Ahead of the highly-anticipated second season of “Lost in Space”, premiering on Netflix December 24, we talk to Penny Robinson herself Mina Sundwall.
Tell us about being cast on “Lost in Space” – do you remember when and where it was when you heard?
Oh boy do I remember… I was so happy I screamed in the middle of the street. I got so many looks. And then I didn’t sleep for 2 nights I was so excited.
I was convinced that I had blown my chances: I had sent in a tape for my first audition, and for the call-back I flew to LA, and when I walked in the studio it was two other girls and me; they were so comfortable there, everyone knew them, I felt like a complete outsider. I was so nervous the entire time that I barely remember anything. When I was in the room, I forgot a bunch of lines and Zack (our show runner) printed out sides for me to review. I took a few minutes re-reading and went back in… it was so embarrassing. I called my mom afterwards nearly in tears. All I wanted was to go back in and prove to them that I could do it better.
But alas, about a week later I was walking home from school, and got a call from my mom saying “hey, are you ready for your trip?” I was so confused… we went back and forth until she said “well, you’re going to need a spacesuit to get there…” and then I heard my manager’s voice in the background laughing. And next thing I knew I was on a plane headed for Vancouver. And three years later, here we are J
What were they looking for in this version of Penny?
The LIS creators told me right the way that they were looking for the real emotions, raw teenage insecurities mixed in a cocktail with comedic timing. Penny’s challenge was the delicate balance in between her needs and the group, especially in comparison to her siblings.
Given Penny and I are the same age, teen angst was not a foreign concept. I’m an only child, but I struggle(d) with many of the same insecurities that Penny is dealing with; not knowing when to give myself credit, feeling out-of-place most of the time, wanting to do something different than what was expected of me (and aha, theatre camp did me well), answering parents with quippy one-liners. I drew from my own experience, added some research on triangular-sibling-relationships so that Penny felt pulled and pushed in between Judy and Will, and then blew it up to the scale of her circumstances.
In a way Penny and I learned from each other… which is such an interesting internal/external psychology study.
Did you go back and watch the original series?
I did! When I found out that I was cast, I went back and binge-watched the series. I will never be more entertained than giant vegetables sneaking up on Jonathan Harris.
And, of course, there was the film in the ‘90s. How different is your take on Penny than Lacey Chabert’s in the “Lost in Space” film?
I loved Lacey Chabert’s Penny; she is a lot of fun to watch and showed a more rebellious style, a bit less innocent; she definitely knows a lot more about boys than my Penny. The Robinsons are not just a family, they are a crew, and they know the severity of the situation they are leaving behind. Penny uses sarcasm as a defence mechanism and snaps back at times, but more than anything what I saw in her was that she held many of her insecurities and anger close to heart and kept a controlled external image for the greater good of everyone around her.
I imagine you’ve watched the film?
I have! It’s amazing how the same concept can be developed in three very different ways. The underlying soundtrack is amazing.
What can we expect from season two? Can you tease some storylines?
We begin the season seven months after we last saw the Robinsons in season 1, and they have been making do on a toxic methane-gas water planet. But, as you can imagine, that’s just the beginning… after that we have monsters, explosions, Dr Smith being her usual evil self, my mom giving orders…
Was season two funnier to film, considering you and the cast and crew are all very familiar with each other?
That’s like asking a parent to pick a favourite child!
Going into season one was an enormous learning experience every step of the way: from getting to know each other, to interacting with green-screens and robots, filming episodes out of order for months on end, learning the basics of sci-fi. This season we knew each other, and the characters had established dynamics, so it was an easier transition into being a family; we also were more familiar with green screens, and acting with the Robot, and our crew was already family. Season 2 was bigger; we did some intense stunts, many having to do with water which felt like playing pretend for the weeks we shot. And we travelled abroad for the first time together, to Iceland and Alberta. This season was exciting to film, bolder and more intense, but last season was Chapter 1, the introduction, and a period of massive growth. I can’t possibly pick one!
What makes Netflix the perfect home for this one, as opposed to one of the free-to-air channels?
To me LIS is the show that should be enjoyed as a family. Grandparents, parents and children together… but when on a normal day does that happen? Not often, which makes it harder to adjust to a free-to-air TV on a pre-set schedule. But Netflix is true on-demand entertainment that fits today’s schedules. And they are competitive, they are not shy with budgets — Lost In Space is not cheap — and they strive for the best and have challenged us to try harder and think out of the box. I couldn’t see anyone else making Lost In Space today, they are the absolute ‘one’ partner. And I’m grateful for the chance they took on us.