Today, as part of its [email protected] panel for its upcoming original The Right Stuff series, Disney+ released a sneak peek from the service’s first scripted series from National Geographic.
Premiering this fall, The Right Stuff series tells the incredible story of America’s first astronauts, the Mercury Seven, during the early days of the U.S. Space Program.
Moderated by former NASA Astronaut Dr. Mae Jemison, the panel featured cast members Patrick J. Adams (“Major John Glenn”), Jake McDorman (“Lieutenant Commander Alan Shepard”), Colin O’Donoghue (“Captain Gordon Cooper”), Michael Trotter (“Gus Grissom”), Aaron Staton (“Wally Schirra”), Micah Stock (“Deke Slayton”), and James Lafferty (“Scott Carpenter”).
Also appearing are Nora Zehetner (“Annie Glenn”), Shannon Lucio (“Louise Shepard”), Eloise Mumford (“Trudy Cooper”), Eric Ladin (“Chris Kraft”), and Patrick Fischler (“Bob Gilruth”), Showrunner and Executive Producer Mark Lafferty, and Executive Producer Jennifer Davisson.
Based on the iconic bestseller by Tom Wolfe (buy at Amazon), The Right Stuff series is an inspirational look at the early days of the U.S. Space Program and the incredible story of America’s first astronauts, the Mercury Seven. At the height of the Cold War in 1959, the Soviet Union dominates the space race, and America fears it is a nation in decline.
Newly-formed NASA has the monumental task of sending a man into space, and its engineers estimate they need decades to accomplish the feat. They are given two years. Dubbed Project Mercury, the program recruits and trains just seven astronauts from a handful of the military’s best pilots.
Within days of being presented to the world, the Mercury Seven become instant celebrities, forged into heroes before they achieve a single heroic act. At a time when many wondered if America’s glory days were behind it, The Right Stuff is an aspirational story about how ordinary human beings can achieve the extraordinary.
As much about who we are today as it is about historic achievements, the series evokes the wonder of this singular era, when the free world looked towards a new horizon of hope as we first stepped off the bounds of our only home to venture into the vast unknown.
Disney+ today announced that National Geographic’s original scripted series The Right Stuff will premiere this fall on Disney+. Produced for National Geographic by Appian Way and Warner Horizon Scripted Television, The Right Stuff is adapted from Tom Wolfe’s iconic, bestselling nonfiction account (buy at Amazon) of the early days of the U.S. space program.
The two men at the center of the story are Major John Glenn, a revered test pilot and committed family man with unwavering principles, portrayed by Patrick J. Adams (Suits), and Lieutenant Commander Alan Shepard, one of the best test pilots in Navy history, portrayed by Jake McDorman (What We Do in the Shadows, Lady Bird).
At the height of the Cold War in 1959, the Soviet Union dominates the space race. To combat a national sentiment of fear and decline, the U.S. government conceives of NASA’s Project Mercury, igniting a space race with the Soviets and making instant celebrities of a handful of the military’s most accomplished test pilots. These individuals, who come to be known as the Mercury Seven, are forged into heroes long before they have achieved a single heroic act. The nation’s best engineers estimate they need several decades to make it into outer space. They are given two years.
The rest of the Mercury Seven includes Lieutenant Gordon Cooper, portrayed by Colin O’Donoghue (Once Upon a Time, Carrie Pilby, The Rite), the youngest of the seven who was selected to everyone’s surprise; Wally Schirra, portrayed by Aaron Staton (Mad Men, Narcos: Mexico, Castle Rock), a competitive pilot with a gift for pulling pranks; Scott Carpenter, portrayed by James Lafferty (The Haunting of Hill House, Small Town Crime), a soulful man who was dubbed “The Poet” by the other astronauts; Deke Slayton, portrayed by Micah Stock (Brittany Runs a Marathon, Escape at Dannemora), a taciturn but incredibly intelligent pilot and engineer; and Gus Grissom, portrayed by Michael Trotter (Underground, The Evening Hour), a no-nonsense test pilot who eventually becomes the second man in space.
The astronauts’ strengths are equaled only by their flaws. As the men succumb to the temptations that surround them, Project Mercury threatens to come apart. At the heart of the historic drama populated by deeply human characters are two men who become icons — Glenn and Shepard — as they jockey to be the first man in space. The entire program is nearly brought to its knees by their intense rivalry.
The series also follows NASA’s engineers, who work against the clock as pressures mount from Washington and a transfixed public. And we witness the underbelly of a myth-making propaganda machine headed by NASA’s PR department and aided by the writers and editors at LIFE Magazine.
The rest of The Right Stuff ensemble cast includes Nora Zehetner (Brick, Creative Control) as Annie Glenn, the wife of John Glenn and his childhood sweetheart who has a speech impairment that can sometimes make communication difficult; Eloise Mumford (Fifty Shades of Grey franchise) as Trudy Cooper, Gordon Cooper’s wife and an accomplished pilot herself, with her rocky marriage to Gordon providing conflict throughout the season; and Shannon Lucio (Prison Break, True Blood) as Louise Shepard, Alan Shepard’s devoted and long-suffering wife.
Patrick Fischler (Twin Peaks, Mad Men) plays Bob Gilruth, a soft-spoken rocket scientist who is the partner of the more brash Chris Kraft, who is portrayed by Eric Ladin (American Sniper). They are critical members of NASA’s Space Task group, charged by President Dwight Eisenhower with putting a man into space faster than seems humanly possible. They’re racing against the clock as pressures mount from Washington and a transfixed public.
As the Mercury 7 astronauts are thrust into the public eye, NASA’s PR department goes into overdrive to paint the perfect picture, aided by the writers and editors at LIFE Magazine. Danny Strong (Billions) plays John “Shorty” Powers, NASA’s omnipresent PR man, constantly taking the astronauts on glad-handing trips to factories and rubber-chicken dinners in order to spur public enthusiasm, and thus, appropriations from congress for the space program. Josh Cooke (Grace and Frankie, The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel) plays Loudon Wainwright Jr., LIFE Magazine’s star reporter, who is tasked with writing the biographies of all seven astronauts and has the keenest look at what’s really transpiring.
Leonardo DiCaprio and Jennifer Davisson are executive producers, along with Mark Lafferty, who is showrunner. Chris Long directed and executive produced the first episode of The Right Stuff. Will Staples and Howard Korde are also executive producers. Academy Award winner Thelma Schoonmaker and Emmy winner Danny Strong are consulting producers. Michael Hampton shepherded this project on behalf of Appian Way and is co-producer.