SPOILER ALERT: Do not read if you have not yet watched the second season finale of “For All Mankind,” streaming now on Apple TV Plus.
The biggest difference between the two seasons of Apple TV Plus’ series “For All Mankind” was that the storyline orbited more strongly around the moon in the second season. For costume designer Jill M. Ohanneson, that meant more space suits.
The alternate-history series sees the Soviet Union land on the moon before the United States, and focuses on what might have happened if the space race had never ended. In the second season finale, the American astronauts at the Jamestown base held Soviet cosmonaut Rolan Baranov (Alexander Sokovikov) under asylum, while the Soviets held commander Alex Rossi (Scott Michael Campbell) in custody. As Alex tried to wager an exchange, Rossi begged, “Don’t do it, don’t do it…” and gunfire is heard.
Meanwhile, Gordo (Michael Dorman) and Margo (Wrenn Schmidt) were stranded on the moon within a depressurized capsule with no suits. They also have to repair damage to Jamestown, the NASA base on the lunar surface.
When they were finally able to contact mission control, the two were given directions on how to put a space suit together. “Grab all the rolls of duct tape you can find. You are going to wrap every single inch that you can see of your skin because as soon as you set foot out there, it will explode,” co-astronaut Molly Cobb (Sonya Walger) instructed them, reminding the astronauts the moon’s surface temperature is more than 200 degrees.
Perhaps surprisingly, Ohanneson really did use this household item for the space suits in this episode.
“After doing research online and finding how people built things from duct tape for Comic-Con and parties, I watched their process and how they layered costumes. That was my starting point,” she says.
She knew she didn’t want the costume to look like a mummy wrap, so she chose the type of tape that had “a bit of a shiny surface and kicks a little bit of light on the surface.”
The costume designer built initial looks and tests on stand-in actors days before COVID protocols shut down production on the shoot. She built the suits onto existing bodysuits that were made of cotton for ease of taking on and off.
“[The duct tape] needed to adhere to something because we weren’t actually wrapping skin,” she says. She taped shoes and gloves to complete the outfit. “We interacted with the hair department and props for the face mask so it looked like everything had been taped on,” she says.
Visual effects supervisor then Jay Redd stepped in to add his magic.
As the astronauts exit the airlock and the pressure changes, things start breaking down. “The tape is drying out, bubbling and burning. The skin is doing that too. We start to see blood effects. We show blood bursting in the eyes — and that was VFX,” says Redd.
The key was to keep the emotional connectivity to the characters rather than going for gore as the two make their way back to the airlock, he notes.
Redd was also called on to help create a funeral sequence. Westwood Cemetery subbed in for Arlington National Cemetery in Virginia. “We added buildings, we put fall leaves on the ground and we added in the Washington Monument,” he says.
Additionally, visual effects were used for cleanup to remove anything that looked too much like Los Angeles.
The wildfires in Southern California during shooting also presented issues. “It had this weird, foggy look. We had to go through and change the skies to match the archival footage and make that sequence look seamless,” he says, “It was heavily art-directed and processed.”
To create the crowd scene for the funeral, Redd had 15 extras filmed in safety against a green screen. It was up to him to then tile the crowd — copying the images and multiplying them — to make it look like there was a full military presence.
In one sequence, a wide shot shows the principals, with people walking to their cars in the background. “We used CG people for that,” says Redd. “We took Jill’s designs, took photos and made digital versions of her costumes on these people.”
As the episode drew to a close, the season heralded the end of the ’80s, and Nirvana’s “Come as You Are” signaled the upcoming third season’s move into the 1990s.