Wrenn Schmidt on Spying on Margo Madison in For All Mankind Season 3 Episode 3
“It’s awful in the best possible way.” This is how actress Wrenn Schmidt describes the hotel room scene at the end of For all mankindthe last episode, “All In”.
After nearly a decade of knowing glances at empty ring fingers, heated arguments about science and foreign policy, and tension-filled elevator rides at the annual International Astronautical Congress convention, Schmidt’s character, the NASA administrator Margo Madison, is finally alone with her Soviet colleague Sergei.
She musters enough courage to awkwardly ask for a kiss, and Sergei obliges. But before Margo can shake off her sweater crush, he asks her for nuclear secrets – and when she denies his pleas for NASA’s engine design, there’s a knock on the door. “What is that?” she repeatedly asks the knocker, then Sergei, as the look on her face slowly reveals that she knows she’s been had.
Cut to Margo sitting across from a bald man with glasses, presumably from the KGB, or some nefarious division of the USSR space program. He is ready to blackmail her, threatening to reveal how she and Sergei shared their research. While she says their collaboration has been in the “interests of continued space travel and international peace, period.”
He quickly retorts, “I’m sure your FBI won’t make that distinction.
Margot is steadfast in her beliefs, until a second master begins strangling Sergei. “The tragedy, of course, is the price others pay for such a principle. The ones we love,” the bespectacled man says, giving him a choice: basically, cooperate or Sergei dies.
“As Wrenn, I think it’s awful that this incredibly driven and successful woman is now in a position where she has to choose. Her professional counterpart, and also a romantic interest, either he dies or I give up an amount incredible amount of nuclear information that I know is not going into the most responsible hands,” Schmidt said.
“Margo realizes she’s in a game of chess for her life. It’s really like she’s starting to count every move in a really horrible, pressured way. It’s like she’s sitting in face of a chess grandmaster and was like, ‘Okay, how do I give out a lot of information? Do I reveal how I feel about this person who’s being strangled or right?” On the day we were shooting this, I just tried to give the editors and directors as much choice as possible in the realm of this reality.”
She just wishes they had more time to shoot the scene. “It’s one of those things where when you’re filming it, you’re just like, ‘Oh my God, if we just had a little more time.’ But the poor actor who played Sergei…because he’s Polish, he was so jet lagged. It was like he’d been up for 48 hours or something crazy. He was so tired.
Scmidt repeatedly called Margo’s situation in this episode “an impossible position to take”.
“I think as strategic and smart as she was, this might be one of the first times that Margo has absolutely no answers and no idea what to do,” she says. “She let her guard down for a split second. And now, whatever happens, her career is probably going down the drain. Everything she worked for is probably going to go down the drain. C It’s an impossible position to be in, that whatever decision you make will mean someone lives or dies.”
Show creator Ronald Moore was tight-lipped about exactly how this story unfolded for Margo, but he described her confrontation with the Soviets as a “moment of clarity” for the character. “She had been dancing with the devil for quite a while and was like, ‘Oh, it’s okay. I share information, but there is no harm, no fault. And he gives me stuff. ‘And she didn’t realize what she really got herself into,’ he says, hinting at what’s to come in future episodes.
“It’s becoming a huge pressure for her – and how is she going to deal with that pressure in the future? And where is that taking her? – which I think is taking her to a very unexpected place of here the end of the season.”
New episodes of the third season of For all mankind drop Friday on AppleTV+. Sign up for AppleTV+.
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