For All Mankind, the hit sci-fi show on Apple TV+ that explores an alternate history where the USSR beat the US to the moon, is back for a fourth season in November. At New York Comic Con this past weekend, For All Mankind EPs/creators/showrunners Matt Wolpert and Ben Nedivi sat down for roundtable interviews to provide a sneak peek at what’s to come in the new season.
As the curtain rises on season 4 of For All Mankind, we find ourselves propelled into 2003, a time tantalizingly close to our own. The familiar yet subtly altered landscape in the trailer hints at the masterful craftsmanship of Wolpert, Nedivi, and the rest of the team.
It’s narrative alchemy. For All Mankind, has managed to evoke a sense of both déjà vu and novelty, seamlessly blending elements of our real-world timeline with the alternate history in the show. This series walks a tightrope in a delicate balancing act that’s a testament to just how much the minds and talent behind the show care. Our conversation at NYCC with Wolpert and Nedivi made this so much more apparent.
In our roundtable interview, we talked about what it’s like to get a fourth season in the current television environment. Wolpert and Nedivi shared their insights on the new cast and characters joining Happy Valley and beyond this season. We also chatted about character decisions and some important and controversial deaths. So be warned, there are spoilers ahead.
The interview with Matt Wolpert and Ben Nedivi about For All Mankind season 4
[Editor’s note: This interview has been lightly edited for clarity. There are heavy spoilers ahead for For All Mankind.]
Interviewer: “Okay. First of all, it’s season four. Do you ever feel or wish you could have spent more time in the previous decades?”
Matt Wolpert: “So much. I still think back to us sitting in the deli breaking the initial idea for the show and that what if we jumped a decade every season? It seemed like such a good idea at the time. And just having… The show exponentially becomes more difficult as we go. It’s such a unique show because you have to figure out how to age people and how to cycle characters through in a way that feels organic and build new sets constantly. I also think Ben and I, that sixties, seventies era is a sweet spot for both of us in terms of our affinity for history. And so I do sort of wish we could have spent some more time in that era for sure. But I’m glad that we didn’t spend more time in the nineties. That was enough.”
Ben Nedivi: “Hey, that’s my era.”
Ayla Ruby: “Piggybacking a little bit, was there anything specific in the 2000s that you were excited to get to or excited to change specifically?”
Ben Nedivi: “Well, I mean the nature of the show always was… It’s going to turn from kind of a period drama into science fiction.”
Ayla Ruby: “Right.”
Ben Nedivi: “I think that’s, if anyone watches season four, you started feeling in three. But I think this season, especially like, okay, this has become a science fiction show more and more. And I think for us, the 2000s, we always felt like the idea of showing colonization of Mars in a real way. Not just like, oh, the early outposts, but really hundreds of people on a planet and what that would mean to live there.”
Ben Nedivi: “I think we kind of go into this thinking what it would feel for us to be there and what would be the daily struggles and what would be the issues. And I think that fascinates about getting to a place that we feel we earned by getting to the 2000s. We could be on Mars, but treat it as a real colony. And I think that, and the asteroid belt, being on Mars means you’re closer to the asteroid belt.”
“So all of a sudden the idea of capturing asteroids and bringing them into… Became realistic in our world. So those kinds of things do excite me because it means, as the show goes, the opportunities to do things that we as humans haven’t done yet are going to grow. So it evolves. And as much as like Matt, I miss, I do love the period of the sixties and seventies. I think this show by its nature becomes more about what is possible, not what we’ve done.”
On getting to season 4 of For All Mankind
Interviewer: “So going into season four of a show in today’s world, it’s no small feat. You’ve got something solid and you guys creating this, being showrunners. How does it feel when you look back to when this was just an idea to now season four, getting ready to premiere, what are your thoughts? What’s running through your head after the success of your achievement?”
