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Halle Berry dishes on her new CBS series 'Extant'

Halle Berry as Molly Woods in "Extant."
Halle Berry as Molly Woods in "Extant."
CBS/Sonja Flemming, with permission

When Steven Spielberg wants you to be a part of one of his sci-fi TV shows, it is hard to say no. Even for a film star like Halle Berry, who is currently starring in the new CBS sci-fi series, "Extant."

"When Steven Spielberg came along, a name like that you don't really sneeze at, and I know the quality of his work and I know that he loves this genre. These supernatural stories are right in his wheelhouse," Berry said, when asked why she decided to do a TV series.

"Extant" is a 13-episode, serialized drama, which is a mystery thriller about a female astronaut trying to reconnect with her family after returning from a year in outer space. Her mystifying experiences while on the space station lead to events that will ultimately change the course of human history.

On this week's episode, after Molly (Berry) collapses and experiences a vision of her encounter on the Seraphim, Sam (Camryn Manheim) agrees to give her an ultrasound so she can learn more about her mysterious pregnancy. Also, Molly tracks down Kryger (Brad Beyer) and he reveals the disturbing details of his own solo mission that the International Space Exploration Agency (ISEA) is keeping secret. had the opportunity to speak to Berry, who talked about how she relates to her character because she is a complicated women, how she was used to flying from having played Storm in the "X-Men" movies, her interest in sci-fi and more.

Halle, what was it about this show that drew you? And also as a mother, did you relate to the character especially?

There were so many elements that drew me to it but probably the first one was what you hit on, being a mother. This was a character, when I first read it, that was so relatable to me. I felt like it was just in my DNA. I had a knowing-ness about this character. I had a fundamental understanding.

While I'm not an astronaut or scientist, far, far from it, I still had an understanding about the human quality of this woman and her struggle to not only find time for herself, which is what she loves to do, our Molly goes into space for a year, but also to be a good mother. That's the struggle I have struggled with since my kids were born. So that drew me to her. She's also strong. She's complicated. I'm complicated. But she has a will to survive, to win. She's good at her heart. And I love playing strong, complicated characters who refuse to be victimized and that's what our Molly is.

And for me, I feel, like the best writing now is on television. That's been a real reality that I think all actors have been talking about for years now. But there was always a stigma with going to television. If you do movies, you can't do television and I think that line is becoming very gray. What's important now with the way the industry is evolving is that we go where the good material is.

In the scenes we see on the space station in the zero gravity, how close to the movie "Gravity" could you get doing those scenes?

I think, as you can see from our trailer, we got pretty doggone close to doing something that is on par with any film you'll ever see. I like to say "Gravity" was our benchmark and I think we tried very hard to hit that mark the best that we could. I think our space looks as good. I think our spaceship looks as good. There was no expense spared. CBS was very invested in making this show look really good. So we have a lot of support from the network to, hopefully, keep turning out show after show that will be of feature film quality.

What was the process for you in performing those space scenes?

Well, luckily, because I had been Storm, I was used to flying. So I've had a lot of wire work and a lot of experience that way. So putting on that harness and those wires just seemed like something that I was used to doing. And I did actually take a real zero G flight so I have really experienced being weightless and understanding what that is. So that sense memory certainly helps me be able to -- when I have those wires on -- to assimilate being in a weightless environment.

Can you talk a bit more about your character's journey in the first season? Is she pregnant the whole time? Do you change belly's all the time and at what point after your own pregnancy was it annoying to have to be pregnant again?

I, first of all, love being pregnant. I'm the happiest when I have been pregnant in my life, truly. So to be pregnant again on a show right after giving birth didn't scare me at all. I know how to be pregnant and I thought I'm going to ace that part of this for sure.

Can you talk a little about your love for sci-fi, when it all started? And how would you answer, for example, what makes us human, the one thing that makes us human?

Well, I don't think there's one thing that makes us human and I think that's what this series is all about. We are discovering that, as we are portraying these characters and telling this story, what does make us human? And one of the questions that the series poses is: Can this robot become human? Can we teach it to become human? Can we teach it to love? Can we give it free will? Will it act as a human being acts over time? And we, as humans, can we love that that is not real, that is sort of fabricated? These are all the questions that we are asking. So if you ask me what it is to be human, I don't have one answer for that. And what intrigued me about this series is to try to discover the answer to that.

Halle, you said earlier that you tried flying in zero gravity and preparing for the role. What other things did you do to prepare for these roles? Did you talk to other scientists, astronauts or just anything?

We have some consultants on our show. I spent time talking to one of the consultants. She was a female astronaut who sort of gave me some information about the psychology of going on a space mission, what that entails, the training that they have to go through. We took a trip to NASA with Allen Coulter, the director of the pilot. We sort of picked their brains there.

Doing the zero G gravity flight helped me an awful lot just to put that experience in my body. I've watched tons of videos of space travel and space flight. And it's been about putting some of that scientific information in our heads, but at the core, at the end of the day this is really a human story about people.

"Extant" airs Wednesday nights at 9 p.m. ET/PT on CBS.

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