Space force

Director Ken Kwapis Talks ‘Space Force’ Season 2, Arguing With Crazy Comedian Crew

The crazy team of geeky astronomers who populate Netflix’s hilarious sci-fi parody “Space Force” returned with a second season last month featuring all-new bureaucratic twists, bird-eating astronauts and massive budget cuts .

The TV series “Space Force” (not to be confused with the real life US Space Force) first premiered on Netflix in May 2020 and chronicled the misadventures of Mark R. Naird (Steve Carell), a general four stars which is the assigned command of a polarizing division of the US military aimed at strengthening the nation’s dominance in space and bringing boots back to the moon.

Now, for “Space Force” season 2, General Naird is dealing with a new administration in the White House who are skeptical of this newly formed unit of the armed forces. With growing scrutiny from the clumsy organization, Naird and his quirky team of scientists and space travelers have five months to prove their worth before the President cancels his post.

Series regulars Jimmy O. Yang, John Malkovich, Ben Schwartz, Tawny Newsome, Diana Silvers, Lisa Kudrow, Patton Oswalt, and Don Lake are all on board for Season 2. Some behind-the-camera changes have been made this time around- ci with Canadian screenwriter Norm Hiscock (“Parks & Recreation,” “Brooklyn Nine-Nine”) joining with series co-creator Greg Daniels as co-showrunner.

Ken Kwapis, the award-winning director of Hollywood features such as “He Said, She Said,” “A Walk in the Woods” and “The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants,” has signed on to direct all seven episodes. In contrast, the first season of “Space Force” was shot by a variety of directors. Here, Kwapis delivers a masterclass in skillfully orchestrating an ensemble cast that works at maximum comedic thrust.

Along with working with Carell and Daniels directing the pilot episode of ‘The Office,’ the Hollywood veteran’s impressive resume includes directing gigs for ‘The Office,’ ‘Malcolm in the Middle,’ ‘Freaks and Geeks” and “The Larry Sanders Show”.

Space.com spoke with Kwapis about synthesizing its talented actors, what’s new for the second season, balancing jokes with grounded drama, building chemistry and on-set improvisation, and whether Netflix could approve a season 3 of “Space Force”.

Space.com: How did you score the “Space Force” gig and why were you the best person for the job?

Ken Kwapis: Well, “Space Force” Season 2 was a big reunion for me. It was my first time working with Steve and Greg since “The Office”. I didn’t work on the first season but I loved it. Steve and Greg told me that they tried to make the show as visually different from “The Office” as possible. They encouraged the directors to put on their Stanley Kubrick hats and create visually bold things and they did. The first season is very striking in this way.

For Season 2 they wanted to focus less on the look of the show and more on the characters and the overall feeling and that’s why they enlisted me. They wanted to access each character’s emotional arc and the Space Force team arc.

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The Space Force crew cheers in a happy moment in Season 2. (Image credit: Netflix)

Space.com: What changes fans can expect space force Season 2?

Kwapi: One of the great things about the new season scripts is that the stakes are high. In the first episode we learn that Space Force is on probation and that the character of Steve Carrel has a few months to prove himself otherwise he will be replaced. It’s an underdog story and my job as a director is to engage the audience. And every character is very well drawn this season.

Malkovich’s character, Dr. Mallory, struggles to maintain his integrity as a scientist as the budget is cut. And Diana Silvers playing Erin Naird, the daughter of Steve’s character, struggles to figure out which direction her life should go. Tawny Newsome’s character battles PTSD after the near-calamity on the Moon. And Jimmy O. Yang’s character yearned for Tawny and feared he was in a dead end relationship with her.

They all have a distinct background and for me the job is to find a balance between the comedy of the characters and the emotional content. The best types of scenes are those that start in one direction, then surprise you and go in another. What seems like a comedic moment turns into a dime and suddenly it’s an emotional moment.

