ASSIGNMENT X: How much of the Mercury 7 story did you already know when you became involved with THE RIGHT STUFF?
JAKE McDORMAN: Honestly, not very much at all. I think I recognized John Glenn’s name. I mean, I knew about THE RIGHT STUFF probably more than I did about what THE RIGHT STUFF was about. So, I recognized that IP. My dad talked about the movie all the time, specifically Scott Glenn [who played Shepard in the feature film version], but no pressure there from Dad. But more than that, not too much, which was interesting, because that meant when I read the script, that was really the first framework I had for what our show was going to be, without having the movie’s adaptation rattling around up there, or even the book. So, it was really the script that was my first introduction to the Mercury Program, and certainly who Alan Shepard was, and the other astronauts in the script – Wally Schirra [played by Aaron Staton], Scott Carpenter [played by James Lafferty], and Deke Slayton [played by Micah Stock]. So, I had a lot of research to do.
AX: The movie cast was a little confusing, because you had the actor Sam Shepard playing Chuck Yeager, and then there was Alan Shepard as a character, who was played by Scott Glenn, and Ed Harris was playing John Glenn, and when you were thinking about it later, it was like, “Wait, Shepard is …?”
McDORMAN: [laughs] I know, I know. We made a joke at the table read like that. It was like, “I’m Jake McDorman, and I’m playing Sam Shepard.”
AX: As a character, is Alan Shepard a departure for you? Because he and John Glenn, particularly, seemed to have egos the size of buildings. You generally play less swaggering people, apart from the Dark Ages warlord in WHAT WE DO IN THE SHADOWS …
McDORMAN: Yeah. Alan Shepard is a departure for me in a lot of ways. The first thing is that he comes from a military family. His dad was in the [U.S.] Army, his granddad was in the Army, and Shepard himself was in the Navy. So that already comes from a family background that’s really different than anything that I’m used to. I don’t have any immediate family that served. So even just understanding what a family like that is like, what an upbringing like that is like, as far as the discipline, how the chain of command trickles down not just professionally, but also at home, the relationship that Shepard has with his father, is a big departure from anything that I’ve played before, or anything that I really know in my personal life. continue reading