From National Geographic, acclaimed filmmaker Darren Aronofsky, and award-winning producer Jane Root, the 10-part docuseries One Strange Rock — narrated by Will Smith — is a mind-bending journey that takes viewers through and around planet Earth, which is just a tiny speck of a planet among the vast cosmos. Redefining science and natural history filmmaking, the series was shot in 45 countries, on six continents and from outer space on the International Space Station (ISS), as it explores why life as we know it exists on this planet, brought into perspective by the astronauts that have left it behind, in order to gain insight that can be obtained no other way.
During a small roundtable interview that Collider was invited to, to promote the series debut, executive producer Darren Aronofsky talked about what made him want to tackle One Strange Rock, telling the story from the perspective of the astronauts, how mind-boggling the existence of life truly is, being born a storyteller, whether this could inspire a narrative feature for him, and the active environmental message in his most recent films.
QUESTION: What made you want to take on a TV project?
DARREN ARONOFSKY: It was NatGeo, to start. I’ve been subscribing since I was a teenager and I probably, at some point, want to be a NatGeo photographer or journalist. I still get excited, every month, when my issue comes in, to see what’s on the cover. Getting a cover for this show was definitely a bucket list moment. Being involved with that is really exciting. That’s where it started. And then, I like Nutopia because of their track record and what they’ve pulled off, and Jane Root’s work with the BBC and her history made me excited. It was exciting and it was also scary, which I always look for, to take all of the different sciences and try to blend them, and make something coherent. And then, I think what they were looking for, from me and Arif [Nurmohamed], was to create something emotional. When we stumbled on the idea of telling it from the point of view of astronauts, that opened it up for us and gave us the courage to do it.
Was there something that you learned from the astronauts that was really important for the show?
ARONOFSKY: I just go back to the overview effect, which is something I wasn’t conscience of. Even before we said, “Let’s do this with the astronauts,” we thought it was an interesting perspective. When you’re in the video game, you forget you’re in the video game, but when you look up above it and you look down on it, you can see that larger perspective. It’s something we all recognize because that pale blue dot photograph has been around a long time, but it’s still a hard thing to emotionally really grasp when you’re dealing with walking your dog, three times a day. That perspective was something I was really immediately excited by. It was like, how do we emotionally hint at it? It’s a near impossible thing to experience until you experience it, and it’s hard for them to even describe what that experience is.