Talking to a Tennis Ball: ‘Lost in Space’ stars share behind-the-scenes stories

I love remakes and revivals. I always have. For some reason, the idea of someone taking something beloved and making it their own has always appealed to me. Which is why when the new Lost in Space show first appeared on Netflix in 2018, I devoured it.

The cast and crew did an amazing job bringing the adventures of the Robinson family to modern audiences (the original show premiered in 1965), with not only great character stories, but with thrilling stories and special effects. And those who don’t have Netflix or want to experience it again can check it out now in the new Blu-Ray version, which also features behind-the-scenes features.

We had a chance this week to chat with Maxwell Jenkins and Mina Sundwall who play the two of the Robinson children – Will and Penny – to talk about their roles and some of their experiences on set.

Maxwell Jenkins in Lost in Space (2018)
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Remakes

Of course, I wanted to know what shows they would like to see remade today. Mina, being a sci-fi fan, is grateful that Star Trek and the Twilight Zone have already seen updates. But her answer was out of that genre entirely.
“I would do a new live-action version of the Addams Family Show, Charlie’s Angels,” she said. “Or the Nanny – it’s so good, I was obsessed with it and I know the entire theme song.”

Max would love to see the comic series The Young Avengers turned into a live action show, and a remake of the Goonies.

“And I would love if they did a live action of the Iron Giant, which is one of my favorite movies of all time,” he said.

Preparing for their roles

Iron Giant is also one of the movies Max watched to prepare for his role as Will Robinson. Besides the original series, the producers also had him watch The Black Stallion and ET.

“Will is so earnest, he always manages to see the good and the positive in any situation,” Max said.

Mina also watched the original series, and says that it is an honor to play such a historic role. But there are a few differences between her version of Penny and the original.

“She’s more sassy,” she said. “One of our major themes is female empowerment, and I think Penny plays her part in that.”

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World of make-believe

One of the most challenging things about working on a series set in space is that there is a lot of work in front of green screens for special effects. Max said he was able to bring his experience playing pretend with his siblings to help, along with advice from a co-star.

“I talked to Parker Posey (who plays Dr. Smith) about it after the first day, because I was completely overwhelmed because we were doing all green screens,” he said. “She told me from her experience in doing Superman that it helps if you play pretend. Just be Will Robinson.”

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During Season 1, Will’s most frequent scene partner is a giant robot, which was added into the scenes through CGI.

“Sometimes it was a guy in a suit, and he was such a gifted performer that he really made the robot seem like a real person,” he said.

Max added that there were some humorous moments doing the CGI filming for the show.

“There was this one scene where I was up in a tree and I’m having a conversation with the giant killer robot. But it was really a tennis ball on a stick,” he said. “There I was – having to spill my guts to a tennis ball.”

Maxwell Jenkins in Lost in Space (2018)
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Mina said that the green screen was probably the biggest learning curve in the entire show.

“You have to imagine you’re in a world you’ve never seen before because it doesn’t exist, because it hasn’t been made yet,” she said. “It’s an entirely different way of acting.”

But as time went on, she said that it became more fun.

“You have more freedom if you let yourself take it because you aren’t limited in your acting by your environment,” Mina explained.

A friendship formed

There will be some behind the scenes extras on the discs so fans can get a glimpse of some of the work that went into making the show. Bill Mumy, who played Will Robinson in the original Lost in Space series, paid a visit to the set, which is featured on the home release editions.

Max said the two actors became friends, and there are some videos of them together on the blu-ray extras.

“Bill was a good friend. And there may or may not be some stuff of Bill and I playing the mandolin together,” he said.

And the best part of their friendship? It helped Max meet another hero of his.

“Bill introduced me to Mark Hamill at the premiere of the show. My parents raised us on Star Wars, and the idea of the light side and the dark side – and here was someone that was a huge part of my childhood,” Max said. “It was amazing.”

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Season 2 is on its way

The actors were mum on when we can expect Season 2 of the show, only saying that filming finished in February.

And while they couldn’t give away any spoilers, the actors teased that fans have a lot to look forward to.

“It’s going to be bigger, with new storylines for these characters,” Max said.

Mina had similar sentiments.

“It’s going to be bigger, larger and a little scarier,” she said. “There will be more questions…and more answers.”

Lost in Space Season 1 is available to stream on Netflix.

Julie Maurer

Julie Maurer is a freelance writer and journalist who lives in the suburbs of Phoenix with her husband and three kids. She also published several romance novels on Amazon (under the pen name Julie Brookman), and is a member of the Romance Writers of America. She began her fangirling lifestyle very young, as a card-carrying member of the Official Star Trek Fan Club (yes, there were indeed cards to carry). Her fandoms throughout the years have included Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Star Wars, Veronica Mars, Supernatural, The Walking Dead, Arrow and Game of Thrones.