There’s an awful lot to admire about The First.
First of all, the presence of Sean Penn, who plays one of the five astronauts chosen to be the first people to colonize Mars in the space epic, immediately makes anything worth watching.
Then there’s the sheer scale and size of the Hulu drama, which is matched by the meticulous and exquisite detail that has gone into making every little thing about "The First" feel authentic.
All of this combines to make viewers genuinely believe that a mission to Mars is actually on the periphery. That’s because, according to "The First’s" creator Beau Willimon, it really is.
I recently had the chance to talk to Willimon about "The First," during which time I decided to ask if he believes we will ever make it to the red planet.
“Yes I do. I do,” was his emphatic response. “Because at the heart of our story, even though we talk a lot about technology, is the human heart.”
“I see a mission to Mars as an extension of humanity’s desire to seek out themselves.”
“It is just an extending case of the first man walking out of his cave and going, ‘I wonder what is on the other end of that ridge?’ That journey was just as vast and perilous as journey to Mars is for us.”
“So it is the latest iteration in a millennial old story. I think our human nature demands that we go to Mars. It is just a matter of when.”
“We are taking an optimistic approach to this and saying that it is possible that it could happen by the 2030s. And this is what it will look like.”
“I hope it does happen by the 2030s. But no matter what I think it will happen in many of our lifetimes. And when it does it will be a profound and very dramatic shift for our species.”
Willimon openly admitted that taking a giant leap into the sci-fi genre with "The First" was “incredibly intimidating,” especially because of the inevitable comparisons to the likes of “Alien” and “2001: A Space Odyssey,” the latter of which he insists “goes beyond science fiction and is some of the best filmmaking ever done in any genre.”
“You certainly aspire to reach those heights. But it is intimidating to make any television show. It is almost a miracle that television shows get made period," Willimon added.
“Certainly when you are adding to that a layer of setting it in the near future and getting deeply technically involved in what a realistic mission to Mars will look like makes it doubly daunting.”
“Luckily we had a great team of people, we did a ton of research, and that made it less daunting. The folks doing it in real life really helped make sure we got the story right.”
“Part of the draw of wanting to tell this story was that challenge and to learn about this stuff and do that deep dive.”
You can take that deep dive with “The First” when it is released on Hulu on September 14.