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Comic-Con@Home gave us an out of this world first look at The Right Stuff television series coming to Disney+ this fall. Based on Tom Wolfe's 1979 book of the same name, the show tells the story of the original NASA astronauts (known as the Mercury Seven), who paved the way for the entire American space program that led to the Apollo 11 moon landing in 1969. Wolfe's non-fiction book spawned a 1983 film adaptation from director Philip Kaufman (Invasion of the Body Snatchers).
"It seems as though, in our country, that we've lost our step a little bit in terms of that ability to come together to affect change," showrunner/executive producer Mark Lafferty said of the show's relevance. "I think any story that can remind us that that's one of our defining characteristics is what other countries look to us for. From our Constitution on forward, we do big stuff here."
Hosted by former NASA astronaut Dr. Mae Jemison, the panel yielded a behind-the-scenes featurette/trailer, as well as a clip (see below) where test pilot Alan Shepard (Watchmen's Jake McDorman) learns that he's been accepted into the space program. His letter arrives late and he rushes over to the initial briefing as Chuck Berry's "Johnny B. Goode" cements the viewer into the late 1950s setting. Historically, Shepard ended up being the first U.S. citizen to travel into space.
His fellow early astronauts in the Mercury project are Gus Grissom (played by Michael Trotter), Gordon Cooper (Colin O'Donoghue), Wally Schirra (Aaron Staton), Deke Slayton (Micah Stock), John Glenn (Patrick J. Adams), and Scott Carpenter (James Lafferty).
So, what exactly is the "right stuff?" Is it bravery? Lack of fear? Risk taking? Pushing the envelope? The cast couldn't exactly articulate the meaning of the phrase, which may not have any definition at all. The resilience shown by the Mercury Seven (who constantly put their lives on the line), their wives (who could lose their husbands at any time), and even Chuck Yeager (who broke the sound barrier, but wasn't chosen to participate in the space program) defies the imagination and is nearly impossible to quantify.
"It's such a reduction, that it's almost laughable," Adams said. "Tom Wolfe tries to, in so many pages, figure out what it is that makes people want to do this and what it is that makes people bear the brutal death of [others] that try to do this and get it wrong."
Watch the full panel below:
While Season 1 is mainly focused on the Mercury astronauts and their wives, executive producer Jennifer Davisson promised that a second season would begin to "peel back and dive into" the "incredible, untold stories within the space program," like those pertaining to Katherine Johnson and Ed Dwight.
"[We will] get into the complex things that were going on in our country as it pertained to race and how that really affected what happened in the program," Davisson added.
Produced by Appian Way (Leonardo DiCaprio's production company) and Warner Horizon Scripted Television, The Right Stuff will be the first original scripted series to hit Disney+ from National Geographic. There is no fixed premiere date beyond the fall window.
Nora Zehetner (as Annie Glenn), Shannon Lucio (Louise Shepard), Eloise Mumford (Trudy Cooper), Eric Ladin (Chris Kraft), and Patrick Fischler (Bob Gilruth) co-star.
Click here for SYFY WIRE's full coverage of Comic-Con@Home 2020.