Sean Penn to Star in Hulu's Mars Space Drama 'The First'

Sean Penn
Actor Sean Penn, seen here at the 2016 Cannes Film Festival, will star in "The First," a 2018 Hulu series billed as a space drama about the first human mission to Mars. (Image credit: Maxppp/Zuma)

Move over, Matt Damon – it's time for a new name-brand Hollywood actor to take the stage during a fictional mission to Mars.

Sean Penn, who won Academy Awards as Best Actor for "Mystic River" (2003) and "Milk" (2008), will star in Hulu's original space-drama series "The First." 

While his role has not been disclosed yet, the show follows the first human mission to Mars, and explores "the challenges of taking the first steps toward interplanetary colonization," according to a show description. The show will center on the astronauts, as well as the families and loved ones they left behind. The Mars crew will also work with a "a ground team on Earth" (it's unclear if that would be NASA's Mission Control in Houston, or another entity.) [SpaceX's Mars Colonization Plan in Pictures]

"The First" was created by Beau Willimon, who is best known as the past executive producer and writer for the Netflix series "House of Cards" (2013-present), a fictional show about the U.S. presidency, and for co-producing the Hollywood film "The Ides of March" (2011), which follows the fictional campaigns of presidential candidates in the Democratic primary.

"I have such deep admiration for Sean's immense talent and extraordinary body of work," said Willimon, who is also executive producer of "The First," in a statement. "I feel very lucky to be collaborating with an artist of his caliber."

The series will enter production this year and is expected to premiere on Hulu (in the United States) and Channel 4 (in the United Kingdom and Ireland) in 2018. The series is produced by Westward Productions, a company co-founded by Willimon and his production partner, Jordan Tappis.

Besides the Academy Awards, Penn has received many other nominations and honors. He is a five-time Oscar nominee and a two-time winner of Best Actor at the Venice Film Festival ("Hurlyburly," "21 Grams"). In addition, he won Best Actor at the Cannes ("She's So Lovely") and Berlin ("Dead Man Walking") film festivals. Penn will receive a career tribute next month at the Mill Valley Film Festival.

Follow us @Spacedotcom, Facebook and Google+. Original article on

Join our Space Forums to keep talking space on the latest missions, night sky and more! And if you have a news tip, correction or comment, let us know at:

Elizabeth Howell
Staff Writer, Spaceflight

Elizabeth Howell (she/her), Ph.D., is a staff writer in the spaceflight channel since 2022 covering diversity, education and gaming as well. She was contributing writer for for 10 years before joining full-time. Elizabeth's reporting includes multiple exclusives with the White House and Office of the Vice-President of the United States, an exclusive conversation with aspiring space tourist (and NSYNC bassist) Lance Bass, speaking several times with the International Space Station, witnessing five human spaceflight launches on two continents, flying parabolic, working inside a spacesuit, and participating in a simulated Mars mission. Her latest book, "Why Am I Taller?", is co-written with astronaut Dave Williams. Elizabeth holds a Ph.D. and M.Sc. in Space Studies from the University of North Dakota, a Bachelor of Journalism from Canada's Carleton University and a Bachelor of History from Canada's Athabasca University. Elizabeth is also a post-secondary instructor in communications and science at several institutions since 2015; her experience includes developing and teaching an astronomy course at Canada's Algonquin College (with Indigenous content as well) to more than 1,000 students since 2020. Elizabeth first got interested in space after watching the movie Apollo 13 in 1996, and still wants to be an astronaut someday. Mastodon: