March 2020

Screened | Sarah Jones

Getting Into Character With Sarah Jones

Photos Randall Slavin | Words Tamara Rappa

Sarah Jones has had a long television career with both lead and series regular roles, and has always strived to play characters who aren't the sidekick, who aren't the love interest. When first presented with the lead role of Tracy Stevens on Apple’s new original series for Apple TV+, For All Mankind, she passed, said thank you, was flattered, but didn't believe the role was for her. Then she agreed to meet with show creator Ronald D. Moore and producers Maril Davis and Matt Wolpert, along with co-producer Ben McGinnis, and learned that the character they envisioned for her would take a long and complex journey from wife and mother to astronaut and national hero during the course of season one---a far cry from the 1960's housewife she'd acquainted herself with while reading the pages of episodes one and two. With production design by Mad Men's Dan Bishop, For All Mankind takes its audience on an exciting ride through the decades, weaving history and facts with fictitious characters and events. An exciting season two is set to debut in the fall. We dissected the details of Jones' Tracy, whom she says "does things based on her convictions and moral code".

What made Tracy want to fly? Her older brother was in the military and he taught her how to fly. Myself and our writers discussed that her brother was killed in action, most likely in the Korean War. Flying was a way for her to maintain her connection to him on some level. Her happy childhood memories, her youth, was spent with her brother. She idolized him and he championed her ambitions.

What is Tracy thinking when she's watching the first woman land on the moon? 'Oh hell yeah!' It was a 'for all mankind' moment. For Tracy it was a declaration of equality and hope, a declaration of where society was heading and could go. 

Why does Tracy help her fellow trainee, Ellen, during training, when she falls? The connections that Tracy ends up making at NASA are steered by her convictions and moral code. Coming from a military family and also being a former nurse, Tracy can't walk away from Ellen. She's a rebel in so many ways, whether she's threatening to leave her husband and actually doing it, or throwing shade at Marge, the 'head' of all the astronaut's wives, or taking on a career in the middle of her young children's lives. She knows why she is on the list, and that it has nothing to do with her skills as a pilot. By helping Ellen, in one way, it's her moral code leading that choice, and in another, it's just an 'f- you'.

What does Tracy believe her husband feels about her? For the first time in her life, she's not concerned about that. For the first time in her life she's adding herself to the equation, and what's best for her community. Her husband, Gordo, has always appreciated and admired her ambition and her take-no-prisoners attitude when it comes to living life. But to admire and appreciate something and to support it---are two totally different things.

How does Tracy view her relationship with Karen, her one-time adversary? What I think is beautiful about Tracy and Karen's relationship is that while they live two completely different lives and have two totally different ideologies about how they live their very different lives, they have something in common, and that's their undying loyalty to the people they love. When each of them loves and cares about someone, the loyalty to that person runs deep. When it comes down to it, the bond they do have is thicker and stronger than their opposing belief systems. It's symbolic of something we can all think about today.

How would Karen describe Tracy? Initially, I think, a rebel without a cause. Then she begins to look at her more like a maverick. I would imagine she first sees Tracy as very selfish and self-centered, and that's because women were conditioned to put everyone ahead of themselves. When Tracy decides to do something for herself, feathers get ruffled within their community. 'How dare you? Why aren't you thinking of others?' And Tracy's position is, 'I am, I'm just adding myself to the equation now'. Karen comes around and I think sees Tracy in a way that's not so black and white.

Where does Tracy's sense of loyalty come from, loyalty to co-workers, her husband, to friends? And why is she so loyal? Tracy comes from a very strong family unit. Tracy also felt inadequate in a lot of ways, because she never quite fit into her community in a prim and proper, picture-perfect way. She could not be categorized. Since she could never really find her 'place' and never really felt at home, she would go extra, and bring extra, in order to make herself feel more worthy. She's constantly searching for validation, because she decided to do something with her life that wasn't conventional.

How is Tracy similar to her husband? They both live life on the edge, all the time. They fight the same way. They approach life the same way. They're best friends. On top of that...they're quite exceptional, both physically and in terms of intelligence. They're elite in their capabilities. And they're thrill-seekers. They want to live hard. They want to live challenged, and pushed. I think that when it's good for them, it's exhilarating. And when it's bad, it's hell on earth. Karen and Ed have a partnership and an understanding, whereas Tracy and Gordo are straight up ride-or-die.

How did the rescue of Molly Cobb bring Tracy and her husband together? It's simple. What it came down to was the acknowledgement they are equals. They looked at each other and truly saw each other as equals for the first time. It was a major moment for the both of them, one of pride, both in themselves and in their partner. It's a simple yet heavy moment.

"Korean films and tv dramas... I am picking up what they are throwing DOWN! I'm a little obsessed. Burning By Lee Chang-Dong hasn't left my brain."

"90% of my wardrobe is made up of vintage clothing, so I might feel guilty about overconsumption, but I'm supporting small businesses and participating in the practice of recycling and owning guilt-free denim, leather, and silk. I've found some serious gems on Etsy. To avoid overcrowding my closet with pieces, my rule is to make sure I try everything on."

"Avocados, peaches, plums, apricots, cherries. Cherries are my number one. When cherries are in season, I'll buy them at the farmer's market. In summertime, it's all about the stone fruits for me. I could live off of them all summer long."

"White by Bret Easton Ellis is somewhat autobiographical. I discovered it in a bookstore about a month ago. He uses all of his life experiences to call out social media, to discuss the idea is that social media is killing our individualism. If you love his writing you're going to love this one. I'm enjoying it immensely."

"I'm late to the podcast game, but I'm currently listening to and bouncing between Dolly Parton's America and Roxane Gay and Dr Tressie McMillan Cottam's Hear To Slay. I want to remain aware, educated, and current on social issues. And intersectional feminism is certainly at the top for me. If you want to understand some things, listening to Hear To Slay is an easy way to connect."

"I'm particularly grateful for springtime in LA, especially now with the coronavirus pandemic. It's the best time to be in Los Angeles. It starts around late February or early March and goes until May. It's just gorgeous. Cool mornings and evenings, warm afternoons, there's a floral scent in the air, and everything is blossoming and blooming."