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The Astronaut Wives Club postmortem on Rendezvous: Haley Strode reflects on astronaut deaths

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ABC

Warning: This story contains spoilers from The Astronaut Wives Club episode 7.

We lost five astronauts on Thursday night’s The Astronaut Wives Club, so it’s safe to say we’ve come a long way from sharing casserole recipes and arguing over which wife dominates at cards. First, Marilyn See (Nora Zehetner) and Jeannie Bassett’s husbands died in a plane crash, and then on the heels of Apollo, Gus Grissom (Joel Johnstone), Ed White (Matt Lanter) and Roger Chaffe lost their lives while testing a rocket. All 30 Astrowives confronted NASA in hopes of not being pushed aside when catastrophe hits, so we’ll soon see if their demands are met.

EW talked to Haley Strode, who plays astronaut wife Jane Conrad, to find out how episode 7’s dark turn will influence the series’ final three episodes:

ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY: This was the first week we dealt with an astronaut’s death on the show. Will we see how those deaths affect the wives and the space community?

HALEY STRODE: There is definitely a touch of following death and seeing how the wives who had the loss in their lives are doing and coping with that, and what happens in the aftermath of losing someone.

We knew going into it that it was something we had to approach with extreme care, but it’s something we all go through. That’s one of the reasons this show is so relatable. When you’re working with such phenomenal actresses, the moment becomes very really and it’s an emotional process. Nora Zehetner and Holley Fain ended up becoming two of my best friends!

Your character shows up to spend time with Marilyn See before she learns her husband has died, and later in the episode the wives ban together to make sure NASA is more responsible when it comes to communicating with the Astrowives. What does that mean for the relationship between the wives and NASA going forward? Do we see their demands get met?

That actual moment in the script, that was something that was a creative liberty — that moment didn’t actually happen in real life. But this is a celebratory moment for women in time. The series is showing how these women banded together to strengthen one another because of the way that NASA was treating them and the unacceptable behavior that they were experiencing. I think the demands have to be listened to and have to be met in the future. When you have that many women who are the other half of the family unit that have been asked so much by NASA and have sacrificed for their families and husbands and for America, that’s kind of the way it was present by NASA, in the future, NASA has been given no choice but to listen to their demands.

I loved shooting that scene. It was one of the first times the majority of all of us were standing together and we’d been working together for several weeks at that point. It felt really empowering.

The women are also all together in right in the beginning “Rendezvous,” when Duncan asks the wives to make sure their husbands don’t have any distractions at home, but to ensure they’re “taken care of.” That’s such an uncomfortable moment.

There are moments kind of peppered with that [attitude] throughout the series. It’s really great that we see that as an audience. You kind of see how far we’ve come in terms of what’s okay to ask of family members when discussing one’s job in the workplace, and the way that you were allowed to talk to women back then. It’s comical when you’re watching the women’s faces.

Will the widowed astronaut’s wives be pushed out of the club? Or will some leave on their own?

The story that the show outlines follows a lot of the things that happened in real life, obviously. There aren’t too many creative liberties. So yes, we will see what happens with the wives who are widowed.

This was the first week we really dove into the lives of some of the newer astronaut wives. Are the stories of Marilyn Lovell and Harriet Eisele going play out, or will we move on to see some new Gemini and Apollo wives in the coming weeks?

There are a couple more wives that may be introduced. We do dive into a couple of the Apollo wives’ lives, some of the Gemini wives’ lives, but we do stay on our initial seven that we met in the pilot episode. But there were important scenes that Lily Koppel [author of The Astronaut Wives Club] touches on that she wanted to translate further that were going on with the Apollo and Gemini wives that were similar to Mercury wives.

We’ve seen some infidelities on the show before, but in the case of the Eiseles it had the added level of Harriet and Donn’s sick child. Will we see how things play out with Donn?

We may see a little more of that. I don’t want to divulge too much!

Are any other Cape Cookies going to poke their way in?

We’ve seen the Cape Cookie since the beginning. That was unfortunately a common theme and definitely something we see more of.

The new Astrowives have always looked up to the Mercury Seven ladies, but this week it seems they’re starting to feel like they’re all on the same playing field. Does that reverence continue, or do the new wives truly feel acclimated?

Like any club that you join, in terms of there being a new wave of people, it takes a moment to become acclimated and to acclimate some new members. After some time, you become equal just by the sheer fact that you have survived things together. We see the camaraderie even when the initial instinct was that the Mercury wives felt threatened by a new wave of women. No matter how early or late they were introduced to the club, by the end, they were wall a member of that exclusive club.

You definitely see that even as the series unfolds further that it’s an equal playing field.

Is there anything else you want viewers to know going into the end of the season?

Grab a box of Kleenexes! It’s definitely an emotional ride.