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TV Quickfire: Rufus Wright in 8 Days To The Moon And Back

Rufus Wright portrays Neil Armstrong in the new BBC one-off drama, 8 Days: To The Moon And Back. We chat to him about his role in the high-tech Apollo 11-inspired drama

Neil Armstrong (Rufus Wright, left) and Buzz Aldrin (Jack Tarlton) in 8 Days: To The Moon And Back

HOW DOES 8 DAYS: TO THE MOON AND BACK TELL THIS FAMOUS STORY?

There are a ton of shows celebrating the 50th anniversary of the Moon landing. I think what ours does, it feels like quite a 'BBC' approach – they're really concentrating on the kind of emotional truth, if that doesn't sound too pretentious.

The three actors in the film are lip-syncing to the original, recently declassified audio from Apollo 11, in order to basically reconstruct as closely as it possibly can what the conditions in the capsule would have been like, on the eight-day mission.

So, it's good for Moon landing nerds who wants to get every single frame they can of it, but also it's good for people who know nothing about it – it's a great introduction as to how it all happened.

It's a very cleverly written script – it's a 90-minute drama, essentially. There is no voiceover. It's kind of a docu-drama, but kind of a drama. And when I read the few pages which are the actual descent of the lunar module to the lunar surface, it's absolutely gripping.

HOW DID YOU FEEL ABOUT PLAYING NEIL ARMSTRONG?

The opportunity of playing Neil was absolutely a no-brainer. And I've never really thought that I resemble him, but with the right gear on, I thought: 'Yeah, I do look a bit like him'.

I've played a few real people – I played David Cameron on stage opposite Helen Mirren as the Queen. And then on Broadway, I played Cameron and Tony Blair.

I've always been interested in playing real people, because you can go down that YouTube rabbit hole and find as much visual and audio as you can. And I had to do that a huge amount with Neil, because I had to inhabit his speech patterns, and his 'umms' and his 'ahhs' and everything else and his voice.

USING THE REAL APOLLO 11 AUDIO MAKES THIS REALLY DIFFERENT...

Yeah, because we could have just made it into a script, but then the problem with actors is they're always putting their own spin on whatever text they've got, so if you give me the line 'One small step for man, one giant leap for mankind' I'd say it differently to Neil, even if it's only slightly differently. That's not what the film is.

WHAT WAS IT LIKE PUTTING ON THE SPACE SUIT?

I'm a bit of a vintage clothes junkie. I love smart suits and bespoke clothes, but putting the space suit on, I've never felt quite so cool as when I put this thing on. The three of us were strutting around in our costumes taking endless selfies.

It's a unique experience, you have to dive into it arms and head first and then stand up through the neck piece, and you can't get out of it on your own. It takes 10 people to get you in and out of it.

WOULD YOU MAKE A GOOD ASTRONAUT?

Definitely not. My wife gave me the Tim Peake book for Christmas and I've just finished reading it – everything to do with the training, I would loathe. And just the sheer level of fitness that astronauts have to have, not to mention the maths and science knowledge, which I do not have.

And the isolation from family and friends and relying on horrible, dehydrated food and very few comforts and all of that. I admire astronauts almost more than anyone else. But I think I would have absolutely no aptitude at all for it, unfortunately.

:: 8 Days: To The Moon And Back, Wednesday July 10, BBC Two

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