Ever dream of having your own private portal to a distant planet where you could kick back and watch shooting stars dance across an alien sunset?
Amazon Prime Video’s new sci-fi thriller, “Night Sky” delivers just such a fantastic destination in their latest puzzle-box offering that enters our orbit starting today (May 20) to join our picks for the top sci-fi TV shows on Amazon Prime this month.
In this eight-episode series created by Holden Miller (comedian Dennis Miller’s son), Academy Award winners Sissy Spacek (“Carrie,” “Homecoming”) and J.K. Simmons (“Spider-Man,” “Whiplash”) play Irene and Franklin York, two normal senior citizens in rural Illinois who years ago discovered an ancient gateway to a deserted planet in their humble backyard garden shed. This weird chamber teleports them to an abandoned alien base on a remote world where the married couple has arranged a cozy living room observation area to relax within.
While Irene and Franklin continue to explore the mysteries of this uncanny outpost with its striking galactic views, loved ones and nosy neighbors become disturbed by rumors of their odd nocturnal activities and begin asking questions.
When a drifter named Jude, portrayed by Chai Hansen (“The 100,” “The New Legends of Monkey”), appears in their private bunker, the elderly partners continue to delve into the strange portal’s purpose and try to piece together a broader connection in the face of looming danger.
Space.com spoke with acclaimed actor J.K. Simmons about this intriguing new sci-fi project, growing up with “The Twilight Zone,” and sharing scenes with the talented cast. In addition to his dozens of film and television roles, many of us also know Simmons as Professor Burke in those humorous Farmers Insurance commercials, and Peter Parker’s Daily Bugle editor, J. Jonah Jameson, in director Sam Raimi’s “Spider-Man Trilogy” of the 2000s starring Tobey Maguire.
Space.com: What lured you to the role of Franklin York and creator Holden Miller’s vision for “Night Sky”?
J.K. Simmons: Well, Holden Miller is really most of the answer. Sissy Spacek was already attached to play Irene, so that was part of the draw. I have an annoying habit of never reading things like synopses and character descriptions. I just start on page one of the script and read it through and if it’s something that speaks to me then I want to be involved.
The fact that Holden, a young writer, takes such great time and gives the audience credit for having patience in letting a story develop and getting to know characters, was a big part of the appeal to me. And then there were some explosive, jaw-dropping moments where we see there is more going on in this story as well.
Space.com: How would you describe your working relationship with co-stars Sissy Spacek and Chai Hansen?
JKS: It was great, and ultimately over the course of four-and-a-half months on something like this, a kind of hybrid between a feature film set and an old network-style TV series set, you do have time to develop some camaraderie and that family spirit. We had some very inexperienced actors and obviously two very experienced actors, and ultimately a diverse cast of Argentinians and it developed organically into an ensemble.
Chai was an awesome guy. I’ve never met an Aussie that I haven’t enjoyed working with and Chai Hansen was the latest example. He kept insisting that I was going to take on the role of mentor whether I wanted to or not. So that was a part of the fun as we got along too.
Space.com: What was your gateway into the science fiction genre growing up?
JKS: Well, it was good old Rod Serling and “The Twilight Zone” when I was a kid. I still have vivid memories of classic episodes of that and how they affected me at the time. I wasn’t a big comic book guy. I had a cousin who was but he was more into superheroes and the Spider-Man kind of world. Then as I got a little older, reading Arthur C. Clarke and Isaac Asimov. I really enjoyed reading the classic science fiction titles when I was young. After the little kid dinosaur books stage, that was one of the things that kept me excited about reading.
Space.com: Humankind is at the threshold of a new era of space exploration and space tourism? If ever given the opportunity to take a rocket ride, would you strap in?
JKS: Oh, I’d go. Absolutely. When I was a kid I remember Neil Armstrong and “One Giant Leap For Mankind.” I was in the basement with one of my good buddies, Randy Bostler, watching that happen on our crappy little black-and-white TV live and in person. An unbelievable sci-fi moment in real life.
I think my generation, and certainly younger generations, take a lot of this for granted. We’re going to put a woman on the moon. Soon! A lot of people don’t even know that’s happening now, because there’s a lot of other things going on in the world and other things rightfully drawing our attention. But we’re living in an age of exploration on our planet and out there that’s just amazing to be able to witness.
Space.com: “Night Sky“ captures that innocent sense of wonder in its tale of Irene and Franklin York that harkens back to Ron Howard’s 1985 sci-fi film, “Cocoon.“ If the series scores a second season, what else do you hope to explore as the story unfolds?
JKS: I hadn’t thought of “Cocoon” and I’m really glad you brought that up. I saw “Cocoon” when I was in my late 20s and loved it. I think sometimes when young people see this new show that stars these two old farts, there might be a reluctance to get involved. I’ll tell you, our cast gets much more diverse and much younger as we spread out the storyline.
As for what I hope we might get into, I’m just waiting to see what the mind of Holden Miller and the writing staff comes up with. We leave the end of our first season with such a variety of cliffhanger vibes. There’s some sort of culmination and satisfaction but also it’s like, let’s continue to go where no man has gone before.
“Night Sky” arrives on Amazon Prime Video on May 20.
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