Ron Howard on Mars

Ron Howard takes view­ers on an­other voy­age to Mars with Sea­son 2 of his Na­tional Geo­graphic show

Newsweek - - Contents - BY JAN­ICE WIL­LIAMS @Man­hat­tan­jan

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.

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