Words Diedre Johnson
She’s definitely delved into sci-fi and fantasy on the big screen thanks to her role in the X-Men movies and in last year’s Cloud Atlas. Now, Oscar winner Halle Berry is tackling TV in her new series, Extant, playing astronaut Molly Woods, who returns from a 13-month solo journey in space and finds her life getting very complicated. Her hubby is played by hunky former ER star, Goran Visnjic. The gorgeous 47-year-old talks about how her love of Steven Spielberg lured her to the role, how being a mum in real life gave her an edge, and more.
Why did you decide to move into television and why now?
This was a character, when I first read the script), that was so relatable to me, I felt like it was just in my DNA. I had knowingness about this character. I had a fundamental understanding. While I am not an astronaut or scientist, far, far, from it, I still had an understanding about the human quality of this character and her struggle. Her struggle to not only find time for herself and to do what she loves to do, which is go into space, but also find time to be a good mother. That’s the struggle I have, since my kids were born. So that drew me to her. She’s also strong, complicated… I’m complicated, but she has a will to survive, to win. She’s good at her heart and I love playing strong complicated characters that refuse to be victimized. And then, when Steven Spielberg came along, a name like that, you don’t really sneeze at and I know the quality of his work. I know he loves this kind of genre, these supernatural kinds of stories. And for me, I feel like the best writing now is on television.
When you have time, what do you watch on television?
The Good Wife has been, since the day it came on, one of my favorites. I like The Black List. I was a Girls watcher. I even made my husband watch Girls. He would never admit that. You’ve gotta do what the wife does, sometimes. I watch Game of Thrones. That was a show that I found really interesting. And the truth is, as a mum and now having a new baby, I don’t get to watch a lot of television like I would like, but when I find time those are the ones that I kind of find on demand and try to sit down and watch them in blocks.
For this role, you had to undergo a simulated zero gravity flight experience. How did you deal with that out-of-control experience with your own body?
Yes, that was pretty amazing, actually And the first time I felt the sense of weightlessness I was surprised that it took very little energy for me to move. You just kind of lift off the ground. And what also surprised me was that when you go upside down, because there’s no gravity you have no sense of being upside down. You feel exactly the same when you are upside. I can really understand why astronauts love to go up there and love to live in that medium and experience. It’s as close to being a bird and having that kind of freedom that I think one can ever get. But by 15 times of going up and down and going through that I did, you know, vomit. My body was done dealing. But it wasn’t as bad as this one guy who started to vomit after the first up and down so he had to go on this plane for an hour and a half as we kept plummeting up and down and going in and out of the zero G. He was like five shades of purple when we landed and he was strapped to his seat in the back of the plane and just hurled the entire time.
You play the mother of a robot on Extant. Has this made you wonder what makes us human?
Well, I don’t think there’s one thing that makes us human and I think that’s what this series is all about. We are discovering that, as we are portraying these characters and telling this story, what does make us human? That’s a good question. And one of the questions that the series poses is can this robot become human? Can we teach it to become human? Can we teach it to love? Can we give it free will? Will it act as human beings act over time? As humans, can we love that that is not real, that is sort of fabricated? These are all the questions that we are asking. So if you ask me what it is to be human, I don’t have one answer for that.
As a mum of two, can you even contemplate falling in love with a robot child Are there any little things that your kids do that you would miss in a robot?
I think I struggle with that, and my character, Molly, struggles with that, which is why I so related to Molly when I first read the story — having two children who are so very human and help me get in touch with my humanity on a daily basis. Would I really be able to love a machine? Those are the questions I ask myself and Molly is asking herself in this show. And my kids do things daily. Like, my daughter just had a nightmare. She was dreaming and in the middle of the night she came into my bed on Mother’s Day, and this is what I don’t think a robot would do. First of all, I’m not sure if a robot can dream for real. So she wakes up in the middle of the night and she’s saying, “Mummy, no. Mummy, no, no!” And I tap on her and I say, “Honey, what is it? I think you are having a nightmare.” And she never opens her eyes and she said, “Mummy, there’s two cupcakes. There’s a purple one and a pink one and you are eating the pink one and you know I want it. Mummy no, no!” And in that moment I realized she was having a nightmare that was so important to her, but I was relieved because it was about cupcakes. And I’m not so sure a robot would do that and that is one of the gems, one of the jewels of what motherhood is really all about. TVS