Lisa Kudrow did not know there was a real Space Force when she filmed Space Force
The actress explains why she joined Steve Carell's new Netflix comedy — and what to expect from her unpredictable character.
Netflix is preparing to launch one of 2020’s most high-profile, star-packed series with Space Force, a satirical comedy developed in the wake of President Donald Trump's 2018 announcement that he had instructed the Department of Defense to start the process of creating a new American military branch named, yes, Space Force. The streaming service's version — which was created by Steve Carell and his old Office companion, showrunner Greg Daniels — stars Carell as Air Force general Mark R. Naird, whose life is turned upside down when he is put in charge of this new military branch that is stationed on a secret base in Colorado. Carell’s collection of castmates contains a flurry of familiar faces, including John Malkovich, Ben Schwartz, Noah Emmerich, Jane Lynch, Jimmy O. Yang, Patrick Warburton, and Fred Willard.
Another extremely notable name on the roster? Lisa Kudrow. She plays Maggie, Mark’s chipper-if-opportunistic wife who has served dutifully by his side throughout his distinguished career, but now finds herself serving in a different way. It's probably safe to surmise that the Friends alum — who also stars in the Netflix comedy Feel Good — joined this ambitious project with a perspective different than any other cast member's. You see, she apparently missed the news cycle during which the president announced those lofty plans to dominate space. “I had no idea,” she tells EW with a laugh. “I really did not know that the president said, ‘Let's have a Space Force.’ I mean, I just can't keep up, so I missed that one. It was just, ‘We're doing the show, why don't you do it?’ And I was like, ‘Yeah! Of course! Why wouldn't I?’ It's Greg and Steve. And then he said, ‘Yeah, John Malkovich is in it,’ and I was like, ‘Oh wow!’ But sorry, dumbass here didn’t know there was actually a Space Force. And it's so embarrassing because when I saw the last State of the Union and he mentioned Space Force, I went, ‘Oh! It's a real thing!’ The whole time we're shooting, it didn't come up. Because I think everybody assumed I knew it was a real thing. I usually keep up with what's going on, but to me there's so much — and sometimes I don't know what's a joke and what isn't. I don't mean with this show, I mean in life — that I missed it.”
Once Kudrow learned about this catalyst for the show, what were her thoughts on the actual Space Force? “I just thought, ‘Oh, okay. I guess we need a Space Force to protect all of our equipment up there,’” she says. “And now there's a race to Mars, so I guess we do. I guess we need a Space Force. I don't know. I'm nice that way. I’m like, “Okay, well if you say we need it. I mean, I guess.” Another laugh. "Then knowing that there was one," she says, "I thought the way they treated it really was a great balancing act. Given that it's real, I appreciated what they were doing." Echoing a sentiment from Carell, she says of the show: "It's not for or against anyone or anything. It's patriotic and it's pro-decency. So that's a good thing."
She describes Maggie — who also is the mother of the rebellious Erin (Diana Silvers) — as someone who "played the part really well and it's who she is. She's the perfect general's wife and is supportive and tries to behave. And also, she loves her husband." But there's a twist to the state of her marriage. “Mark and Maggie are forced to navigate a big challenge to their relationship," says Kudrow, who offers up this cryptic tease about Maggie: "Is she a badass or is she not?"
As mentioned above, the Space Force cast is full of recognizable faces that pop up through the 10-episode run, leaving one to wonder it was like during filming, seeing familiar face after familiar face."I didn't run into too many people on set because I did all my stuff in five days [and] because I came to it later on," she says. "Greg let me see some of the stuff they had shot and roughly put together. So I did see who was there. I was blown away. That first episode I was like, 'Oh my God, look who's in the war room! Oh my God. Oh, he's in it? Oh, wow. Oh, look who’s in it! Oh my God.'" She adds with a laugh: "And then I was like, 'Oh good, I'm glad I already said yes, so it doesn't look like I'm just impressed with whoever else is there.'"
Space Force, which premieres May 29, completed filming before the pandemic and will premiere in a different world from which it was conceived. Does its to-the-moon aspiration feel like a good diversion right now? "Right now or anytime to me," she answers. "It’s aspirational just because: “Oh, good! There are decent people in places of power that make some decisions. [Laughs] That's nice."