Noomi Rapace and Jonathan Banks on making Apple TV+'s twisty space thriller, 'Constellation' (exclusive)

a woman in a bulky tan spacesuit looks at something on a metallic wall
Scene from "Constellation." (Image credit: Apple TV+)

Emerging from the fertile imagination of British writer/creator Peter Harness ("Wallander," "Doctor Who," BBC's "War of the Worlds"), Apple TV+'s new sci-fi puzzle-box series "Constellation" just landed with the streaming service on Feb. 21 with a spooky three-episode premiere that will blow fear-fraught viewers out of their customary entertainment orbits.

This surreal eight-part storyline follows European Space Agency (ESA) astronaut Jo Ericsson (Noomi Rapace) as she returns to Earth after a tragic accident befalls the International Space Station (ISS) in the aftermath of a NASA quantum experiment mishap. Back home, Jo begins experiencing memory loss relating to her daughter and marriage and suffers from reality-altering hallucinations, leading to questions regarding a massive coverup about the secret history of space travel.

Besides superstar performances by Rapace ("Prometheus," "The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo") and seasoned character actor Jonathan Banks, "Constellation" co-stars James D'Arcy, Rosie and Davina Coleman, William Catlett, Barbara Sukowa, Julian Looman and Lenn Kudrjawizki.

Related: Everything we know about 'Constellation:' Release date, plot, cast, & more

"Constellation" landed on Feb. 21, 2024 with a three-episode premiere. (Image credit: Apple TV+)

Banks, a veteran TV and film favorite whose career includes parts in many '80s classics like "Gremlins," "48 Hours," and "Beverly Hills Cop," has more recently been honored for his Emmy-nominated work playing stone-faced hitman Mike Ehrmantraut on AMC's "Breaking Bad" and "Better Call Saul." 

In "Constellation," he plays Henry Caldera/Bud Caldera, twin former astronauts, one now a quantum physicist at NASA and the other a burned-out Apollo 18 survivor of a fateful mission. The series revels in keeping viewers in suspense about the true reality of his dangerous duality.

We spoke to Rapace and Banks on what enticed them into taking on this project and how they prepared for their intense performances, which were based on the serpentine writing style of Harness. What was it about this script that ignited your creative instincts?

Noomi Rapace: The playful complexity and the brutal realization that it might not be what we think it is, and there's so much more to it. There's a simplicity to Peter Harness' writing because the characters are so real, but then the world and the possibilities of a reality that's way more complex. That combination made it so unique and so powerful. I couldn't put it down. When I was reading it, I just wanted to keep reading and stay in his universe.

Jonathan Banks: For me I think it was based on people. Michelle MacLaren [the series co-director and executive producer] came to me, who I've known a long time and think a great deal of.  When she told me Noomi was going to do it, I read it, and then read it again. Then when I talked to Peter, I thought that, "Yeah, I really want to do it."

Jonathan Banks in Apple TV+'s "Constellation." (Image credit: Apple TV+) Working previously on "Prometheus" with Ridley Scott, what prepared you to suit up again for another outer space epic?

Rapace: I had an idea about doing space wirework, even though "Prometheus" was quite different compared to "Constellation." I loved the setup and the possibilities of everything. It's sort of sci-fi or a psychological thriller. Is it in my head or is it real? It's like being a child again and allowing yourself to try and exist in all your wildest thoughts. Peter Harness and Ridley Scott still have their children, and they're not damaged. Somehow they have free access to something so mad, and they invited me into two different worlds to exist and it's been a blessing. The two Calderas that exist inside the same reality or a fractured multiverse — what did you draw from in composing their authentic portraits?

Banks: It's always generally from someone I've known. I've known a lot of people that were in the military. I've always had a great admiration for the astronauts and always thought that level of intelligence and the physical motor genius that it takes to be able to do it is incredible. I have people loosely in mind.  What was your preparation process to accurately play persons working in the aerospace industry, both aboard the ISS and in command centers on the ground?

Rapace: I spoke to three astronauts, and we had Scott Kelly as a part of the team. He came and gave us his expertise and held talks. He was checking that the floating looked real and that the ISS felt like the real one. That was crucial for me, and also terrifying. I remember one day we were doing a scene. I was on wires floating and picking up Alice's necklace and rushing back. Someone said that Scott Kelly was in the studio. I was afraid he'd come up to me and say, "What are you doing? I don't believe any of it." But he was positive and gave me his thumbs-up. It was extremely important for everyone to get the approval of him.

Banks: Most interesting thing for me that I found was that these astronauts are scientists, and up there, all of a sudden, there's a dog barking or the smell of toast or whatever mama said to you in whatever year. And that attracted me. Here you are, a scientist that deals with logic, you know the answers, the cause, and the reasoning behind it. That I found to be of great interest.

Noomi Rapace in Apple TV+'s "Constellation." (Image credit: Apple TV+) Working on a sci-fi series that deals with quantum theory, levels of perception, and alternate realities, how were your own beliefs shaken?

Rapace: It totally made me more humble and embrace the idea of not knowing, and that things are way more complex than they seem. And to not fool myself that I know that I'm in control.

Banks: Not knowing goes along with being 77. The older you get, the less you know. It just happens. Also, the unspoken thing for me is how cruel we are over and over again. Historically we make the same mistakes over and over, and as human beings we make the same mistakes over and over.

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Jeff Spry
Contributing Writer

Jeff Spry is an award-winning screenwriter and veteran freelance journalist covering TV, movies, video games, books, and comics. His work has appeared at SYFY Wire, Inverse, Collider, Bleeding Cool and elsewhere. Jeff lives in beautiful Bend, Oregon amid the ponderosa pines, classic muscle cars, a crypt of collector horror comics, and two loyal English Setters.