Halle Berry and Steven Spielberg’s EXTANT Explores New Ground for CBS and Amazon Prime

Berry and VisnjicAnticipation looms large as Steven Spielberg sits at the helm of CBS series Extant, starring Halle Berry as Astronaut Molly Woods.

The futuristic Extant has Berry returning from a year-long mission in space, where she’s left behind a dark secret. As the episode unfolds, Berry’s character undergoes the mandatory physical exam required of all returning outer space travelers, only to find that she is pregnant. To add to this mystery, a significant period of time has been deleted from monitoring cameras.

So is the premise of the premiere episode….

It’s All About the Characters

Creator/Executive Producer Mickey Fisher and Executive Producer/Showrunner Greg Walker developed this series without pinpointing an exact time in the future when their story is to take place. During a press call with the pair, they admitted that their scientific consultant and writer, Peter Ocko, envisioned much of the technological advancements presented in the project through his imagination. But, their focus of the project is aimed more at character development than gadgetry.

Fisher credits much of his inspiration of the concept to Spielberg, saying, “I was a kid who grew up on Amblin movies, and I think in so many ways, I was like programmed by those movies – and by George Lucas. We want this project to be something that people can relate to, a story about this family that people can appreciate.”

Amazon Prime Hops Aboard

Through Amazon Prime, viewers will be able to stream the series. Walker feels that puts them in a unique position in the world of television. “The fact that viewers will have the ability to watch two, three, or four original episodes at a time in the world of streaming a serialized show is a really attractive option for a lot of audience members.

“And almost every episode of our storytelling happens seconds after the previous episode. We’ve made a rather conscious effort to link the episodes temporarily. So, I think fans who are watching the series through Amazon Prime are really going to get a different experience than those who watch week-to-week on television.”

The Story’s in the Concept

Fisher is a relative newcomer to the world of scripted series, though he has been in the business for more than 15 years, and going into the writer’s room was a new experience for him. He said, “It was my first time being in a room with that many people who were kicking around ideas back and forth. I was just treading water for my life in there, because it moved so fast, and ideas were discussed and discarded very quickly. I would come home every day with my brain exhausted from talking and brainstorming. I think it took me a while to find my footing doing that. At the same time, it was exhilarating and great. We have such a great team of writers, and we all work well together. I trust them completely with the story.”

As for the background of the events, Fisher said, “I really just set out to write the show that I would want to see, and it’s kind of a reflection of a lot of things that I was watching at the time I wrote it or on things I was really interested in. I’m a guy who’s, you know, first in line at midnight for all the big genre movies, anything with superheroes, guys in capes or tights or anything with aliens, monsters, giant lizards destroying cities. I’m kind of there for all that stuff. But I’m also a guy who loves those great family dramas. I obsessed over Friday Night Lights just as much as I did over Doctor Who. Everything just all came out in this story of this strange new family of the future that consisted of an astronaut wife, a robotics father and an android son.

“It was an idea that I carried around for a few years. It initially started as an idea for a one-person play about an astronaut aboard a space station who is confronted by a ghost from the past. Then, it got to the point where I wanted to write more complex, female characters to really challenge myself. It felt right to explore that. Then, when I started writing it, I had the idea of the character not coming home alone. That was really the spark that set me off writing for about a month straight. I cleared everything off the counter, cleared everything off the desk, and just focused on that until it was finished.”

What’s At the Heart

“And there are definitely science fiction elements involved, but Greg, as the Captain of this ship, is always great at steering us back towards the heart of the story. I get excited about the genre elements, but it’s really about what’s happening with these characters, what’s happening with this family. If there’s a unique recipe for the show, it’s the emotional family moments, the sci-fi fantasy elements, and then, basically the thriller roller-coaster ride.”

It’s A Thrilling Ride

Then, there are those “floating” scenes (mandated by Spielberg) with Berry at Zero G. To get the “feel” of weightlessness, Berry actually experienced it firsthand when she went up in a Zero G plane. NASA consultant Kady Coleman was also on hand to help with any questions or explanations. Walker added, “Halle had also had a lot of experience on the wire work just from her work in X-Men.”

It was thrilling for Walker to watch Berry in this role. “She’s very conscientious. And she digs into it with the writers. She also has a point of view about the characters. I think the audience is going to love it. It’s one of those things where, people go to movies and see Halle once or twice a year. Now, they’re going to have the opportunity to go on this great 13-hour journey with her, with an actress that people just love.”

Extant, which also stars Goran Visnjic, premieres on CBS on Wednesday, July 9, at 9 P.M.