All credit goes to the writers and Greg, Steve and Norm for overseeing the stories. They gave me such rich material to work with. One of the things I hear from viewers loving the second season is that it has strong emotional content.

There’s a lot of laughter but there’s also a lot of heart. Being able to deliver that is part of my skill set. Sometimes I feel like my superpower as a director is that I know how to take a comedic scene and ground it in reality, and conversely, I know how to take a dramatic scene and find the humor that’s right there. hiding there. It’s also a first for me as I’ve never done an entire season of anything.

A scene from season 2 of “Space Force” on Netflix. (Image credit: Netflix)

Space.com: What kind of improvisation happened during filming and did you encourage it?

Kwapi: Oh, I really cheered him on and there were some major league improvisers in the cast. Don Lake for example. He is so brilliant in improvisation. He can take any line of dialogue and spin twenty-five different variations of it without breaking a sweat. And Tawny Newsome, like Steve Carell, a Second City alum. Just a wonderful improviser. Ben Schwartz is able to pull things out of a hat that surprised me take after take. Everyone in the basic set had strong improvisation skills.

The goal for me was to make all these different actors see that they were part of the same family. As a director, I tried to shoot scenes where the characters are together in the frame, so I often favored two shots, three shots, four shots, just to reinforce the idea of ​​chemistry. It’s not about my joke versus your joke, it’s about the energy between people. This is season 2’s secret weapon as far as I’m concerned.

Space.com: The practical joke montage is that the series is a fan favorite. Were there a lot of goofy pranks with the actors between takes?

Kwapi: There weren’t as many as there might have been had we shot this in the pre-pandemic era. Due to COVID protocols, it was a bit more restricted. Someone should proofread a book about famous pranks done on set over the years.

Director Ken Kwapis. (Image credit: Mark Schafer)

Space.com: What was your gateway to space travel and science fiction? grow up and how did they serve you space force Season 2?

Kwapi: I was definitely a fan of sci-fi movies as a kid, but not so much sci-fi novels. I’ve always been captivated by movies about space travel and besides famous movies like 2001, I was also a super fan of “Silent Running”. I remember when I first saw the movie in 1972, I was so captivated by Joan Baez’s theme song. I was also a big fan of “Lost in Space”.

“Space Force” Season 2 is pretty earthy compared to Season 1. What I really drew on was my experience making a number of wonderful workplace comedies, certainly “The Office,” but also a show I helped develop for NBC, “Outsourced.” The only broadcast network show ever made in India.

In the early 90s, I helped launch “The Larry Sanders Show” for HBO. And I love movies about a group of people working together to solve a problem, like “Flight of the Phoenix” and “Only Angels Have Wings.”

Space.com: Patton Oswalt made an extraordinary appearance in Season 2 as Mars mission astronaut Captain Lancaster. How did this performance go?

Kwapi: It’s a great example of a scene that at first appears to be just a comedic scene. Patton hires Diana Silvers to go find different kinds of food so he can enjoy human food vicariously while on his way to Mars. During the sequence, it is revealed that he also misses being on Earth very much and is actually quite depressed being isolated in this capsule. All of this is something Diana’s character is unprepared to handle to the point where she wonders if Patton’s character is suicidal. All credit goes to the writers for taking us down a comedic road and then taking a terrific left turn into something more poignant. Patton did the heavy lifting on this. I reminded him that this is ultimately a scene about loneliness and isolation. It’s like that David Bowie song, “Space Oddity.”

Patton Oswald as an astronaut heading to Mars in “Space Force” Season 2. (Image credit: Netflix)

Space.com: Lots of fans are excited to see how the Space Force team will handle the season finale cliffhanger! Will there be a “Space Force Season 3 and will you be part of it?

Kwapi: I can’t say too much except that we received so much positive feedback from season 2 that it would be a shame if we couldn’t continue.

Netflix is ​​now streaming all seven episodes of “Space Force” Season 2.

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