News

Sissy Spacek and J.K. Simmons Praise Night Sky’s Intimate Sci-Fi

The veteran actors talk about their characters' charming relationship in the science fiction series grounded in human interaction — with each other and the unknown.

by | May 20, 2022 | Comments

One of the great things about science fiction is its breadth and diversity. It can create a whole new universe of ideas, cultures, and characters or it can focus in on a recognizable humanity brushing up against a single element of the fantastic. Prime Video’s new series, Night Sky, which debuts Friday, goes in the latter direction. It focuses on Irene and Frank York (J.K. Simmons and Sissy Spacek), an older couple living in a town a few hours drive from Chicago and incredibly committed to one another.

Also, they have a chamber to another world buried under a shed in the backyard.


Night Sky season 1

(Photo by Prime Video)

That seemingly simple premise opened up so much for the actors, creator Holden Miller, and executive producer Daniel C. Connolly when Rotten Tomatoes caught up with them to discuss the new series.

“Dan usually describes [science fiction] as a big tent and there’s room for all types of different stories in there and I think that we were very interested from the start, going over to our little quiet corner of the tent,” Miller said, explaining some of the initial inspiration for the program. At the same time, that quiet corner still required a balance of recognizable drama and the fantastic that can be “a challenge in a way,” but as Miller put it, “the whole reason for it being the show is the mix of the two things and what makes it sing.”

Both Spacek and Simmons know something of that balance. Although known for straighter dramas like Affliction, Spacek is beloved among genre fans for her starring role in Brian De Palma’s Carrie. Simmons, meanwhile, has a foothold in both the DC and Marvel film universes and starred in the sci-fi thriller series Counterpart. For both them, though, the key appeal of the story begins with Irene and Franklin.

“Hands down” the couple’s relationship sparked her interest in the series, Spacek said.


Night Sky season 1

(Photo by Chuck Hodes/Prime Video)

“I already knew Sissy was going to be playing Irene when I read it, so it was kind of the double pronged fork,” Simmons admitted. “Then when I read the script, even before I even knew there was a sci-fi aspect to it, I was already drawn to the characters and how they relate to each other.”

From that first scene, just before viewers travel with the pair to an alien vista, Franklin and Irene come into sharp detail — one example is that he refuses to curse.

“Once the audience learns where that comes from, that’s another added nice little surprise,” Simmons teased.

Irene, meanwhile, is an adept fibber. Although, as Spacek put it, “It’s not really a fib if you’re doing it to protect someone.”

But soon enough, it becomes clear the couple have spent many nights “looking at the stars” on another world. The chamber transports them to a very homey observation room with a big window and an airlock suggesting an inhospitably atmosphere outside. Unfortunately, even as they continue to enjoy their ability to travel there, they must also accept that they are getting on in years. Another issue: keeping their secret from the neighbors and even their own grandchild may soon become too difficult to manage alongside their health concerns.

“I’ve always been attracted to massive concepts that are executed on a very intimate level and I think that was one of the things that first appealed to me about the script,” Connolly said. “It’s also an allegory for life in general, which can often be a lot of mundanity that’s interspersed with extraordinary events that happen to us and that keep us asking these bigger questions about what life really means and why are we here.”


Night Sky season 1

(Photo by Chuck Hodes/Prime Video)

Of course, the seeming mundane existence of the Yorks is interspersed by more than their extraordinary secret. There’s also a younger generation to contend with. Representing that element are Kiah McKirnan as the York’s granddaughter, Denise, and Chai Hansen as Jude – a houseguest whose origins seem as mysterious as the York’s underground chamber. But to meet Jude, you would never guess at his real purpose in Illinois. Hansen credited the fact that most of the series scripts were written and ready to read well before production with aiding his process in making Jude seemingly guileless.

“I got to take so many different aspects from the script and then really create a true skeleton that I could kind of fill in the blanks,” he said.


Night Sky season 1

(Photo by Chuck Hodes/Prime Video)

And like her grandparents, McKirnan’s Denise represents a very relatable, human element with a story pointing at some of the career dissatisfaction younger people face.

“[She had] a predetermined, pre-planned idea of how her life was going to be,” she said. But even before events put her off her footing, she is already wondering if the life she planned will really satisfy her. It just so happens this sensation coincides with a reason to visit visit her grandparents.


Night Sky season 1

(Photo by Chuck Hodes/Prime Video)

But even as Denise faces an existential crisis all her own, Night Sky takes the viewer to another part of the world — Argentina, to be precise — to also tell the tale of Stella (Julieta Zylberberg) and Toni (Rocio Hernandez), a single mother and her child, ever in conflict with the modern world and Stella’s promise to keep the centuries-old church on her property safe.

“We wanted to expand the scope of the show early on, and we wanted to create a parallel story to the Yorks’ that would allow us to explore the [developing] mythology,” Connolly said of the choice to feature characters thousands of miles away. And though he said the storylines will intersect before the season’s end, he added, “It’s a different flavor into the show. It expands it, it elevates it.”


