Jessica Chastain Launching ‘Mercury 13’ Series

By February 13, 2017

Moviegoers really seemed to like the NASA-themed film Hidden Figures that featured some of the under-celebrated female African-American contributions to the early space program.

And now actress Jessica Chastain looks to catch that wave with a new project for ITV Studios America that would focus on a group of women’s unsuccessful attempts to become astronauts during Project Mercury, which actually pre-dates the Apollo space program.

Chastain, who earned Oscar nominations for her work in The Help and Zero Dark Thirty, is set to produce, according to Deadline, along with Todd Komarnicki, who wrote the Tom Hanks film Sully. He’s also set to at least write a pilot featuring what were described as the secret experiments by one NASA scientist to see if women were equally as viable in space as men.

William Randolph Lovelace II, who was killed in a plane crash in 1965, actually tested women as potential astronauts in his own private facility. He required them to be younger than 35, hold a bachelor’s degree and an FAA commercial pilot ratings, and more than 2,000 hours of flying time, according to NASA.

The working title for the new series is Mercury 13, after the 13 women involved in the program.

The women passed the same battery of tests as did the male Mercury 7 astronauts, some even outpacing them. But without NASA’s cooperation, the tests had to be shut down and, despite the women’s please to President John F. Kennedy and Vice President Lyndon B. Johnson and a Congress hearing on the issue, women were not allowed into the space program, and it would be more than 20 years before an American woman got to space in 1983.

It’s not clear if Chastain will star in the series or not. While she has done stints on shows like ER and Veronica Mars in the past, Chastain really hasn’t been active with television since 2010. Her next film, The Zookeeper’s Wife, is due out March 31.

Hidden Figures stars Taraji P. Henson, Octavia Spencer and Janelle Monae. It’s earned $139.7 million globally, and was nominated for three Oscars including best picture.

Both Chastain and Spencer were nominated for Oscars for The Help, with Spencer winning.

ITV has not provided any timetable on when such a series could move forward or who might air it.

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Michael Hinman

Michael Hinman

Managing Editor at GeekNation
Michael began what has become nearly 19 years of entertainment reporting as the founder of SyFy Portal, which would become Airlock Alpha after he sold the SyFy brand to NBC Universal. He's based out of New York City where he is the editor of a Pulitzer Prize-winning newspaper in the Bronx.
  • Jim Oberg

    The difference is that ‘Hidden Figures’ was about women who DID play a critical [but not irreplaceable] role in Mercury, but ‘Mercury-13’ [a gimmicky name invented by a male writer thirty years later] is vaginista revisionist fantasy — the women had never been given the chance to fly hazardous missions that killed off a third of their colleagues, an experience that gave the men the ‘right stuff’ but never fully tested the women. Jim’s essay, ‘Setting the Record Straight’