Gravity's Ron Livingston on sex, sit-ups and outer space

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Dec 14, 2012, 3:54 PM EST

ABC's upcoming miniseries Defying Gravity portrays the human drama and epic adventure of six astronauts on a mission to Venus. This isn't warp drive and aliens, though: This is technical, procedural NASA.

Ron Livingston, who plays mission leader Maddux Donner, agreed it would be fair to compare Gravity to HBO's Apollo docudrama series From the Earth to the Moon. Livingston said the filmmakers took great pains to portray the fictional mission as NASA would accomplish it once they had the means to send astronauts to Venus.

For his part, Livingston just wanted to look like an astronaut. "I wanted my stomach to be flat, so I did a lot of sit-ups," Livingston said in an exclusive phone interview on Tuesday.

Defying Gravity also has fun with the libidos of its astronauts. Some have already had relationships on Earth. When confined to the space station for six years, hookups are inevitable. Livingston joked that some of the ladies looked too cute in their spacewear to resist.

On the serious side, Maddux is haunted by an earlier mission to Mars, where he was forced to leave two astronauts behind in order to save the rest of the crew. Other astronauts on the Venus mission are dealing with secret pregnancies, separation from significant others and mistakes they've made in their pasts.

Livingston said all the characters would be looking for redemption. Whether anything Maddux does on this mission could redeem his last might not be a black-and-white issue that can be resolved at the end of episode six.

A series of dreams Maddux has also continues to manifest on the mission. He and Ted Shaw (Malik Yoba) were not even supposed to be on the mission, in Maddux's dream, but medical conditions left two openings for them. He also dreamed of Zoe Barnes (Laura Harris) floating through the space station nude, getting sucked out of an airlock.

The second dream manifestation was more interpretive. Zoe was not nude in waking life, but a malfunction did suck her out of the airlock, and her suit nearly lost all its pressure before Maddux could rescue her. Livingston said that incident may not be the end of the dream's warning, but he would not spoil things to come.

There is plenty more that could go wrong in the six episodes of Defying Gravity, he said. In the first two, you'll see an astronaut camp out on top of the space station, and the airlock/pressure incident with Zoe. Livingston promised more adventure as the crew gets closer to Venus.

Defying Gravity premieres Aug. 2 at 9 p.m. on ABC.