Why Patrick J. Adams Almost Said No to Playing John Glenn in 'The Right Stuff'
By Philiana Ng
If space is the name of your game, then Disney+'s The Right Stuffwas made for you. The series, executive produced by Leonardo DiCaprio and adapted from Tom Wolfe's nonfiction book of the same name, revisits the earliest days of the space race.
The cast, which includes Patrick J. Adams, Jake McDorman and James Lafferty, and the creative team assembled for a virtual Comic-Con@Home panel on Saturday moderated by Mae Jemison, the first Black female astronaut to go to space. During the hour-long discussion, the panelists revealed how the show came to be and the research that went into bringing their real-life characters to life onscreen.
The Right Stuff follows the lives of ambitious, young astronauts, who became instant celebrities as they risked their lives to be among the first to leave the planet. At the center of the story are Major John Glenn (Adams) and Lieutenant Commander Alan Shepard (McDorman). Members of the Mercury Seven, the elite group of astronauts included Lieutenant Gordon Cooper (Colin O’Donoghue), Wally Schirra (Aaron Staton), Scott Carpenter (Lafferty), Deke Slayton (Micah Stock) and Gus Grissom (Michael Trotter).
Adams spoke about transitioning from Suits to The Right Stuff, admitting that he "got extremely nervous and freaked out" about the prospect of playing John Glenn.
"I thought, 'There's no way I could do this. What have I gotten myself into?' And then I decided to get to work and took advantage of the enormous amount of information there is about John Glenn," he said. "I never had the opportunity to play someone where there's so much written and there's so much at your disposal. I started rereading [The Right Stuff] and going over the book he wrote [in 2000, John Glenn: A Memoir] and a couple of books that he had written about him."
"But then I found out about the Ohio State [University] archives that had been maintained and that he played a big role in over the years," he continued, "and I managed to spend 12 hours in there going through boxes of his stuff."
It was during that 12-hour visit that Adams struck gold, poring over boxes and boxes of letters Glenn wrote to his wife, Annie (portrayed in the series by Nora Zehetner). "It wasn't just the information that was contained in the letters, it was the tone of voice, it was the way they spoke to each other, it was the way they referred to each other, it was the things he was thinking about," Adams said. "So it was little things like that that I kept putting into the bank."
"There was one thing in particular that I found -- it was a large black-and-white print of John Glenn and Scott Carpenter embracing each other with Glenn's head tucked tight. And it said it was the moment Scott Carpenter had gotten back from space," he shared. "When I saw that photo, it spoke specifically to a larger sense of what these guys were doing, being the first people in the United States to have this insane experience."
While there is no official premiere date yet, McDorman teed up a new clip from The Right Stuff during the panel.
In the newly released scene, his character, Shephard, receives an important letter about a gathering of the nation's top test pilots at NASA in the mail a day late and as a result, barges in disrupting the gathering. There, he and dozens other hopefuls learn that the space program is inching forward with identifying the lucky seven who will go to space -- and he's in the running.