Space Cadet : Exclusive Interview with Director Liz W. Garcia

Space Cadet : Exclusive Interview with Director Liz W. Garcia

Photo by Eric Liebowitz/Eric Liebowitz/Prime

Space Cadet : Tiffany “Rex” Simpson (Emma Roberts) has always dreamed of going to space, but life isn’t going quite as planned. Determined to turn things around, she aims high and with the embellishing touch of her supportive best friend Nadine (Poppy Liu), her “doctored” application lands her in NASA’s ultra-competitive astronaut training program. In over her head, Rex relies on her quick wits, moxie and determination to get to the top of her class. NASA program directors Pam (Gabrielle Union) and Logan (Tom Hopper) certainly take notice, but can this Florida girl get through training and into the cosmos before she blows her cover?

Director : Liz W. Garcia

Producer : Jon Berg, Greg Silverman

Screenwriter : Liz W. Garcia

Distributor : Amazon MGM Studios

Production Co : Stampede Ventures

Rating : PG-13

Genre : Comedy

Original Language : English

Release Date (Streaming) : Jul 4, 2024

Runtime : 1h 50m

Space Cadet

Photo by Eric Liebowitz/Eric Liebowitz/Prime


Exclusive Interview with Director Liz W. Garcia


Q: You’ve been working on TV series like “Cold Case” — how did you get started? 

Liz W. Garcia: I have lots of passions. That’s why my IMDB looks the way it does, it’s all crime TV, romance. I knew that I wanted to direct a movie that was a big comedy. I was looking for ideas. Then I came across this news article about NASA and how this is the first astronaut candidate class that was 50% women.

I was curious about it as a person and started to read about it. Then I realized, “Oh, this is the world that I’ve been looking for to make a big comedy.” I think everything I do is a passion project. Certainly, because I came up with the idea, wrote it and directed it, it definitely falls in that category.

Q: Since you read this news piece, are schools looking for more astronaut candidates outside of the box, compared to those in the past who have doctorate degrees or are Ivy leaguers. Are they looking in a different direction for astronaut candidates now? 

Liz W. Garcia: It helps if you have life experience. It’s true that for the first time recently, they had someone whose scientific specialty was with animals. They weren’t physicists. They weren’t what you think of as a typical astronaut. The focus is shifting a bit because we’re thinking about Mars.

Q: This takes place in NASA’s Johnson Space Center, which is located in Houston, Texas. Did you get the permission to shoot there, or did you have to recreate the whole set? 

Liz W. Garcia: We didn’t get permission to shoot there. But it’s very convincing to actually have the order for the training process. We were very lucky because with a combination of sets that we built or augmented with VFX, we were able to basically recreate or make a place that looked like Johnson Space Center, even though we couldn’t go there because that’s where the Air and Space Museum is.

The famous space camp also has replicas. They have actual shuttles and rockets that have been to space and then replicas of the space station, which is where they train the kids  and adults who come to the camp. That was an amazing resource to be able to go down there and shoot there.

Space Cadet

Photo by Eric Liebowitz/Eric Liebowitz/Prime


Q: Talk about working with Emma Roberts. Not only was she the star of this film, but she’s also its executive producer. 

Liz W. Garcia: It was so wonderful to work with her. We had been trying to find something to do together for a number of years.

Q: Now she becomes a mom and everything. 

Liz W. Garcia: Over these years, we’ve been checking in with each other, trying to find something, and she’s just such a good fit for Rex. What I’ve found with Emma — you find it sometimes when you’re lucky with these actors — is that her expertise is not just in acting. It’s in storytelling. She’s been in so many TV shows and movies that she really has a great sense of what a movie can look and feel like. She was a great resource to me as to how it can be shot and staged. She would have ideas and I really respect her. We had a great time. I was very lucky.

Q: Talk about creating a wonderful cast of astronaut candidates in this film. There’s the straight A type candidate, Dr. Stacy, and a lot of allergies and phobias for Violet. You had the handsome guy instructor Logan and all that.

Liz W. Garcia: This is why it’s so much fun to make an ensemble comedy. If you get to create all these very specific characters and then find the perfect actor to be that character. Many of these characters were born out of the research that I did into the type of people who were becoming astronauts.

Then I was choosing the comedic version of that. With Captain Jack, who’s the military guy, right? I loved the idea that he looked like Mr. Alpha Male, but he didn’t really want to be in charge. He really wanted the girls to be in charge.

That was just fun. And the idea, like with Miriam’s character, who’s not used to being around other people at all. She spent a decade studying arctic mammals in isolation. You just get to leave reality a bit with these ensemble characters and then go through more of a conventional casting process where people put themselves on tape and It’s a great time.

Q: What kind of training and recruiting process did they have at the school that you found rigorous and that we should know about? 

Liz W. Garcia: When they re-enter the atmosphere after they’ve left the space station, the astronauts drop into the ocean or into the middle of Siberia in these capsules. One of the things they have to do is training in the middle of the night, so they go up in a helicopter over the  pitch black ocean fully dressed.

They have to jump out with their heavy boots into the ocean and tread water until they’re picked up. It’s very extreme. They go camping in the Canadian Rockies with very few resources below freezing temperature. NASA finds all these incredibly creative ways to make sure that these candidates don’t not lose their minds in extreme situations.

Space Cadet

Photo by Eric Liebowitz/Eric Liebowitz/Prime

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