By EW Staff
Updated June 30, 2014 at 06:00 PM EDT

Cop shows, doctor shows, courtroom-based dramas–for years, Halle Berry had heard pitches for just about every iteration of what’s already on TV. Nothing seemed invigorating enough for her to briefly abandon a still-thriving film career. Then, in the fall of 2013, a spec script called Extant started a feeding frenzy in Hollywood, with just about every major TV player–ABC, FX, Netflix, you name it–trying to buy the sci-fi thriller. As soon as CBS prevailed, CBS Entertainment Chairman Nina Tasser knew exactly who she wanted to play Molly Woods, an astronaut who returns from a year-long solo mission in space with a baby (possibly alien in origin) in her belly.

“The minute I started to read it, I couldn’t put it down,” says Berry, who spoke to EW in an exclusive interview for this week’s cover story on Extant (airing July 9 on CBS). “I thought, ‘Wow. This is different.’ It’s innovative. Molly is a strong female character, which I really love to play. Molly is a complicated woman with a complicated family. Who is a woman who goes away to space for a year and leaves her husband, first of all? Who is a woman who comes back pregnant and tries to handle it somehow on her own? That just felt like a complication that I wanted to be a part of.”

Extant has all the elements of an exciting new sci-fi series: spaceships, futuristic toys, aliens–even Steven Spielberg, who is an executive producer through his company Amblin TV, which is also responsible for CBS’ summer hit Under the Dome. “I remember walking on the stage and someone going, ‘Oh, Steven is here by the way,'” says Goran Visnjic, who plays Molly’s husband John. “I was like, ‘Really? Is my hair okay?'”

For more on Extant, including an interview with Steven Spielberg, pick up the latest issue of Entertainment Weekly, on stands Friday.