INTERVIEW: Burk Sharpless, Matt Sazama and the cast of “Lost in Space 2”

The producers and showrunners insist they didn’t plan for the second season of “Lost in Space” to debut Christmas week, but a yuletide story element in the first episode of Season 2 made it a rather fortuitous happenstance.

“We heard that Netflix put us in their Christmas window, because they were so excited about the audience we might get,” said series co-creator and executive producer Burk Sharpless (at left in featured image). “Everybody at Netflix realizes that this is a show fathers and sons and mothers and daughters watch together—what they call ‘fireplace TV.’ And they explicitly picked our show as a ‘Christmas show.’”

The second season of the revamp of the sixties show bows out on Netflix Christmas Eve, with the Robinson clan facing new adventures in their trek through outer space, as well as the interpersonal dynamics present in any family. Molly Parker and Toby Stephens return as parents Maureen and John Robinson, now the parents of teenagers Penny (Mina Sundwall) and Will (Maxwell Jenkins).

Season 2 opens on a Robinson family Christmas, which the show creators felt was a viable vehicle to showcase the passage of a year of time in their heroes’ adventures through the cosmos.

“Part of the story is they’re doing well, they’re tight as a family,” said co-creator and executive producer Matt Sazama (standing on the right in leading image). “This plays into John’s reticence to leave [for space] because they have this [prior] existence. So what better way to show that going on than Christmas?”

Sharpless and his co-creators felt there was a definite hook in revisiting the notion of Swiss Family Robinson in space in a long-form television format, but they were also cognizant of perhaps not falling into the trap of the 1998 film remake, which was both critically reviled and a box office disappointment.

Zack Estrin

“The original show, and the one we’re doing, is about love between family members,” Sharpless said of getting back to basics. “And also the ability to love someone new that you might be scared of. Like the Robot or Don West coming into this family.

“And the way they did the movie, they were all bickering and you never got the feeling that anybody loved each other.”

Fellow executive producer Zack Estrin said that the arc of the show parallels that of the young actors portraying the Robinson children, particularly of young Will.

“In Season 1 he was fairly naive and innocent in terms of how we wrote the show. Now Will is 13 and the show follows his growth and maturity,” Estrin said. “So expect the show to parallel that coming of age that all the characters” experience.

“We left Season 1 with Will starting to grow into his skin. Throughout Season 2, what I like is we see him becoming more a young man and grow out of being a kid,” added Jenkins, the actor behind Will Robinson. “We delve into the relationship with him and his family and his robot,” the one who famously chides his owner of “Danger! Danger!”

“Penny is now 16, which means a lot for a young woman growing up,” added Estrin of Will’s sibling. “And Judy (Taylor Russell) is turning 19. So she’s no longer a kid, and what does that mean [for her]?”

“I got to meet Bill Mumy, who was the original Will Robinson,” added Jenkins of his forebear in the role. “He’s really been my go-to person if I have any questions about what it’s like to grow up as Will.”

While the names of the characters are familiar, the showrunners subverted some expectations by giving the nefarious Dr. Smith a gender swap in the Netflix series. Portrayed by Parker Posey, the new version of Dr. Smith is a therapist rather than a medical doctor.

“If you do a part that another person did, and if you’re the same gender, sometimes you feel are you supposed to copy that part,” said Sharpless. “And we wanted to free up the actor to be able to do their own thing and not see if they were acting like [original Dr. Smith] Jonathan Harris.

“I think Zack at one point emailed everyone in the middle of the night and said ‘What about Parker Posey?’” Sharpless recalls. “It turned out she had grown up watching ‘Lost in Space.’ I think we all said something special might be happening.”

“I read a three-volume set [about] ‘Lost in Space,’” said fangirl Parker, adding that original series producer and impresario Irwin Allen was equivalent to the Steven Spielberg of his day. “He would shoot off a gun [calling] ‘Action!’ and direct with a megaphone. Just a wild man.”

Ignacio Serricchio

Like Posey, co-star Ignacio Serricchio, who portrays heroic Don West, knew much about the sixties TV show, which he watched dubbed in Spanish while growing up in Argentina.

“I wasn’t interested in space, but I started watching because of Guy Williams,” said Serricchio of the Italian-American actor who portrayed John West in the old series. “And I felt the science fiction and space action was a background for a family dynamic. I think [by examining] the structure of everyone’s family, we can all relate to this family Robinson.”

“They are real heroes in their own way, but no one stands out as the sole flawless human being,” actress Mina Sundwell said of the Robinson clan, “which makes people relate to each individual character and see how their flaws and strengths make them stronger as a unit in whatever they’re doing.”

Producer Sharpless agrees with the actors’ assessment, adding that everyone watching at some point has likely pondered what it might be like to share an adventure with their parents.

“It goes back to the very essence of testing what a family is. It makes you think of something that was in your head when you were a little kid,” he said. “Would I get along with Dad? What would Mom be like? Would I save my little brother?”

“My family and I never really went camping, but I would be standing in the supermarket and think, ‘What if the zombies come in here?’” said Sundwell, aka Penny Robinson.

The Robinson parents’ marriage is far from idealized and faces incredible obstacles—never mind being in outer space. As matriarch Maureen Robinson, Molly Parker (“House of Cards”) said she’s been impressed by how the writers have explored Maureen in her dual roles as scientist and mother.

Molly Parker

“As the kids are growing up, there are those natural rebellions but also needing to be detached from your parents and be your own person,” said Parker. “So they are constantly having to navigate all this stuff that I did with my [own] son.”

British actor Toby Stephens (“Die Another Die”) joins Parker as patriarch John Robinson. Stephens said that the old series more or less cast their characters in stone, with little if any room for growth. That is all different in Netflix’s “Lost in Space,” and will only increase throughout Season 2.

“I love the fact [that] you have this very domestic situation happening in these extraordinary circumstances, but they’re developing in the same way any family would,” Stephens said, adding that as Season 2 begins, John is trying to “fight his way back” to the family he more or less abandoned. “Then they are going to keep on developing. So I really hope that at the end of Season 2 you’ll go, ‘I want to know where these guys end up, where they’re headed, because I’m invested.’”

Wherever the Robinsons might head eventually beyond Season 2, December 24th will find them—like audiences—huddled around a communal Christmas celebration.

“Season 1 had a touch of Christmas in that right after they crashed, we did our first flashback and it was Christmastime,” said executive producer Zach Estrin. “What’s been so amazing is that when [Netflix] decided it would be released at Christmas as well, all these fans [were] so grateful and thankful.

“At Christmastime people are together, parents and kids, and they can all watch the show at the same time.”

Lost in Space” Season 2 launches on Netflix December 24th.

Matt Sazama and Burk Sharpless

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