Actor Patrick Fischler Talks Big Dreams and Doing The Impossible in Disney+’s ‘The Right Stuff’

Actor Patrick Fischler shared how he took on the role of NASA director Robert Gilruth, and how the show’s taken on a greater meaning during the Covid-19 pandemic. 

From the second actor Patrick Fischler stepped onto the set of The Right Stuff, he was transported back sixty years in time to 1960s America.

“I just got a little bit of chills remembering so many moments,” Fischler told AfterBuzz TV, recalling his first moment on set in Cape Canaveral, FL last July.

Fischler spent the latter end of 2019 filming Disney+’s latest original series, The Right Stuff, which tells the story of the first human spaceflight program and the original astronauts, the Mercury Seven. Fischler portrays Robert “Bob” Gilruth, the man who spearheaded the Mercury Project and served as the first director of NASA’s Manned Spacecraft Center.

Becoming Bob

Gilruth, who Fischler describes as “calm, caring and efficient” has the weight of the world on his shoulders as he leads the mission to get the first man into space and beat the Soviet Union in the Space Race. Despite being known as “a major driving force behind NASA’s successes in its early years,” including the first moon landing in 1969, Fischler says researching Gilruth wasn’t an easy task.

“You have to really dig deep because he was a very, very private guy. He did not like to talk about himself,” Fischler said. “He’s the only one of the astronauts or the NASA guys that did not write a book.”

When preparing for the role, Fischler leaned on the biographies of Gilruth’s colleagues, as well as reading a lengthy hundred-page interview he did.

“He was a really, really lovely man from everything I could find about him and what other people said about him,” Fischler said, adding that all of his castmates did extensive research on their characters. “We really wanted to honor these people and do the best we could with what was there.”

Behind-the-scenes of history

While he may not have had many first-person accounts from Gilruth about his time with NASA, Fischler got the opportunity of a lifetime to trace his real-life steps: touring and filming at the actual Space Center in Cape Canaveral.

“We shot in the actual blockhouse where the launch happened. It’s incredible,” he said. “It hasn’t been touched and you can’t really tour it, but they let us come and see it, and then they let us shoot there. That was jaw-dropping.”

Going to set was also a reunion of sorts for Fischler. He had previously worked with castmate Aaron Staton on Mad Men, Patrick J. Adams on Suits and Colin O’Donoghue on Once Upon a Time; he also goes way back with Eric Ladin, who plays opposite him on the show as flight director Chris Kraft.

“When we both got to do this together, we were like, ‘We’re back!’” Fischler said. “It was really, really lovely to get to be with those guys again.”

Connecting to the characters

The first scene Fischler shot comes in episode one, where Gilruth and Kraft (played by Ladin) give a big speech to all of the potential astronauts in consideration for the Mercury Seven team. The two NASA heads’ relationship plays an integral part of the story, and Fischler credits his friendship with Ladin for telling that story authentically.

“Our friendship really comes across,” Fischler said. “I think they both really respected each other and I respect Eric so much, and I think they also really liked each other. It was fun to kind of do that with Eric and talk about what we thought of these guys’ relationship 60 years ago.”

Where Fischler says he really connected to Gilruth, though, is his paternal nature.

“We connected much more than I initially thought we would,” Fischler said. “He was like a father figure to these men, and I have an 11-year-old daughter. And so I say in my life, I take care of my friends and my family. I like to take care of people and I feel the same about him.”

“Bob was so worried every time they launched,” he continued. “Every single time was just so tense and stressful for him because if anything went wrong, he took it on. I do the same.”

Fischler also connects with the larger themes of the show, from balancing family with a big career, to the idea of American exceptionalism and having dreams that are larger than life. He says that despite the fact the Mercury Project took place in the sixties, its themes are just as relevant in today’s world.

“We want to believe that anything’s possible. Even with Covid-19, there will be a vaccine at some point. Covid will be a thing that we just deal with,” he said. “And the idea that these men and women set their mind on something and they achieved it always, always, always makes me feel like anything is possible.”

Fischler says that in the midst of the Covid-19 pandemic, he believes the story of the Mercury Seven can give people hope today that we can overcome daunting challenges.

“Our show couldn’t come at a better time because we all just want to believe that the impossible is possible,” he said. “We all want to believe that if you set your mind to it, you can do it. And that is how I feel about Covid and making this all at some point, become a memory.”

In a potential second season, Fischler hopes to continue to lean more into the human element of the story and who Gilruth was as a person.

“There’s an endless amount of story to tell,” he said.

The first three episodes of The Right Stuff are now available to stream on Disney+, with new episodes releasing every Friday. Keep following AfterBuzz TV for continued coverage and more interviews with the cast throughout the season!

About the Author

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Meagan Lynn

Meagan Lynn is a host and writer at AfterBuzz TV, actress, and social media manager. Outside of AfterBuzz, you can find her hosting and producing Ten Minute Talks. She loves singing, listening to inspirational podcasts and consuming copious amounts of movies and television shows.