(Photo by Chuck Hodes/Prime Video)

Also elevating the material is its focus on aging. Viewers quickly learn Irene is still recovering from a bad fall a year or so before the story begins. Franklin, meanwhile, is becoming increasingly forgetful — although neither the characters nor the show are in a hurry to name what is happening to him. Nevertheless, the depiction of their ailments as signs of aging is as central to the concept as the chamber leading to another world. That said, discussing aging is never easy. Spacek, for example, jokingly offered one key bit of advice for younger people: “Slow down and watch where you’re going.”

For Miller, the intent was to portray a later stage of life as honestly as possible.

“It might not be something that you necessarily see on screen all the time but I can’t tell you how many people we talk to who have seen the show who say, ‘That reminds me of what I’m going through with my grandparents’ or their parents. Or themselves. And even if you are not experiencing those things with someone who’s older, you think about them,” he said. “I think that we portrayed older characters who have very rich lives and a lot of dynamism still — as it should be — with all the complexities that entails.”


Night Sky season 1

(Photo by Chuck Hodes/Prime Video)

The series also asks a direct question: What is a good age to live to?

“I always wanted to be able to work every decade of my life, and I’m doing that,” Spacek said when asked the question. “And I wanted to be able to be well enough and fit enough to carry my grandchildren up and down the stairs and I’m able to do that. So I have no complaints.”

Simmons added, “I just watched a brilliant documentary, The Alpinist, about a kid who was this genius mountain climber, but tragically died in an accident at age 26. I’m not saying that’s not a tragedy, but that young man had packed an incredible amount [of experiences] and had love and family and friends and passion and joy in life for 26 years. And then I have a lot of people in my family, we have longevity in our genes and a lot of my aunts and uncles and grandparents and things have lived well into their nineties and been very present and happy. So I think it’s a vast range.”

Hansen offered, “100, I think, is a really respectable number. The three digits.”

“I think just investing in the everyday and how you can help others and love others and stay positive and stay buoyant [is the best answer],” McKirnan said. “You can take me at any time, but at least I’m thinking through those things and I’m enjoying every day as much as I can.”


Night Sky season 1

(Photo by Prime Video)

Within the world of Night Sky, that every day has a fantastical dimension, though, and a genuine surprise waiting for viewers. And while that surprise could change the program’s balance in a possible second season, Connolly said “the voice of the show is established and completely intentional” no matter what the Yorks or the audience sees as the season unfolds.

“We’re pleased with the results and we hope the audiences are pleased with the result and invest in the show emotionally, but we’re not anticipating any changes to the sensibility of things,” he said.

But do the people playing the Yorks have an inkling of what’s to come?

“They are protecting themselves from leaks. Because you know, they certainly can’t tell us,” Spacek said.

“Yeah, they know we can’t be trusted,” Simmons added.


On an Apple device? Follow Rotten Tomatoes on Apple News.

