In the Disney+ historical drama The Right Stuff, Jake McDorman portrays Alan Shepard, one of seven men who made up NASA’s original astronaut program Mercury Seven in the series adaptation of Tom Wolfe’s best-selling, nonfiction book about the 1960s space race.
Now streaming, the series is told through the eyes of the aspiring astronauts, who faced challenges both publicly and privately. In Shepard’s case, that was dealing with being thrust into the spotlight and called an American hero, despite not having actually achieved anything yet.
In an exclusive clip from the latest episode of the series, Shepard’s honor is tested as he faces the disappointment of his father, a WWII vet. “What exactly is it that you’ve done? You haven’t done anything,” Shepard’s father says during dinner with his son and his family.
Part of the struggle for Shepard, McDorman tells ET, is that he was part of a generation that wanted to fight, wanted to follow in the footsteps of their fathers. “And then all of a sudden [they’re] slapped on a plastic lunchbox,” he continues. “And was just completely incongruent to any lifestyle that they've ever known.”
The scene is also an example of where the series gets to expand beyond the 1983 film, which was adapted from the same book. The eight-part series has more time to get “into the minutia of who they were and how the sudden fame affected their families and ripped them apart in so many ways behind the scenes,” McDorman says.
For Shepard, in particular, that meant trying to maintain a semblance of privacy. “Of them all, Alan was the most tight-lipped and private. He wanted to keep it all about the flying and who was the best pilot,” the actor explains.
In addition to McDorman’s portrayal of Shepard, Patrick J. Adams stars as John Glenn, with Colin O’Donoghue portraying Gordon Cooper, Aaron Staton as Wally Schirra, James Lafferty as Scott Carpenter, Micah Stock as Deke Slayton and Michael Trotter as Guss Grissom.
The Right Stuff is now streaming on Disney+, with new episodes premiering every Friday.