The little alternate-timeline-show-that-could is back for a fourth season. In For All Mankind Season 4 we’ve jumped ahead to an alternate 2003, in which the Mars Happy Valley Base from Season 3 is now firmly established. But, for those who have been watching the show since Season 1 — which was set in 1969 and 1973 — perhaps the most obvious difference between then and now is we’re down to just a handful of original cast members. Because 34 years have passed in the fictional timeline of the show, mainstay characters Ed Baldwin (Joel Kinnaman), Danielle Poole (Krys Marshall), and Margo Madison (Wrenn Schmidt) are now borderline senior citizens.
So, because For All Mankind always jumps decades each season, does that mean the entire cast could be new in two years? Inverse chatted with series co-creator Ronald D. Moore and executive producer Maril Davis for answers.
The de facto main character of For All Mankind thus far has been Ed Baldwin, a former NASA Apollo astronaut who commands Apollo 10 and Apollo 15 in Season 1. We think Ed was born around 1929, so that makes him in his early 70s in the 2003 setting of Season 4. In real life, Joel Kinnaman is 43, and admitted last year while filming the new season that, “I’m basically playing my own dad now.” Meanwhile, Krys Marshall is 34 in our universe, but she’s playing the hardened NASA commander, Danielle Poole at 59-ish this season. Wrenn Schmid is 40, but Margo Madison, the disgraced former NASA Flight Controller, now living in the USSR in Season 4, is supposed to be in her 50s, too. While For All Mankind sees several characters returning from Season 2 and Season 3, Dani, Ed, and Margo are pretty much the only Season 1 characters we’ve got left. And because of their respective ages, it's possible they won’t all make it to Season 7. Or will they?
“I mean you could potentially have a new cast,” Ron Moore tells Inverse. “The seven-season [plan] was a sketch that we had at the beginning. and we still have a general idea of that framework. The show could go longer, the show could go shorter. We're still open to playing with what the life of the show is. But I think characters can evolve and change. And medical technology in our alternate history changes too. So who knows how long Ed will last.”
Wait, so if Ed Baldwin gets too old for the next season, will For All Mankind throw him into a cryo-chamber?
“Somebody might have pitched a cryo-chamber at some point,” Moore says with a laugh. “But we felt the cryo-chambers were outside of the realm of our realistic approach.”
Part of what makes this realistic approach work, despite some slightly advanced tech, is the show’s continued adherence to character-focused stories. Although some of the faces have changed as the years have gone by in the show, producer Maril Davis points out that the specific relationships are central to what makes the new season tick.
“One of the things that the season really excels at is the relationships,” Davis tells Inverse. “We have got a lot of — not couples, but pairings. You’ve got Ed and Danielle, and you've got Aleida and Kelly, you've got Margo and Aleida.” What Davis points out is that many of these relationships are playing off of events from all three previous seasons. Yes, some characters have perished, but, the ones who are left are dealing with baggage from the 30-plus years that have come before, packed into just three brisk seasons of television.
“There are so many complex relationships that have passed to this season,” Davis says. “And there's kind of a reckoning coming. We're going to see the past catch up with a lot of these characters.”