Space Force Season 2: VR With John Malkovich, Trying Not To Mention Jim And Pam, And More [Interview]

"Space Force" season 2 has already blasted off on Netflix, continuing the adventures of General Mark R. Naird (Steve Carell) and his crew. The moon mission was a success, but there's a new administration in charge. Budgets are cut, there are tensions with the Chinese space force, Erin (Diana Silvers) is deciding on colleges ... things are rough. Angela (Tawny Newsome) is back from the moon and trying to handle the fame that comes from not only her mission, but saying, "It's good to be Black on the moon," instead of "back on the moon." It's messing up her relationship with Chan (Jimmy O. Yang) and making her throw her laundry out the window. I mean, who hasn't been there? The only one who's adjusting well is Tony (Ben Schwartz), who, despite what happened in season 1, is extremely huggable this season.

I spoke to Newsome, Silvers, Yang, and Schwartz about the new season, doing VR with John Malkovich, the episode that Yang wrote, and drumming in your apartment at 2 A.M.

All seven episodes of "Space Force" season 2 are now streaming on Netflix. Before we jump into the interview, here's the synopsis of the season:

Season 2 of Space Force picks up with General Naird and his underdog team having to prove their worth to a new administration while dealing with interpersonal challenges. Will the group come together or fall apart under the pressure...? Space Force is only human after all.

'We're trying to prove ourselves'

The last season dropped back in May 2020, so you might need a refresher on what has happened with the characters. Newsome gave us a good recap, though she said, laughing, that it was stressful to do and that she was "sweating buckets." She said, "So season 1 ended with, I went to the moon. Maggie [Lisa Kudrow] broke out of jail, General Naird [was] breaking some rules, putting his career on the line to save those of us on the moon. Then in between, I think what we don't see is how we got those astronauts home. So in the first episode, we're playing catch up. We're learning how we got all of us home and we're really setting the table for this new administration that's come in, that's trying to decide whether or not Space Force is worth it, worth the cost, worth doing it all, so we're trying to prove ourselves very much so in this next season."

One of the funniest episodes this season (and my personal favorite) was written by Jimmy O. Yang, who plays Chan. In the third episode of season 2, General Naird and the gang are meeting with the Chinese space administration and one of the astronauts that Angela came back with. Not only is Chan jealous, but let's just say relations are strained. The episode involves a drunk General Naird, a sculpture of questionable taste, and some pretty hefty egos. Yang said he got to be in the writers' room for the full 24 weeks. 

"I could only have done that because it was a planned pandemic, so just a little silver lining to it," he laughed. "I was able to take this basically masterclass with Greg Daniels and Steve Carell in the writers' room every day ... It's a dream come true to write for this cast and to see everyone have a great time. And of course, writing on the show really informed me as an actor, too. I was very familiar with everyone's story and arc, so it's a tremendous experience. I would love to keep doing it."

Someone please let him keep doing it, okay?

Finding parental figures in the oddest places

If you recall, Tony's nickname in the first season was "F*** Tony," so it was a surprise how lovable he ended up being in season 2. He's part of the team for real now, and his arc has been really fun to watch. I want to hug Tony now, and trust me, you'll feel the same. Schwartz said that part of this was having Naird as a positive father figure in his life, something Tony hasn't had before. 

"I think also the fun thing you get to see is I get to have more scenes with Tawny, more scenes with Diana, more scenes with Jimmy and our bromance," he said. "And so with all that, you get to shade your character in so many different ways through friend angles. Tawny and I go on this real estate adventure together, and Jimmy and I try to help each other out with relationships. So it's like you really get to see more layers to a character by pairing them with other people in situations. So that was the super fun part of all this, to get to play with all my friends."

Meanwhile, Erin is going through some rough stuff, like deciding about college. She needs a mentor, and she finds one in Dr. Mallory (John Malkovich). "We see Erin sort of find a parental, motherly figure in Dr. Mallory," Silvers told us. "And I think having that support allows her to explore her options and explore her identity, because I feel like only when you really feel safe and loved and supported can you really leave the nest and find your way in the world. Because you feel comfortable, especially when you're younger — and in Erin's case, she is still a child. Being able to do those scenes, especially that one scene preparing for the college interview with Mark on one side and Mallory on another, with Steve and John was so much fun, and they just go for it."

Don't wash your clothes, just throw them out a window

Once you to go the moon, you're famous forever. If you say the wrong thing as you land on the moon, you're infamous forever. Angela is having a really rough time adjusting to the fame. Newsome compares it to if Beyoncé was put, " ... in a terrifying situation and then brought her back and everyone was like, 'Beyoncé, you're just so cool.' And everybody would stress her out, I think. Although I guess that's saying Angela was Beyoncé before she went, so that analogy doesn't work. It's more like if a regular person went to the moon and then they came back Beyoncé, I think that's the comedy I'm pitching here. Yeah, absolutely not, that is not good for anyone's mental health, and I truly hope Angela gets some therapy, maybe in season 3."