Matt Wolpert: “It’s honestly absurd. I mean, we just keep having to poke each other and remind each other that this is like, if we would’ve told the 22-year-old versions of ourselves, “You would be in the fourth season of a show like this”, we would have been like, “No way. There’s no way that’s possible.” So constantly, it’s a very difficult show to make. So the specialness of that helps us get through how hard it is and how demanding it can be on our time and our energy. But it’s really… I’m excited to see how far we can take it.”
Ben Nedivi: “By the way, four seasons now especially is even more… Because when we started as writers, not that it was more… There were a lot more seasons of shows usually. Now, it’s very rare to go even past the third season. And I think even us, as much as we had this planned for a much longer arc to catch up to the present, I think even in season one, as much as you plan for that, you’re like, okay, well when I get there, I’ll take care of that.”
Matt Wolpert: “Yeah.”
Ben Nedivi: “Here we are, season four, going into the 2000s, like, wow, we’re getting close to the present. It’s the promise of our premise is sort of finally coming to life in a way that’s really exciting. And look, it’s a hard job. It’s the most amazing job as a writer to be able to see through your vision from the page, from a writer’s room to the page to production to post. It’s a very unique job and fulfilling in a way that I think nothing else could be. And especially a show like this, I think it’s incredible to have that opportunity.”
On Gordo and Tracy (Michael Dorman and Sarah Jones)
Interviewer: “Are there any things you did in previous seasons that you kind of wish you hadn’t or you wish you’d done slightly different? Have you had much discussion or arguments going, oh, maybe if we’d done this or that?”
Matt Wolpert: “I think, I mean the big one for me at least that we actually talk about a lot is Gordo [Michael Dorman] and Tracy [Sarah Jones] at the end of season two because those characters were so vibrant and those actors were such a huge part of the show. And so having to say goodbye to them, but then thinking about, oh, but it would’ve been great if Gordo had been in the ’90s or the 2000s and seeing him on Mars or what Tracy would’ve been doing.
Matt Wolpert: “So I think that’s really the thing that you look back and say, well, did we make the right decision? I do think we made the right story decision. It became such a powerful ending to that story. But it’s funny to look back at the alternate history of our alternate history show and the sliding doors of what could have been.”
On Karen and Molly’s death in For All Mankind
Ayla Ruby: “Building on that a little bit, did you anticipate the reaction to the season three finale with Karen’s death and Molly’s death to some extent? Did you think people were going to be upset?”
Ben Nedivi: “Oh yeah.”
Matt Wolpert: “We were pretty sure.”
Ben Nedivi: “We were upset. It’s an interesting thing that I think with this show where we realize if we’re upset, if we take it hard, then the audience will too. And I think if you kill off characters that people hate, well that’s an easy way out. If you’re killing off people that people love in a way that’s surprising, yes, it’s surprising.”
Ben Nedivi: “It’s hard to take and process. It’s still hard. I mean, it was hard with the actors who we get very close to after the seasons, but the nature of the show, and they know this more than anyone, is that we have to evolve, that we knew early on, if this ended up being just a show about these astronauts aging together, we’d have 120-year-old ancient astronauts on Mars. And no one wants to see that. Maybe I want to see that, but it’s a different show.”
Ben Nedivi: “But yeah, the thing to your point about Karen [Shantel VanSanten] and Molly [Sonya Walger] in specific, I mean, these are two characters who went through such an amazing arc and evolution that who they are in the beginning and who they are at the end and what they’ve accomplished, incredible. I think what we feel sometimes when we’re getting into a season is we don’t look at them as like, oh, it’s time to lose this character. We look at it as, is their story arc complete? Do we have more story to tell here? Or is this actually the arc? And it’s hard because you have to separate the emotion from it. It becomes about storytelling in a way with this kind of show. So this season we lost two people we love and we felt okay, then we have to bring in people we love.”
Ben Nedivi: “But it’s hard because you’re going into season four of a show and you’re bringing in a character of Miles, a character like Sam, a character, and you’re going, okay, we have to start from scratch in a way, get the audience to fall in love with them as well and start the… It’s starting the aging process all over again. But for this show to succeed, to go on, I think we have to do that.”