Tag Cloud

psycho Pirates batman HBO NBC GIFs live action IMDb TV canceled TV shows Discovery Channel Fargo First Reviews Masterpiece TCA Winter 2020 Paramount Network TV renewals Pop TNT Extras Amazon Prime Video HBO Max satire TBS royal family leaderboard Funimation summer preview SXSW 2022 diversity HFPA justice league 2016 facebook APB slashers mockumentary Turner Classic Movies 72 Emmy Awards The Arrangement 20th Century Fox Trivia crime parents Trophy Talk Horror CBS All Access Showtime New York Comic Con Columbia Pictures hispanic Universal Pictures TV dragons psychological thriller The Purge Podcast Apple prank Disney streaming service marvel comics cancelled TV series Fantasy versus 2021 Spike Comic-Con@Home 2021 Summer PaleyFest MTV Sony Music telelvision gangster See It Skip It The CW blockbusters scary binge Western SDCC Esquire venice National Geographic video on demand 90s Britbox blaxploitation werewolf festival Marvel fast and furious black concert LGBTQ ghosts comedies Netflix Christmas movies Creative Arts Emmys period drama halloween pirates of the caribbean king arthur Rocky Lucasfilm Tokyo Olympics romantic comedy witnail kong james bond Heroines Television Critics Association Christmas streaming movie 2015 Biopics australia Anna Paquin scorecard The Academy spain slasher 24 frames Freeform Video Games Epix films Image Comics Legendary dreamworks Warner Bros. television anime trailers biopic Baby Yoda cancelled television miniseries Amazon Prime razzies scary movies TIFF Paramount romance comics remakes cars E! child's play Musicals TCA 2017 streamig renewed TV shows USA sag awards VICE spider-man Animation young adult adaptation mcc Pixar classics Rock Set visit DC Comics WGN rt labs critics edition ID Sony Pictures 78th Annual Golden Globe Awards foreign YA crime thriller robots comiccon composers trophy Nat Geo emmy awards book debate Black Mirror mob reboot suspense stoner christmas movies strong female leads canceled discovery Box Office chucky cops TCA Awards japan legend Classic Film Oscar Comedy Central Emmys festivals DC Universe RT21 know your critic MGM Quiz Apple TV+ sitcom Best Picture biography Ovation disaster The Witch Toys Sundance godzilla X-Men FXX Election game of thrones OWN VH1 genre First Look Certified Fresh 45 TV Land Geeked Week talk show Chernobyl doctor who lord of the rings MCU Lifetime docuseries screen actors guild ABC Family Calendar documentaries Hallmark Christmas movies Prime Video video best halloween tv adventure Brie Larson IFC scene in color series Adult Swim teaser Instagram Live Red Carpet WarnerMedia social media supernatural dc kids 4/20 ABC Schedule high school 1990s American Society of Cinematographers worst movies Pacific Islander Apple TV Plus ESPN science fiction Superheroe Mary Tyler Moore Wes Anderson Cartoon Network medical drama franchise olympics Vudu A24 war sequels Walt Disney Pictures E3 2019 adenture Elton John CMT TV movies twilight basketball cooking Mary poppins USA Network critic resources Disney Channel TCM hist Super Bowl a nightmare on elm street indiana jones Focus Features FOX hispanic heritage month Marvel Television BET DC streaming service Polls and Games crossover live event breaking bad Disney+ Disney Plus Premiere Dates Television Academy Sundance TV San Diego Comic-Con Best and Worst MSNBC South by Southwest Film Festival TLC elevated horror Nickelodeon Fall TV spanish language Disney cartoon Fox News dceu summer TV preview Comics on TV BBC cinemax Star Wars Celebration Character Guide TCA Valentine's Day thriller Universal black comedy Reality technology Binge Guide LGBT south america Interview die hard Star Wars Star Trek politics Neflix political drama Hollywood Foreign Press Association serial killer women History new star wars movies toy story Acorn TV jurassic park YouTube Red Family Pet Sematary Photos FX on Hulu President Endgame Martial Arts Spring TV superman Marvel Studios new zealand laika DirecTV Lionsgate Netflix jamie lee curtis Cosplay CNN green book Sci-Fi Turner Tarantino animated Kids & Family PBS streaming movies 2017 hollywood Crunchyroll zombie Starz cults name the review quibi stop motion Amazon Studios rotten dramedy Arrowverse Ellie Kemper Opinion NBA Year in Review Bravo AMC NYCC Musical aapi golden globe awards obituary 99% sequel directors Holiday Countdown documentary critics sopranos deadpool Pride Month indie Tumblr comic book movie Hulu 2020 summer TV Broadway Action series joker nature stand-up comedy Film Festival international what to watch mutant Reality Competition natural history Spectrum Originals Oscars Women's History Month Mindy Kaling crime drama Best Actor CW Seed game show Native RT History fresh 2018 hidden camera singing competition ITV marvel cinematic universe 73rd Emmy Awards Chilling Adventures of Sabrina worst El Rey police drama ratings Sneak Peek Comedy Paramount Pictures OneApp The Walt Disney Company cancelled Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt Stephen King movies theme song Writers Guild of America transformers children's TV king kong Dark Horse Comics book adaptation mission: impossible kaiju Ghostbusters dogs interviews rt archives 94th Oscars target scene in color Hear Us Out unscripted BBC One space rotten movies we love comic book movies scene in color film series docudrama blockbuster Winter TV reviews Mystery Drama rom-coms Superheroes japanese Rom-Com Mary Poppins Returns vampires Peacock football sports GLAAD A&E Comic Book Alien Amazon DGA tv talk universal monsters art house Teen popular Grammys VOD obi wan award winner french IFC Films Nominations TruTV Indigenous AMC Plus Academy Awards asian-american Holidays superhero zero dark thirty italian 93rd Oscars Best Director dark Logo all-time screenings Captain marvel Awards Tour BBC America 71st Emmy Awards Watching Series broadcast Lifetime Christmas movies free movies harry potter heist movie spy thriller YouTube SundanceTV Crackle Hallmark revenge Thanksgiving casting rt labs 79th Golden Globes Awards The Walking Dead criterion 21st Century Fox Best Actress travel vs. toronto Tomatazos anthology news golden globes Song of Ice and Fire FX BET Awards cancelled TV shows PlayStation Awards comic books Shudder Food Network Exclusive Video richard e. Grant spider-verse Sundance Now Shondaland Film 007 GoT HBO Go spanish action-comedy true crime boxoffice CBS Tags: Comedy posters Winners Marathons nfl BAFTA scene in color zombies Avengers Trailer Pop TV nbcuniversal finale ViacomCBS SXSW archives based on movie Emmy Nominations saw feel good new york spinoff independent aliens monster movies YouTube Premium Tubi Mudbound Fox Searchlight Rocketman wonder woman Travel Channel Paramount Plus Disney Plus cats boxing Infographic TV One Country dexter comic latino Cannes ABC Signature target Syfy Black History Month historical drama