction is something that is aspirational and positive," the 41-year-old Swedish actor told UPI in a recent Zoom interview with reporters.

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"I wish that we would focus more of our attention to space exploration and give more funding to science to do these things," Kinnaman said.

"We should strive to be a multiplanetary species and I think the more time and effort and money we spend reaching deeper into space, we will also develop technologies and innovate things that will help us back here," he added, pointing out that GPS systems and cellphones wouldn't exist today without NASA.

Created by Ronald D. Moore, Ben Nedivi and Matt Wolpert, For All Mankind is a thrilling alternate-history epic that imagines a world in which a Soviet cosmonaut becomes the first man to walk on the moon instead of American Neil Armstrong in 1969.

Determined to catch up and surpass its rivals, the United States pours enormous resources into NASA, leading to tremendous advancements in technology and diversity among the scientists.

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Season 2 -- debuting Friday on Apple TV+ -- takes place in 1983, about a decade after the events of Season 1.

Ronald Reagan is president and the United States and Soviet Union are in the midst of the Cold War.

The stakes are even higher than they were in real life because the exploration race now involves high-tech weaponry and communications equipment that take the world to the brink of a possible nuclear war as the moon becomes militarized.

Kinnaman, who plays fictional Korean War veteran and astronaut Ed Baldwin in For All Mankind, finds time jumps in storylines interesting because they force actors to fill in the blanks of what happened in those missing years and evolve accordingly.

At the end of Season 1, Ed and his wife, Karen, are seen mourning their young son, Shane, who died after being hit by a car while riding his bicycle.

In addition to experiencing overwhelming grief, Ed also feels guilt since he was stationed on the moon when the accident happened.

"As an actor, of course, portraying someone who has gone through that kind of tragedy is sort of the challenge that you are looking forward to sinking your teeth into," Kinnaman said.

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Moving the story 10 years in the future means those wounds aren't right out on the surface anymore, however.

"You don't move on from something like that. You'll always be the person before and after that happens," the actor said, adding the grief and regret Ed feels will bubble up in unexpected ways throughout his life. "I thought the writers did a fantastic job of portraying that."

Kinnaman admitted he was shocked to see where Ed is at the beginning of Season 2, having given up his dream of flying and taken a new job as head of the astronaut program so he can provide security for the wife he feels he disappointed years earlier by being absent in her darkest hours.

"He's on the ground. He seems to be at peace in a way that we haven't seen him before. We don't see much of his anger outbursts, and he almost seems pretty happy," the actor said.

"I found it almost provocative at first, but then as we moved along in the season, I thought it was just brilliant to portray him in that way," he explained. "He's sacrificed his passion of reaching farther into space to be present with his family and, if anything were to happen to his family, he knows for damn sure he's going to be there when it happens."

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Ed's new leadership role impacts his relationships with the astronauts, too.

Kinnaman could relate to that dynamic, since he wields more influence than he used to on film and TV productions, which creates opportunities for him to lift up other actors.

"There is always some weird tension that can arise from that if you don't deal with it in the right way," he said.

"That's something that Ed is going through as well. I think he is a friend first and a flight director second, and I think you see that in some of his choices. He will definitely use his position to try to help the lives of his friends. There is definitely some nepotism going on."

For All Mankind co-stars Michael Dorman, Sarah Jones, Shantel VanSanten, Jodi Balfour, Krys Marshall, Wrenn Schmidt and Sonya Walger.

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