On how characters help other characters’ stories
Interviewer: “Do you feel like using a character is needed to help other characters’ story or continue?”
Matt Wolpert: “Absolutely. We talk a lot about the different stories in the show as different instruments in a symphony and sometimes certain instruments take the lead and sometimes other instruments take a backseat and there’s only so many minutes in an episode. So you really have to prioritize who you’re focusing on in any given time. But like you’re saying, as the show evolves, the characters have to evolve. And the story of who gets to go to space, which is I think one of the most fascinating parts of season four, is suddenly it’s not just pilots and scientists, PhDs and people that’s studied their whole lives to try to go to space. It’s people who are just looking to support their family, and that’s where the opportunity is and how do those people react to being in a place that is so inhospitable at times and dangerous?”
Interviewer: “And I love how that starts right off the bat in the first episode.”
Matt Wolpert: “Yeah.”
On Miles (played by Toby Kebbell)
Ayla Ruby: “And on that note, can you tell us a little more about Miles and Sam without getting too heavy into spoilers? I know you just kind of mentioned a little bit about that.”
Matt Wolpert: “Yeah, Miles [Toby Kebbell] kind of embodies a thing we are really interested in, which is on a macro scale, there’s progress and then there’s the reaction to progress. So in season three, nuclear fusion became this clean energy, but it actually wound up also putting a lot of people out of work because oil workers didn’t have to be out on the rig anymore because there was this clean energy.
Matt Wolpert: “And so Miles is sort of the personification of this idea of someone who, technology, the advancement of our show that for the world is better, for him was a terrible evolution. So he is now struggling to support his family and the place that someone like him can make a living is actually in space. And so seeing a guy like that who not only is sort of out of his comfort zone, but also is starting to rediscover that sense of self-confidence and believing in himself as he goes through the evolution of that, it’s been a really fun character to write.”
On Eli (played by Daniel Stern)
Ben Nedivi: “Another one. I mean, the other character, Eli Hobson played by Daniel Stern. I was very excited with what he did. We knew coming off of Margo Madison, like, who do you have? How do you replace Margo Madson? And so Matt and I knew right away, you need someone that you instantly like. You like this person and so that when they do things that maybe aren’t great, you have a hard time not liking them.
Ben Nedivi: “I think Daniel Stern we were huge fans of before this, and we are big fans of the idea of someone who can do comedy, can do anything. We started out in comedy, so we always love taking on actors who’ve done more comedy, although he’s also done drama. I think that character is someone who came from the corporate world. He’s an auto executive who came in and said, ‘I can do this.'”
Ben Nedivi: “He is at the end of his career going, “I want to leave a legacy.” It’s a similar thing that a lot of our characters have, but it’s that last thing of, “I want to leave it. I’ve done all these great things. I want to do this final great thing,” that, especially in our alt history, is internationally recognized as a huge thing. And I think seeing how Daniel Stern kind of took on that role and really took it on and really brought it to life in a way that I don’t think even we imagined he could, was incredible.
Ben Nedivi: “I mean, it really, not only did it make you… Then the relay from Margo Madison to make sense, it also throws you in a way. You’re like, “Oh my God, this is Margo’s role. That’s her office. That’s her building.” And the way he imbued that character and brought humor and humanity to someone who I think in other situations, like, “I don’t want an auto executive in NASA.” So I think that he was able to capture that in a way that worked really well.”
Where and how to watch For All Mankind
For All Mankind’s fourth season is blasting off onto Apple TV+ on November 10th. But you don’t have to wait until then to reunite with your beloved (and aged!) astronauts and cosmonauts. Check out the captivating alternate history of the space race by streaming the show’s previous three seasons.
Returning cast members for season 4 of For All Mankind include Joel Kinnaman, Krys Marshall, Coral Peña, Wrenn Schmidt, Cynthy Wu, and Edi Gathegi. Newcomers Daniel Stern, Tyner Rushing, and Toby Kebbell also lend their talents to the screen this season.
For all our past NYCC coverage, including more interviews coming this week, check it out on the NYCC tag.