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CBS unveiled its second summer big swing — family space drama thriller Extant — on Monday at its Summer Press Day.
Extant is a futuristic thriller about a female astronaut named Molly (Halle Berry) trying to reconnect with her family when she returns after a year in outer space. The character’s experiences lead to events that ultimately change the course of human history.
The series is as much a family drama as it is a story about artificial intelligence and the growing fear of technology and a thriller exploring whether humanity is something that can be taught.
Steven Spielberg, along with Greg Walker and Mickey Fisher, who penned the script for the CBS Television Studios and Amblin Television effort, will executive produce with Brooklyn Weaver, Justin Falvey and Darryl Frank. Berry will co-exec produce.
Camryn Manheim, Goran Visnjic, Pierce Gagnon, Annie Wersching and Grace Gummer co-star.
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Here are five things to know.
1. The series will follow a model just like its summer companion Under the Dome, meaning if the show is successful, it would continue on with a second season — with Berry returning as its lead, producers said. In other words, don’t let its billing as an “event” or “limited” series throw you — this is a cable model 13-episode drama. “We love the idea of season two being the sequel to this,” Walker said. “The threat we establish in season one … will continue in season two.”
2. The series poses an essential question: “What makes us human? Can machines be human?” showrunner Walker said, noting that what makes us human is as much of a draw to aliens as anything Extant explores. “[This] deals with a lot of familiar themes, and we’re rooted in family story.”
3. Berry said she was drawn to how relatable Molly is as a character. Berry, a mother of two, was first drawn to the fact that Molly herself is a parent — she has a son who is an AI and has returned from her solo mission pregnant with an unearthly being. “It felt like she was in my DNA,” Berry said. “While I’m not an astronaut or a scientist — far, far from it — I understand her humanity and her struggle to do what she loves to do and also be a mother.” The Oscar winner noted she was drawn to playing a strong and complicated character who refused to be victimized. She, like many of her peers before her, reiterated that the best writing can currently be found on TV. “That’s a real reality us actors have been talking about for years,” she said.
4. Spielberg also played a major role in the effects of the series. Producers — and Berry — noted that Extant used Gravity as a benchmark and called the show “on par with any film you’ll see.” Berry, who noted she did get sick after 15 times on the wires shooting the zero-G material, said Spielberg was the one who insisted the show depict Berry’s zero-G space experience. As it turns out, Berry was used to flying a lot from her experience playing Storm in the X-Men franchise.
5. Berry said there is a Rosemary’s Baby element to Extant. “There is a period that it will have elements of Rosemary’s Baby; she’s pregnant with something unknown … and over the course of the series, we have to decide … what is it really?” she explained, with producers revealing that Molly won’t be pregnant for the show’s entire 13-episode run. The show will explore if robots, including Ethan, Molly’s son, can be taught to become human; can it be taught to love, and can humans love that which isn’t real.
Extant premieres on July 9 at 9 p.m. on CBS.
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