As FOX’s revived Cosmos continues showing us the wonders of our world all over again, BFTV recently had the opportunity to sit down with the woman who’s at the helm of this epic sequel to perhaps the best science program of all time. Ann Druyan co-wrote the original Cosmos along with her husband Carl Sagan and Steven Soter, and she now serves as creator, executive producer and co-writer on the new incarnation. Ann spoke with us on Friday about what it took to bring Cosmos back in 2014, and the moment when she knew it was going to work.
“It was just a fantastic experience,” she said of crafting a second chapter to Cosmos almost twenty-five years after the first miniseries originally aired. “I started out around seven years ago with the dream of doing this, and if I had known how much it would exceed my wildest dreams…It was three years of going to various networks and everybody wanted it, but nobody would give me the creative control and the means to do it on the scale that we did the original.
“Writing with Carl and Steve for the original show was just a dazzling experience, thinking with them and finding the stories that we would tell. I can’t even describe how enriching and thrilling it was,” she told us. “And so when we started out with this one, I collaborated with Steve on the original drafts of the episodes. He and I spent eleven months locked up in my house in upstate New York, working day and night.
“And then I had the great good fortune to meet Seth MacFarlane. And when he and [executive producers] Brannon Braga and Jason Clark became involved, the whole thing took off,” Ann continued. “And what I found was I was at the helm. And had the freedom and the responsibility to shape this new series. And it was humbling, really, to be in that situation, because I know how many people loved the original series and my biggest fear was that our series wouldn’t measure up. I’m a very happy woman right now.”
As we’re about to see the tenth of thirteen Cosmos episodes, the second series is being made available on multiple channels including FOX and National Geographic, and being seen in more than 175 countries around the world. Ann spoke with us about what’s ahead in the remaining installments.
“We finish with an extraordinary sequence of episodes,” she explained. “The one that’s on [Sunday] night, ‘The Lost Worlds of Planet Earth,’ is something that I hope people will see and take to heart. Episode eleven is called ‘The Immortals,’ and it’s about the question of immortality in the cosmos. Episode twelve, ‘The World Set Free,’ is about the scientific reality of global warming but done in a way that I think is quite different from all the documentaries on the subject.
“I directed the final episode [‘Unafraid of the Dark’] and I put everything I’ve got in that one,” she enthused. “I’m very excited about the last episode in particular, and I hope that people will see them and will also see the Blu-Ray, which has two hours of additional programming – as well as a big surprise at the end once you’ve seen everything.”
Here’s a clip from tonight’s episode of Cosmos.
While Cosmos has evolved over 25 years, its aim remains the same: to educate and inspire, something made easier now that curious viewers can turn to the Internet to learn more about anything they see in the miniseries. “That’s the great thing. That’s the difference between how it was when I was writing the original series with Carl and Steve,” Ann said. “Science and technology have given us the entire body of human knowledge at our fingertips. There’s a universe of information [for] a deeper dive into any one of these subjects. There’s never been a time in the history of our species where this kind of information was so widely accessible.”
This sequel has been met with solid viewership and even stronger critical acclaim; it’s an undeniable success. Yet when did Ann know that this ambitious project was really going to work? “The first time that I really felt a sense of relief of this great burden to try to do something that would be worthy of the original series was when we had a little screening at our offices of the first complete episode one,” she told us. “And I really began to weep because we were in sight of accomplishing our goal. That was it for me.
“Seeing episode one and then going around the world showing it to people and seeing their recations – it made me feel like we were on the right track,” she said, also praising the efforts of her entire crew, describing them as “a team of people who were every bit as deicated to fulfilling the dream of a new Cosmos as I was. I was just surrounded by people that were every bit as committed. Ever since that first episode, I knew it was all going to come together and I couldn’t be more pleased with the outcome.”
Cosmos: A Spacetime Odyssey continues on FOX tonight at 9 PM ET/PT. The miniseries will be available on Blu-Ray and DVD on June 10; you can pre-order your copy by clicking here.