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'Constellation' on Apple TV+: Noomi Rapace is a 'force of nature' in ISS thriller

The "beating heart" of the new series, also starring James D'Arcy, Jonathan Banks and William Catlett, is family

A space adventure paired with a study of human psychology, the new series Constellation on Apple TV+, starring Noomi Rapace, James D'Arcy, Jonathan Banks, William Catlett, and Davina and Rosie Coleman, is a fascinating exploration of loss, uncertainty, conspiracy and family.

Constellation release date: Feb. 21
Where to watch Constellation: Apple TV+
Creator and showrunner: Peter Harness
Directors: Michelle MacLaren, Joseph Cedar, Oliver Hirschbiegel
Cast: Noomi Rapace, James D'Arcy, Jonathan Banks, William Catlett, Davina Coleman, Rosie Coleman, Barbara Sukowa, Julian Looman, Rebecca Scroggs
Number of episodes: 8

Apple TV+

Watch Constellation on Apple TV+, 7 days free then $12.99/month

$13 at Apple TV+

What is 'Constellation' about?

In Constellation we meet the five person team on the International Space Station (ISS), including Johanna "Jo" Ericsson (Noomi Rapace), who has a husband, Magnus (James D'Arcy), and a daughter, Alice (Davina Coleman and Rosie Coleman), waiting for her at home, in Germany.

But when the ISS is involved in a collision, particularly impacting Paul Lancaster (William Catlett), Jo goes on a spacewalk to try to find the source of the collision, and she sees something frightening.

While Jo is adamant she knows what she saw, things get more complicated down on Earth, because no one believes her. Even more bizarre, the entire reality of what Jo believed to be her life has shifted.

Jonathan Banks in
Jonathan Banks in "Constellation," premiering February 21, 2024 on Apple TV+.

Additionally, tests the members of the ISS had been conducting included one experiment from Henry Caldera (Jonathan Banks), who was previously an Apollo mission astronaut, and Henry is insistent that the device be recovered for his quantum physics research. Henry also has a twin brother, Bud, a former astronaut as well, but they have lived opposite lives after going to space.

For Banks, coming on to Constellation was at the recommendation of one of the series directors, Michelle MacLaren, who also worked on Breaking Bad and Better Call Saul with the star.

"Jonathan is an incredibly talented character and can play diverse roles," MacLaren told Yahoo Canada. "We needed somebody who ... could play different two different characters, but in a subtle way, and I knew Jonathan could do it."

"I also felt that it was a step away from what he had been playing for a while. I had hoped that would excite him, and it did. ... I love working with Jonathan, he always swings for the fences."

"You don't say no to Michelle," Banks said in a separate interview.

"I'm the biggest 'yes, dear' guy in the world, once you corral me. ... She one time put her finger on my chest, when I was complaining about how long she was taking to do a shot, and she put her finger on my chest and she said, 'Do I make you look good?' And I went, 'Yes.'"

Rosie/Davina Coleman and James D’Arcy in
Rosie/Davina Coleman and James D’Arcy in "Constellation," premiering February 21, 2024 on Apple TV+.

Being a mother who is committed to her work

Constellation is part adventure tale, part thriller, part conspiracy story, but at the heart of the series is a narrative centred around family.

"The heart of it is a mother and her daughter separated from one another, and how they managed to get back to each other," showrunner Peter Harness said. "Obviously they're separated in quite unusual circumstances, ... but I think that's a very relatable thing for people, I think the whole family dynamic is a very relatable thing."

"As long as you're following an emotional journey, which you can understand, then that kind of frees you up to bring a lot of other stuff with it. And I think we've been very keen to ground it in reality as much as possible, the ISS and the various space agencies, and the reality of being an astronaut and how that can affect people. So we tried to be very grounded and very kind of emotionally centred, to enable all these other weird and wonderful things to happen around it."

As James D'Arcy stressed, the "beating heart" of the show for the actor was the family element.

"When I read the scripts the first time, the Alice character ... was my way into the show," he said. "We're so accustomed to great production value and brilliant visual effects, and all the rest of it. I want to feel."

"I hope that this show is really going to help people go on this crazy, complex twisty-turny journey because they're invested in the people, in the characters."

For Rapace, she felt a connection to Jo trying to balance being a mother with a job that takes her away from her family, amplified by the circumstances she faces during this particular incident.

