2023’s Breakout Sci-Fi Star Is Here To Save The Universe
As Danielle Poole in For All Mankind, Krys Marshall has given us four decades in five years. But the electrifying actress says the show’s goals are even bigger.
In For All Mankind Season 4, the 34-year-old actress Krys Marshall is playing her character, Danielle Poole, as a woman of roughly 60. But, just a few years ago, Dani was in her 20s, and a wide-eyed astronaut who had just joined NASA in 1969. Now, in Season 4, it’s 2003, and that once-green astronaut is now Commander Poole, in charge of an entire space base on Mars. “I look at myself in Season 1 and I think I was so young and beautiful!” Marshall says, laughing. “Now I’m like a hundred years old!”
Marshall is exaggerating, of course. But, few, if any shows actually attempt what For All Mankind is doing — to tell an epic story of space exploration that happens over the course of decades.
“The nature of our show is a generational show,” Marshall says. “We [the actors] are meant to carry the story for a good time, not a long time.”
As one of only three characters who began in Season 1 and has survived the decades to get to Season 4, Marshall is talking about the inherent tension of a TV series in which there is no status quo, ever. As the pivotal mid-season episode of For All Mankind dropped, Inverse caught up with Marshall about where the show has been, why this season is so huge, how Star Trek fits into all of it, and what she believes is the deeper meaning of the series.
Spoilers ahead, For All Mankind Season 4, Episode 5, “Goldilocks.”
While one of the appealing things about For All Mankind is its slick alternate timeline, complete with hyper-realistic spaceflight developments, the real reason the show is so important is because the relationships between the characters are so multifaceted. Many pundits and critics make this claim about prestige TV dramas, but the thing about For All Mankind is the characters rarely do what you want them to do, but instead, do what a real person would do in that situation. In “Goldilocks,” we see Danielle grapple with pulling her longtime astronaut-in-arms friend, Ed Baldwin (Joel Kinnaman), from flight status. Plus, in a riveting flashback to Season 3, we find out exactly what happened when Danielle and Ed went to check on the exiled Danny Stevens, well outside of the Happy Valley Mars Base.
“Danielle, she’s a serious person, but I don’t think she takes herself so seriously,” Marshall explains. “We see that, of course, in [Season 1] in ‘Hi Bob.’” But, as she ages, there’s some wisdom, but also this childlike sweetness of warmth and hope. And I think sometimes that hopefulness can also be her demise because she’s so hopeful that at times it almost turns into a bit of naïveté.”
Marshall points out that although Danielle is one of the heroes of the show, and certainly one of the more ethical characters, the decisions the character makes are complicated. In this season, former best buds Ed and Dani are now basically political enemies, even if there’s some underlying love between them. But, Krys Marshall says that some of the relationship between Ed and Dani comes from real life.
“We’re so lucky that our writers give us this story, but what I will say about them is that they’re also thieves,” she says with a laugh. “Joel [Kinnaman] and I in real life are very close and we also constantly bicker. I mean, when the two of us are shooting a scene, you can see the crew kind of inch back like, ‘Oh shit, there goes Krys and Joel.’ And if I say up, he says down; if I say left, he says right. The writers watch our interactions with one another and they put bits and pieces of it into our world.”
In both the present tense of “Goldilocks” and the flashback, the tension and love between Ed and Danielle is made clear. Over the years, Ed can’t admit when people aren’t ready for space missions, and time and again, Danielle has looked the other way. Until now. “What we see in Episode 5 is what it looks like to be pushed down and ignored for such a long time. She really loves him and also in many ways really hates him.”
Although Ed and Danielle are at odds this season, and there’s a ton of strife on Mars, more broadly, For All Mankind is often described, correctly, as being a hopeful series. And in that way, Danielle Poole is more of the more aspirational characters: a Black woman in NASA, in command of an entire base on another planet. The character is also, canonically, a Trekkie, a fact that Krys Marshall thinks comes, at least partially, from series co-creator Ronald D. Moore. “I think something that appeals to Ron about Star Trek is that it always remains very hopeful, very optimistic. And so I think that those seeds of what young Ron Moore loved about Star Trek, I think that a lot of those seeds are buried in the bones of Danielle Pool.”
Marshall can’t say how long Danielle could remain on For All Mankind. Her character would likely be in her late 60s or early 70s if Season 5 jumps another eight to 10 years into the future, and there’s certainly a precedent for having a character that old in the form of Ed Baldwin.
She’s also proud of the diversity on For All Mankind but stresses that what makes her proudest about the series isn’t the idea that there’s representation for representation’s sake. For Krys Marshall, the message of the show is bigger than that.
“Being a woman is not a monolith. Being Black is not a monolith, right?” Marshall explains. “I am a me first before I am these other things. So, we’re not just watching a Black woman, or a white man, or a straight person, or a gay person. We’re watching real human beings be. That’s part of what makes For All Mankind so aspirational. We’re watching these real individuals fight for what they believe in, and their race, their sexual identity, their gender — all of those things are secondary to who they are. And I wish the real world was more like that.”