Halle Berry has been cast as the star of Steven Spielberg’s TV drama Extant, playing a NASA astronaut returning home from space, CBS announced this week.
The futuristic drama, produced by Spielberg, tells the story of a female astronaut (Berry) who returns home after a year in space on a solo mission, and then navigates the difficulties of reconnecting with her husband and son. All reports on the drama are quoting the show’s logline, which indicates that the character’s experiences will lead into events that will “ultimately change the course of human history.” Given the plot, it is likely that Berry’s character encounters something during her time away from Earth that is the catalyst for this mysterious science fiction plot.
“I’m always on the lookout for amazing roles,” Berry was quoted as saying, “And when you see material that contains this strong of auspices, nuance and complexity, it compels me to run toward it no matter the medium. For five months a year, I’ll get to live with and play this incredibly intelligent and vulnerable woman, and for the remainder of the year I’ll continue to look for other roles that move me as deeply as this one.”
Casting Berry, an Academy Award winning film star who has not appeared as a TV regular since a stint in 1991 on Knot’s Landing, is a considered quite a coup for the show. The presence of Halle Berry in the cast of Spielberg’s NASA drama for CBS makes Extant a demonstration of the growing prestige of television drama.
Ever since HBO’s The Sopranos and The Wire, TV dramas have been growing in sophistication, scope, and critical attention, from Boardwalk Empire and Game of Thrones (also on HBO) to Showtime’s Homeland and Dexter, to AMC’s Mad Men and Breaking Bad. These acclaimed series have become more central to the national conversation, taking over the cultural space that movies once inhabited.
In the past, moving into television would have been seen as a step down for an Oscar winner like Halle Berry, but in today’s environment, many other respected film actors are making the jump. Just his year, for example, Woody Harrelson and Matthew McConaughey, two bankable lead Hollywood actors, were recently announced as co-starring in the HBO series True Detective.
Spielberg’s deal with CBS is a follow-up to the success of this past summer’s most popular scripted drama, Under the Dome, produced by the famed director’s Amblin Television division. Under the Dome was a high-budget production, originally planned as just a miniseries during the summer, which is normally a period of low-ratings. But CBS has already ordered another season of the show based on its high number of viewers. The network’s president, Nina Tassler, confirmed that the success of Under the Dome was considered proof that even in the summer months, there is room for scripted drama with high production values. “We look forward to building on that with Extant,” Tassler said.
CBS’ faith in Extant was demonstrated by its order of 13 episodes to go straight to series, rather than waiting to see a pilot. Steven Spielberg himself will have three shows on television in the summer of 2014, including not only Extant and Under the Dome but also the fourth season of TNT’s Falling Skies. But the director-producer showed special enthusiasm for his newly recruited star. “There is only one Halle Barry,” Spielberg said in press release about the NASA drama, and he and CBS were both clearly pleased to cast the star in Extant.
Written By: Jeremy Forbing