"The endless question I've been battling myself, being a mother and ... loving my work so much, and ready to kind of go all the way, as far as needed, over and over and over," Rapace said. "I've injured myself, severely sometimes, on set, and having my son coming in, being worried for me or not recognizing me."

"Being a mother and loving my work, and that conflict, ... Jo was living that way more, and to the most extreme. That's the heartbeat for me. That's the core, that's the spine of her journey."

Noomi Rapace in
Noomi Rapace in "Constellation," premiering February 21, 2024 on Apple TV+.

Noomi Rapace is 'a force of nature'

From the physical demands of playing a character in space, to the emotional toll that faces Jo, both the cast and crew of Constellation were quick to identify that an actor of Rapace's calibre was required for the role.

"Noomi is the perfect actress for this part, both emotionally and physically," director MacLaren said. "And one of the things that we learned very early on is astronauts, every day that they're on the ISS, are constantly practicing 'what if.'"

"So Noomi and I talked a lot about, OK when the accident happens, they go into survival mode, they know their procedures, they know what they're supposed to do, so they're not going to freak out, even though it's scary, and their lives are at risk. ... So we had to find that balance of being a trained professional, being strong and powerful, and the vulnerability, the fear, being a mother wanting to get back to her daughter. Noomi is such a powerfully strong human being herself that she's a force to be reckoned with. I mean, she's a force of nature. So she embraced this really well."

As Rapace recalled, there were months of prep filled with a strict diet, specific workouts each day, and general work on "body control" to really embody a astronaut.

"It was all about kind of finding a flow and being so much in charge of everything, and releasing myself and freeing myself from the physical attention, and be able to feel and act, and being present in the scene," Rapace said. "It was really challenging, but I loved it. It was really one of the toughest thing I've ever done."

William Catlett in
William Catlett in "Constellation," premiering February 21, 2024 on Apple TV+.

Why 'Constellation' brought star William Catlett to tears

But in order to have any of this land with the audience, and feel as authentic as the crew behind the series set out to do, it needed the investment to execute the detail required.

As William Catlett highlighted, MacLaren, particularly, wanted to make sure everything felt "as real as possible," which he said is what makes her "one of the best directors" in the industry.

"When I saw the first two episodes I cried a little bit in the screening, because I've been waiting a long time to be a part of a project ... that has the bells and the whistles to make the art look like it needs to look," Catlett shared. "So being in the ISS that is a duplication of the one in space, and speaking to [NASA astronaut] Scott Kelly, and getting his experience and eating dinner with him, and soaking all that up, that is an actor's dream."

"It makes it real for the viewer and I think Apple did a great job of giving us the support that we needed to make a hit show. They didn't spare any expense to make sure that it felt right and it felt real. You felt that support."

Apple TV+

Watch Constellation on Apple TV+, 7 days free then $12.99/month

$13 at Apple TV+

Aside from the stunning visuals, Constellation really sets itself apart from other drama shows with the psychological component that drives the narrative. It's the human psychology and human behaviour element that's particularly complex and compelling.

"What really appealed about Peter Harness' writing was that he has taken difficult psychological situations and then turned the screw every 15 minutes, and made it worse," D'Arcy said. "And then just when you think you've got a handle on what's going on, he's going to show it to you from a slightly different angle."

"The joy of that as an actor is, normally you get to show any given set of circumstances in one particular way, and that's it. This show is offering a slightly different version of that. You actually might get to explore the hidden recesses of I think all of our minds. Who doesn't live in several realities at once?"

"There's the A side of the tape and there's the B side of the tape. It's still the tape, but you have a different emotional response to the A side, and a different emotional response to the B side," Catlett added.

As Harness explained, it was a fascination with "altered mental states" and people's perception of circumstances that was particularly intriguing for this series.

"What Jo goes through is very much based on a real psychological condition called Capgras syndrome, where people genuinely believe that people are imposters," Harness said.

"Obviously from the outside, you can look at that and see that isn't true, but how must that feel from the inside, to genuinely believe I can't let go of this idea that you're an imposter and that the world isn't right. I think the the terror of of living within that, even if it's produced by your own blame brain, or especially if it's produced by your own brain, is as horrific as anything else. ... It's always interesting to try and convey what a certain mental status is like for anyone, because everybody's reality is real to them."