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'Mankind' star Joel Kinnaman: Season 4 Ed would be unrecognizable to younger self

Joel Kinnaman has played an astronaut over the course of 30 years of his career in "For All Mankind." Season 4 wraps up Friday. Photo courtesy of Apple TV+
1 of 5 | Joel Kinnaman has played an astronaut over the course of 30 years of his career in "For All Mankind." Season 4 wraps up Friday. Photo courtesy of Apple TV+

NEW YORK, Jan. 12 (UPI) -- Joel Kinnaman says it has been an exciting acting exercise to play an astronaut through three eventful decades of his life during four seasons of the space drama, For All Mankind.

"What really drew me to this character was that on its face, he looks like this American archetype, this all-American hero, but to me that's not very interesting," Kinnaman told reporters in a recent Zoom roundtable interview.

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"What is interesting is what this show wanted to do is dismantle that archetype, and that is something that happens over the course of decades and that becomes really prominent in the fourth season, where aging becomes a much bigger factor and a person like Ed has always been impulsive, but supremely confident."

As his reflexes slow down and his confidence wanes, he starts making big mistakes that cost him the lives of people he cares about, Kinnaman said of his character, Ed.

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"We see this fear of death creeping in and the person that he has become is unrecognizable to his younger self," Kinnaman said. "It's a painful process, but, as an actor, it is mouth-watering material."

Created by Robert D. Moore, Ben Nedivi and Matt Wolpert -- with Nedivi and Wolpert as showrunners and executive producers with Moore -- the Apple TV+ show imagines an alternate history in which the global space race never ended and the Soviet Union beat the United States to the moon.

It spans the fictionalized trials and triumphs from the 1960s to the 1990s, when the United States, Russia and North Korea are colonizing Mars.

Season 4 of the show -- co-starring Wrenn Schmidt, Krys Marshall, Edi Gathegi, Cynthy Wu, Coral Peña, Toby Kebbell, Tyner Rushing, Daniel Stern and Svetlana Efremova -- wraps up Friday.

The latest run of episodes sees Kinnaman's character lock horns with his lifelong friend and fellow astronaut, Danielle Poole (Marshall), over his questionable judgment and deteriorating physical capabilities in performing his job.

The icing on the cake is when Danielle becomes Ed's boss.

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"Some of the scenes I have with Krys this season were my favorites of the series," said Kinnaman, who is known for roles in Suicide Squad and The Killing.

The conflict between besties gets pretty emotional at times.

"She got a lot of meat to deal with on this season, and she really stepped up and put on a really impressive performance," Kinnaman said.

"It was really fun to play with her these scenes. It's funny. There's this thing that happens when you get deeper into a show -- when you are in Season 3 or 4 -- and you've been playing with these people," he added.

"You already have history with people that you are playing with. Your characters have history. It gets you on a deeper level."

Manhattan, Home Alone and City Slickers icon Stern joined the show for Season 4 as Eli, the new head of NASA.

Stern told UPI in a separate Zoom chat that he wasn't aware of the show until he was offered the role.

He quickly binged it then, finding it to be an "epic, wonderful saga."

"It's so relevant as, in real life, humans are going up into space all the time. It's just a matter of time before this all becomes real," he said.

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Playing a man so powerful and confident didn't come naturally to Stern, so the show's producers suggested he look at former Chrysler boss Lee Iacocca for inspiration.

"He was a media guy. He went on talk shows. He was an innovator, but he knew how to run the system. He knew all the things that went into running a major car company, but he's also a politician," Stern said of Iacocca.

"Getting the best out if people is the job. Eli doesn't have to know how a rocket ship works. He just has to pick the best guy who does know how a rocket ship works and to listen to him or to ask the right questions."

While the stakes are high and the job comes with a lot of pressure, Stern said he thinks Eli ultimately takes the job because he is a political animal with a sense of duty to his country.

"How could he say 'no?'" Stern asked rhetorically. "If the president asks you to do anything, you do it, right?"

Kebbell plays Miles, another newbie character on For All Mankind in Season 4.

The financially strapped family man works as a laborer on Mars and always looks for ways to send more money home to his wife and kids on Earth.

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"Miles is an opportunist, he can get so misguided and so led down the wrong path," Kebbell (Servant, Kong: Skull Island) told UPI in another Zoom interview.

"I found that so fascinating," he said. "It was a great journey to go on. There's huge pressure coming his way, so I think that always shows us who we are inside compared to who we think we are," he added. "It's always interesting to play, especially with such excellent dialogue and such brilliant actors."

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