"When we premiered, this idea of a Cold War was very foreign to our younger viewers," co-creator Matt Wolpert says of how his alternate-history Apple TV+ series eerily mirrors today.
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Following a finale that made EW's list of best TV episodes of 2021, For All Mankind is blasting into the 1990s for the third season of the alternate-history Apple TV+ drama.

"It was really gratifying to see how much people responded to the ending in season 2," Matt Wolpert, who co-created the series with Ben Nedivi and Ronald D. Moore, tells EW. But don't expect fan reaction to those big finale deaths and reveals to impact what's to come as Mankind's timeline begins to diverge further and further from what happened in ours after we bested Russia to the Moon. "We definitely were in the midst of forming season 3 and coming up with the story lines and where we want to take the characters before the reaction really unfolded," Wolpert continues, "which is kind of a blessing, honestly, because you're able to come up with stories in a bubble."

To go along with EW's exclusive first look images from season 3, Wolpert and Nedivi preview what's to come as the space race progresses from the Moon to Mars.

For All Mankind
Wrenn Schmidt as Margo and Joel Kinnaman as Ed Baldwin on 'For All Mankind'.
| Credit: Patrick McElhenney/Apple TV+

ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY: Each season ends with a tease of what's to come after a 10-year time jump. So how much do you all have to plan in advance for the next season?

BEN NEDIVI: Before we even started the show, Ron, Matt, and I had a game plan for how far we'll take the show — though, obviously, the plan changes year to year. The fun thing about this show is that you can jump a decade every season, so we know that tease at the end of every season kind of gives the viewers a glimpse of where we're headed. And the thing that we really wanted to focus on is the idea of this space race that we ignited in season 1 now takes us to the Red Planet. And it's Russia. It's the USSR, the U.S. — and a new entrant into the space race, a private space company.

Private space companies, tensions with Russia, gender and sexual identity politics. How much are you trying to comment on real life, and how much of this is just coincidence that a lot of the things you're discussing just, unfortunately, happen to be perpetually at the forefront of our minds?

MATT WOLPERT: It's a little bit of both, to be honest. I think there are those kind of eternal questions of how we live and how we live together that do seem to be timeless. We always approach that stuff through character, and then also those things tend to plant us in a certain era. Even from Ellen [Jodi Balfour] and Deke [Chris Bauer] and that moment in season 1 where she comes out to Deke and he's not accepting of her, it planted us in that time and sort of reminded us of that viewpoint. The acceptance that people are seeing now is maybe not what our characters would've experienced back then. But there is also a certain amount of happenstance as well. I mean, who could have predicted the reignition of this Cold War that we're seeing unfold now. It's pretty bizarre, honestly.

NEDIVI: When we premiered, this idea of a Cold War was very foreign to our younger viewers, and the idea that by season 3 it's become almost more relevant than ever is fascinating — also when it comes to the space race, the reignited interest in missions to the moon that NASA is doing, the private space industry, to Mars, and even some of the locations on the moon and Mars that we've looked at in terms of where to land, where to go. We find ourselves many times interacting with real research that's happening in real time right now. We're seeing footage that's coming back from Mars — the colors and the feel, the texture, the rocks — and we're incorporating that into the show through the visual effects and everything in real time. We're telling the story of an alternate history, but we speak to what's actually happening in the present more and more as the show gets further and further into this alternate future.

For All Mankind
'For All Mankind' season 3.
| Credit: Apple TV+

In what ways does For All Mankind's 1990s differ from the '90s we experienced?

WOLPERT: We don't want to go so far afield that it doesn't feel like the '90s anymore, so it's gotten a little bit more complicated to map out that history and find the ways to intersect with what really happened and where we want to diverge. But Ben and I are sort of secret history obsessives, so this is probably the most fun part for us of the whole show.

NEDIVI: Every year we have to keep one foot in real history and one foot in alternate history — and it's always based on, "What would the space race change in our history?" And as we get further, those changes grow more and more. So I think there are going to be nice little Easter eggs, if you will, of characters or real political figures that you're familiar with in the show, and then some new figures that maybe you're not as used to.

For All Mankind
Jodi Balfour as Ellen on 'For All Mankind.'
| Credit: Patrick McElhenney/Apple TV+

And where will we find the characters we've been following since the '60s?

NEDIVI: The challenge is we try not to tell the story of what happened right after season 2, since we're jumping to 1992. We trust our audience enough to catch up. We drop you into that world, you see the characters a decade older, the changes that have happened, and you kind of have to catch up on what happened in between. In terms of spoilers, I'm afraid to give away anything with a show like this.... I can comfortably say this year's definitely bigger and more action-packed than any season we've done so far for sure. One fun thing you'll see is Ellen running for [senate]. That's something that I think is a big change in the show, that we have seen this character go from a [NASA trainee] in season 1, and then her political awakening in season 2, and now you're seeing in season 3 her as a politician running for office.

WOLPERT: Then there's Ed Baldwin [Joel Kinnaman] and his old friend Danielle Pool [Krys Marshall], who are in this very friendly "competition" for who might get to command the mission to Mars. I think people love to see them together, and seeing them kind of compete was something really fun to play with.

NEDIVI: We're not just telling the story of the space race, it's the story of people's lives. You will really start to feel that this season.

For All Mankind
Life on Mars: 'For All Mankind' season 3.
| Credit: Apple TV+

Season 3 of For All Mankind premiere June 10 on Apple TV+.

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