How Away’s Hilary Swank Approached The Unexpected Physical Challenges Of The Netflix Series

As someone who loves just about any TV show set partly in space, it was awesome to see Netflix teaming up with both the Oscar-winning Hilary Swank and the Emmy-winning producer Jason Katims (Fright Night Lights) for the astronaut-led drama Away. The series centers on the first human crew leading an expedition to Mars, and the myriad problems that said crew faces along the way. Of course, the cast and crew also faced some physical hurdles of their own, such as learning how to act in "zero gravity."

As one of Away's stars and executive producers – alongside The Batman's Matt Reeves and The Path's Jessica Goldberg – Hilary Swank was invested in the show both in front of the camera and behind the scenes. But only one of those job duties required her to get used to acting while pretending to be floating around in zero gravity, and it turns out that was all harder than it looked. Here's how Swank explained it in an interview with Collider:

It was more physically challenging than I actually anticipated it being. Learning how to make zero gravity look effortless, when it took so much effort, was really something. Inevitably, when you’re moving slowly, you want to slow your voice down, which obviously doesn’t happen in real zero gravity. So, there were a lot of patting your head and rubbing your belly type of moments. You work on getting your glutes and your abs strong, so that you can move around on those wires that are penduluming you at the bottom of your hips.

Even though it may look like a fairly effortless act to float around for TV, it definitely takes more physical endurance than most people might readily believe. For one, the actors aren't actually filming in zero-gravity locations, so it all comes down to wire-work. And it doesn't take much imagination to consider how many cramps once might get while trying to travel through the air with wires attached to one's hips.

I love the fact that Hilary Swank brings up the idea that moving slowly in faux zero gravity automatically makes someone want to slow down their speech patterns in order to match their movements. That's the kind of concept that I probably wouldn't consider when doing mental planning ahead of filming that kind of role, having to practice speaking at a steady or quickened pace while moving slowly through the air. I suppose it's mildly comparable to being in a swimming pool, but swimmers obviously have more control over their movements in the water than astronauts do in space. (Especially swimmers with rocket boosters, of course.)

It does sound like taking on a zero-G performance in a project like Away is an interesting way to get into shape by working on abdominal muscles, as well as the glute muscles. Considering those all tend to be where one's center of balance is, they would definitely get strained the most when trying to stay upright within the wires. I imagine it's probably harder to actually go into space, but it's not like faking it is a complete (space)walk in the park. I guess we'll have to wait and see how Tom Cruise fares during his "actually filmed in space" project to see what the future may hold.

Will fans get to see Hilary Swank and the other cosmos-soaring astronauts for a second season of Away? It's hard to tell at this point, although creator Andrew Hinderaker is hopeful for more. While critical reviews for the show weren't universally positive, Away has consistently been one of Netflix's most popular shows since it debuted, so perhaps the streaming service will grant Hinderaker and Swank a second batch of episodes to explore more space sex and other good times.

Nick Venable
Assistant Managing Editor

Nick is a Cajun Country native, and is often asked why he doesn't sound like that's the case. His love for his wife and daughters is almost equaled by his love of gasp-for-breath laughter and gasp-for-breath horror. A lifetime spent in the vicinity of a television screen led to his current dream job, as well as his knowledge of too many TV themes and ad jingles.