MARS has its second season premiere on National Geographic Monday, November 12. The series, executive produced by Brian Grazer and Ron Howard, is an unusual blend of scripted drama and documentary footage as it tells of the first colony on Mars. Actors portray scientists and colonists, whose adventures are intercut with interviews with real scientists and astronauts. Documentary coverage of clashes between science and industry in areas like the Arctic Circle are contrasted with similar imagined conflicts on the Red Planet.
JiHae (pronounced JEE-hay) portrays twin sisters Hana and Joon Seung. Hana is an American pilot and systems engineer on the Mars mission, while the Earthbound Joon is the CAPCOM of Mission Control. JiHae is also a singer and musician, who has released four albums and collaborated on a rock opera with playwright John Patrick Shanley. She will next be seen in Peter Jackson’s feature film MORTAL ENGINES.
ASSIGNMENT X: What can you tell us about Season 2 of MARS?
JiHAE: A colony that is dedicated to science and exploration is all of a sudden having to share the living space with a new colony that’s come as a private industry to exploit resources, without knowing much about the planet, ready to just drill and do their due diligence to make resources. In Season 1, it was, will we survive, will we make it there? And then when we survived, Season 2 is, we made it there. Will we destroy the planet?
AX: MARS has an unusual format. Is doing something that combines non-dramatic footage with dramatic footage different than doing a straight drama?
JiHAE: Not for us [in the cast], because we shoot our scripted parts separately from the doc.
AX: Where do you shoot?
JiHAE: We shoot in Budapest, and part of the stuff is happening in Morocco.
AX: Did you have to do any kind of physical training to play an astronaut?
JiHAE: I actually did physical training for Season 1, because my character Hana, her background is in the Air Force, and you have to be physically fit to go into space, and to maintain a certain level of health and strength. So I did some physical training, I guess fitness training.
AX: Did you have to learn anything in particular to play either of your characters?
JiHAE: I did some research on what it takes to become an astronaut. You have to study, have a Master’s degree in either engineering or science or math, in order to even apply. And then if you’re going to be a pilot, which is Hana Seung, then you need a certain amount of flying experience, which usually people get from being in the Air Force.
AX: What do you do to differentiate your two characters, Hana and Joon?
JiHAE: I had to really define the two based on their roles, and their relationship to each other. The older one [Joon], who’s on Earth, to me has more of a maternal side to her, because she’s always worried about her younger sister, and she has longer hair, has more on the feminine side of life. And then on the other hand, her younger sister [Hana] is more adventurous and more masculine.
AX: On MARS, is there any kind of playing of the different gravity on that planet?
JiHAE: There’s only a third of the gravity on Mars than there is on Earth. At space camp, we learned about that. We actually went into the pool to feel what it’s like at a third [of Earth’s] gravity, but other than that, a lot of what happens on Season 2 is based inside the colony. And when we’re outside, we don’t really replicate that. One-third gravity is a very difficult thing to show.
AX: And what would you most like people to know about Season 2 of MARS?
JiHAE: I think Season 2 brings something really different than what’s been shown in Season 1. I think you get into the depths of each of the individual characters, and you experience something that is the dramatic human condition of survival, and coexistence.
This interview was conducted during National Geographic’s portion of the summer 2018 Television Critics Association (TCA) press tour.
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Article: Exclusive Interview with JiHae on MARS – Season 2