She probably needs some, judging by her behavior. Newsome added, "She's drumming in an apartment at 2 A.M. That is the behavior of a sociopath. So I would love to see her get some real help."

He just wants to watch you eat pizza

As you can see at the end of the trailer, Patton Oswalt plays Lancaster, an astronaut on his way to Mars who is nearly forgotten about by everyone else. Silvers gets a great scene with him as Erin is left alone in the command center, but what's even more fun about it is what Silvers said about how it was filmed. 

"The funny thing about that scene is when we were filming my side of it in Vancouver, Patton was yet to be confirmed as Lancaster," she explained. "So it was just me talking to a reader on set, pretending I was talking to Lancaster. We filmed his side of it, I want to say a month or so after we returned from Vancouver, maybe two months, I don't really remember. Time is a very strange vortex. That was on a soundstage in Los Angeles. And so I think on his side, it was me trying to remember stuff that I had sort of improvised, if I had improvised on much smaller things, like what kind of food he wanted me to get from the vending machine."

Lancaster just wants to watch Erin eat the snacks he can't have in space. She said, "The weird thing is he's so talented. It just completed the scene really nicely. Maybe it's a testament to my own imagination and imagining someone being on that screen or whatever, or the reader being so great on the day as well. Also the writing being great. The writing was already so great that it was really easy to just tap in and do the scene and come to the conclusion at the end of that scene."

Malkovich in virtual reality

I won't spoil how this comes about, but there is a scene with Yang and Malkovich in which their characters are using VR headsets. While Chan is fine, Dr. Mallory isn't. It's one of the funniest things in the series thus far, and Yang was the only one to miss it as it was filmed. "That was so funny, but you know how I kept a straight face? Because I had VR goggles on and I couldn't see how funny he was being. After they call cut, the crew were dying and I'm like, "Good thing I didn't actually watch it because I would've totally broke." But I was pretending in my own world, in my VR and the contrast of that after I saw the scene, it was very funny. I mean John Malkovich, man, he's such a great actor, but he's not afraid to be silly and be funny, you know? And that's why he's so amazing."

All the actors said that Malkovich and Carell are lovely to work with and that they're all like family. Schwartz talked about his very first scene in season 1 with Malkovich's Dr. Mallory, which was in the back of a helicopter that Naird is flying. "I had to tell him to shut the f*** up," he laughed. "And it was my first time saying anything to John Malkovich. I barely had the chance to meet him before. And so I did it a couple times and it was so fun, then afterwards I'm like, "Hey man, I'm so excited you're here. This is going to be so fun. I'm so happy you're doing this project." And he was like [in a perfect Malkovich imitation], "Great, nice to meet you, Ben." It was everything I wanted in a first Malkovich greeting."

Trying not to mention "The Office" on set

Newsome joked about meeting Steve Carell and how intimidated she was by him. "How do I not geek about 'The Office' around him?" she said. She agreed with the rest of the cast members about how lovely he is to work with, but I wanted to know how hard it is not to talk about "The Office." Both Yang and Schwartz said it happens. Newsome said, "We're all actively trying not to talk about it. I bet there's a little a script running in our head at all times of being like, 'Don't say Jim and Pam, don't say this.'"

Yang said it was mentioned during a viewing of some of the episodes in creator Greg Daniel's office. "Greg was like, that is the table that Pam sits behind. So me and Diana went over there and was gawking over it. And then Steve was like, 'Hey, you guys stand behind. Let me take a picture.' So Steve took a picture of us two behind it. It was the coolest, sweetest thing." Silver added, "It was a big 'dad' moment."

It's hard to date a celebrity

I'm rooting for Chan and Angela as a couple, but things aren't going well when she gets back from the moon. The reality of what she went through isn't exactly helping Angela open up. Newsome said, "Things are screwy, for sure. She's been to the moon, she's done this wild thing. She comes back, she's not doing well. And she kind of doesn't know what she wants out of her life, her career, her relationship, if she even wants a relationship. So what starts as something she thinks is going to be uncomplicated, quickly — because he's a neurotic, nervous scientist, I won't place all the blame on Chan, but it certainly doesn't help. And the fact that she's kind of this soldier, who's not used to communicating her wants and needs — it becomes hard for them to see eye to eye and figure out what to ask of the other person, if they even should be asking anything of each other." She joked that it was a classic meet cute. 

Yang added, "Exactly. But even when it's that high status in that sense, and also so high stakes, it's just two regular people trying to maintain or grow a relationship. Angela sees from her point of view, and Chan sees it from his point of view of, 'I don't get it. Everything was going great. What's going on?' So he's spinning out. And I think through the journey, they have to learn to kind of see it from the other person's point of view and kind of be honest and talk to each other, which even if it is an astronaut and a crazy rocket scientist, it's still very relatable. That's what I like about that romance."

Newsome laughed about how Chan freaks out that she's not responding to the emoticons he's been texting her. "'Why is she not responding to my texts?' Well, her bones have lost density. So maybe she's got other things on her mind." 

"Space Force" season 2 is streaming now on Netflix.