The story of the first group of NASA astronauts is the basis for "The Right Stuff," which began as a 1979 book by Tom Wolfe, then as a 1983 movie and now as a TV series from National Geographic that's streaming on Disney+.
"I loved the book," said Patrick J. Adams, who stars as John Glenn. "My father, who's a journalist, he gave me the book at a young age and it was really formative to me, not just because it was about the space program and these remarkable guys, but also just because Tom Wolfe is such a brilliant writer and his insight and his sense of humor and his ability to get at the heart of the matter was hugely influential. So the book was this mammoth thing in my past."
He hadn't thought much about it, though, until he heard there was a new series in the works. "I had no idea what part I could possibly play, but I just knew this was the first time since I finished my work on 'Suits' that I got out of my chair and was like, 'How can I be a part of this?'"
Playing one of the most famous U.S. astronauts is a high point of Adams' career. When asked to share an experience on the other end of the spectrum, he replied: "I guess I have to talk about the time I was fired."
My worst moment ...
"It's still so hard to think about. I was pretty young. It was right before 'Suits' and I was still sort of scraping by and trying to figure out where my next paycheck was going to come from. I was probably 26 or 27 at the time and I was auditioning for a lot of pilots.
"When you're a young actor, you're kind of just going out for everything — you're taking whatever you can get — but I wasn't auditioning for a ton of sitcoms. It wasn't because I wasn't interested, but it wasn't really in my wheelhouse. It wasn't where I shined. But an audition came in for something called 'Friends with Benefits' — I didn't really get it, it didn't excite me — but it was the end of pilot season and my reps were saying, 'You gotta go for this, you gotta do these things, we want to get you a job.' And I was like, 'Yeah, OK, let's get a job.'
"So I went to the audition and it went really well! The show was about a guy and a girl who had been best friends forever and they're also sleeping together and it's all good — but of course it's not all good and they're trying to understand why it's getting weird. And I was the guy.
"I keep going back in to audition and the director kept fighting for me — because you could feel that the network and the producers were like, 'Eh, we don't know' — and he kept going, 'No, you're my guy.' Secretly in my head I'm going, 'I don't think I'm the guy.' From the very beginning I didn't see it. But he liked what I was doing and I got caught up in that and it was like, OK, I guess I'm doing it great.
"Anyway, I get the part.