Ron Livingston says that "Grey's Anatomy in Space" pretty much sums up Defying Gravity
by Kona Gallagher, posted Jul 31st 2009 11:32AM
Ron Livingston, who is probably best-known for his role as the lovable slacker, Peter Gibbons, in the cult classic, Office Space, is no stranger to television. He played the rakish captain Lewis Nixon on HBO's seminal miniseries, Band of Brothers, and will go down in Pop Culture history as Berger, the douche who broke up with Carrie via Post-It note on Sex and the City.
This summer, Livingston is starring in the new ABC drama, Defying Gravity, with a special two-hour premiere on Sunday, August 2, at 9:00. Described, to the dismay of many, as "Grey's Anatomy in Space," Gravity follows a group of astronauts on a planetary mission 40 years from now. While everybody's sleeping with their coworkers, they aren't quite as angst-ridden about it as their Grey's counterparts. These astronauts cut through all the BS and get down to the business of doing it in zero gravity, as any rational person would.
Recently, I was able to chat with Ron Livingston about Defying Gravity. We talk about some of the more mysterious elements of the show, how he prepared for the role, and why they're wearing t-shirts in the future, instead of Mylar jumpsuits.
(There aren't any major spoilers, but we do discuss the pilot, so keep that in mind).
On Defying Gravity, you play a, I don't know if "grizzled" is the right word...
(Laughs) "Grizzled" is a good one.
Right, a grizzled astronaut who's, let's say, had some disappointments in life.
Yeah, and right now, he's enjoying a second chance that he never thought he'd get.
In the pilot, you're character, Maddux, is an alternate on the space program's most recent mission to Mars, and he gets called up. Yet there's some sort of mysterious illness that seems to be related to either the program, or the mission itself. How is that going to come into play in future episodes?
There's a mystery element that's introduced in the pilot. The astronauts; the four men and women who are on the mission, are under the impression that they're on a scientific mission to explore the planet. The element that you're talking about, it pretty quickly becomes clear to the audience and then slowly to the members of the crew, that there's something else going on. There's something bigger at work that they haven't been told about, and some unexplainable things are happening.
The reason that you come on board is because two of the original members of the mission develop an illness. Are the other mysterious happenings on the ship related to that?
Well, they're related in that the show is shot in the world of science, and there are a few things that the scientists don't quite have an explanation for. There seem to be other forces at work, other than just the ones we understand - -- but we understand a lot of them. You can't even attempt to go to other planets unless you understand how the universe works. But there are a few things we don't understand, and I think the mystery element of the show is a good way to get into that.
Producers have described Defying Gravity as "Grey's Anatomy in Space." How do you feel about that?
Well, they wanted to make a show that is both about men and women working together and the relationships are as much a part of the story as the action. We wanted to make a show that guys and girls could watch together. We wanted it to be kind of sexy, kind of racy, but at the same time, have it be a wild ride and kind of kick ass. So, yeah. Grey's Anatomy with astronauts (laughs).
Well, you have a pretty big cast, and already, just in the pilot, it seems as though everyone on the show has already slept with every other person on the show. You guys aren't teasing it; you're getting it all out there right away.
Well, it's a pretty small pool. There aren't a lot of people who go through the astronaut program, and even fewer who get on the actual ship. So, you know, it's a long mission. What are you going to do? You've got to work it out.
I think that's where some of the fun of the show comes in. These people have to depend on each other to do their jobs. They're trusting their lives with each other in a pretty dangerous environment, but it turns out they also look pretty good in their skivvies, so you've got to play to your audience here.
From the pilot, we learn some important things about the future. For instance, drugstore pregnancy tests no longer exist, but somehow, YouTube has managed to survive. What else happens?
The setting of the show is actually very close to the world today. I actually kind of think of it not so much as the future, but more of the "near present." [The producers] went to the people at NASA and said, "If you guys were going to do this mission to go explore the planets, and Congress were to fund it tomorrow, when would be the earliest you could do it?" and they said that it would be 30 or 30 years out. So the idea is that the kids who are going to be born today, and in this next decade, if they grow up to be astronauts, then this is going to be their mission.
What about the look of the show?
A big part of the design element, was instead of saying, "I wonder what those Mylar jumpsuits everyone will be wearing in the future will look like," they looked at what was around 40 years ago that's still around today. Blue jeans are still here, white cotton shirts are still here, so that stuff seems to have survived a long time already, so it's probably still going to be around. It's not the world of tomorrow, it's more the world of later today.
To prepare for this role, did you do anything space-related? Did you have a space camp, or anything like that?
I took a trip down to the Kennedy Space Center. I saw one of the shuttle launches and had the opportunity to talk to a lot of people. Most of the homework I did though, was either online or just more related to getting to a place where I could take my shirt off and actually look like someone who could be an astronaut.
(Laughs) So you're concentrating on the important stuff.
Yeah, I did what I normally do when I prepare for a role, and really geeked out on the material for a couple of months -- but there were a lot of sit-ups involved, too.