Ron Howard on Mars
Ron Howard takes viewers on another voyage to Mars with Season 2 of his National Geographic show
people seem to care about mars. the first episode of national geographic’s series devoted to the red planet attracted an astonishing 36 million viewers. The six-part miniseries, executive-produced by Oscar-winning director Ron Howard and his partner Brian Grazer, is an experiment in hybridization: half scripted drama (set in 2033, it follows the first attempts to establish a sustainable colony on Mars), half documentary-style interviews with scientists,
NASA officials and (naturally) Elon Musk. The interviews identify the challenges that would face astronauts, including the planet’s notably inhospitable environment.
Season 2 debuted on November 12. Newsweek spoke with Howard a few weeks earlier about the show and whether he would ever join a trip to Mars.
Why did you choose to mix drama with interviews?
It works uniquely well with something as cinematic, adventuresome and futuristic as Mars because it’s not really science fiction; it’s more dramatic futurism—but with a human component front and center. So we can fully invest audiences in the story of the characters and reinforce it with the documentary coverage. That’s different from a documentary that includes historical re-enactments.
Season 2 gets into some of the conʀicts between members of the coloni]ers Do you think humans will be able to coexist more peacefully on Mars than they do on Earth?
Naturally, there will be conflicts. The cautionary side of the story of this season is the more that things can be ironed out and determined before going on the expedition and mission, the better things will go. But people are gonna have their agendas, and it’s naïve to imagine that commercialism won’t be a part of it. In fact, it probably has to be. All of those voyages in the 1500s and 1600s were paid for by investment groups—they wanted better trade, or they wanted resources—and human beings haven’t changed all that much. They’re going to want a return on their investment beyond just the spirit of exploration and discovery.
What can viewers learn from your show, beyond the fact that coloni]ation could be a real thing in the next 20 years?
I certainly hope it works as a metaphor for the way we’re coexisting on Earth and the way we’re problem-solving. That’s one of our goals. I also hope it will inspire that excitement for the unknown, for exploration and research. Research is a great investment.
“Mars isn’t really science ˽ction it’s more dramatic futurism with a human component Ť
Would you be interested in being one of those ɿrst people trying to build a community on Mars?
I don’t think so. I’d be giving up too much here. And that spirit, that call to adventure, is not that vivid for me. Unless, of course, they could convince me that somebody had a real need for an amazing IMAX movie that could only be done on the surface of Mars.
What gets you excited about TV and ɿlm these days?
The diversity of story lines, the range of cultural influences on storytelling and the wide array of platforms that try to appeal to specific audiences. That expands my own horizon, my own education, my own understanding of how the world works and who inhabits it, and it allows creatives to be more ambitious about the kinds of story they tell and the specific ways they tell them. It’s a really exciting time to be a content creator. CAPSULE PROGRAM Alberto Ammann and Sammi Rotibi, in a scene from Episode 6 of Season 2, play members of the multicultural Daedalus crew.