Ridley Scott’s space adventure The Martian may have highlighted all of the difficulties of being stranded on Mars and trying to figure out a way to escape, but one thing it rather glossed over was the psychological aspect of being trapped in confined living quarters with a small group of people for months on end – as is the reality of life as an astronaut. In Syfy’s new thriller 400 Days, written and directed by Matt Osterman, the title of the film refers to an experiment to test the stress of travelling through the new frontier upon a group of potential space travellers.
The lucky team selected for this experiment are Theo (Brandon Routh), Emily (Caity Lotz), Bug (Ben Feldman) and Dvorak (Dane Cook). Hopeful candidates for a private spaceflight company with its sights set on deep space travel, the group are sent to live for 400 days in an underground facility that is designed to simulate the experience of an extended space mission – complete with a few “curveballs” to test their resilience and coping skills.
Lotz, of course, is well-established within The CW’s comic book universe as Black Canary on Arrow, and is set to take a central role in upcoming spinoff Legends of Tomorrow. Screen Rant got a chance to speak to Lotz ahead of 400 Days‘ release to find out more about the experience of shooting a low-budget sci-fi, and to ask how she, her fellow Arrow actor Brandon Routh, and The Flash star Tom Cavanagh all wound up working on the same movie.
What was the particular appeal of this film for you? Why did you decide this was something you wanted to be involved in?
A few things. When I read it I just thought it was such a weird little movie. And I love sci-fi. Sci-fi is one of my favorite genres. The movie has me asking a lot of questions and thinking a lot. I also liked the idea of working with an ensemble cast. I didn’t get to do much of that before. You know, like a good group of Ben Feldman, and Dane Cook, and Brandon, of course, who now I’m working with every day.
Can you tell me about the set for the ship? Was it all connected up or do you have all the rooms kind of separated out?
It was all pretty much connected. That is like the cinematic magic, how they made that ship look great on camera, because… I mean, you know, on low budget films you’ve got to make things work in very… It was a little bit rickety and definitely… When I saw it on camera I was like, “How did they make that look so good?” So, yeah. But it was all connected and built there. A lot of IKEA. [Laughs]
There seems to be kind of a renewed interest right now in space movies. There’s Gravity, and Interstellar, The Martian… Are you hopeful that this is going to accelerate the space programs in real life?
Well, I think, you know, it’s the new frontier. Back in the day when Spain or whoever would send explorers out to find new lands, that’s what we’re doing today. I think it’s super exciting. I think humans are naturally curious. There’s just something about space that I feel like ties into our origins as humans and where we come from. I feel like a bit of a spiritual aspect of it all and how that ties in with science. I think that makes it really interesting and exciting for everyone.
Do you think there’s something frightening about it as well, though, the idea of drifting out in space?
Well, it’s definitely scary. If you are going into space there’s like an almost 30% chance that something catastrophic would happen and you’d die. [Laughs] That’s really scary. And it’s a great unknown. We really don’t know much about it. I think it would be terrifying. It’s just the vastness of it, vast blackness and endless space and endless questions, which I think is what makes it so beautiful.
I know that Emily gives up a lot for this mission. What do you think for her is driving her to do this mission in particular?
Emily is a very ambitious person. And it’s her dream. Her dream is to go into space. I think she wants to be an explorer, she wants to discover this new world. I think she’s at a point where she’s not going to let anything stand in her way of doing what she feels like is her life’s mission. And she’s willing to sacrifice things like her relationships for that.
It’s interesting how each of the astronauts gets given a little gift when they first get on the ship. For example, Emily gets origami. If you were stuck on a ship for 400 days, what’s the one thing you would bring to help pass the time?
Oh, gosh. It definitely wouldn’t be origami for me. I think Emily is very organized, which is not me in real life at all. What would I bring to pass the time? I mean besides… a movie would be what I would want. I would want my endless library with movies… Or just music. Movies or music. Then I could just like stretch and dance and feel good. That would be a good way to take up time.
I have to sneak in at least one question about Legends of Tomorrow, because we are all very excited about it. I know it’s about time travel, so is there a favorite time period that you visit in the show?
I think I love the ‘70s. The ‘70s was really fun. But, like, I’d love to also…We haven’t gone to the ‘20s. I feel like going to the Roaring Twenties would be really fun. But out of the ones we’ve gone to, the ‘70s.
What kind of thing can we expect to see from White Canary in the series? What kind of mental state is she in at this point?
She’s still dealing with the bloodlust. It’s kind of a side effect of coming back from the Lazarus Pit. She’s always kind of struggling with that light side and dark side. Is she a hero? Is she a villain? There’s a lot of that. And then, also, a little bit more levity sometimes. White Canary gets to have a little bit more fun.
The first thing that struck me looking at the cast list was the fact that there were three people from the DC CW universe there. There’s yourself, and Brandon Routh, and Tom Cavanagh. Was that an accident or did you make some kind of pact to appear in this movie together?
No, actually. That was before Brandon had done Arrow. I remember he was there and he was like, “Hey, how do you like working on that show? I’m thinking about maybe coming on.” I was like, “Yeah! Do it!” Tom with The Flash, I remember being there and he was like, “Oh, yeah. I booked this pilot. It’s called The Flash. We’ll see. I’m not going to move out there. I don’t know if it’s going to go.” [Laughs] Of course now it’s a huge show. And then there’s Ben Feldman – him and I were both on Mad Men at the same season before, too. So that was fun.
Would you like to be stuck on a ship with those guys for 400 days? Do you think that would be a fun time or do you think it would go badly wrong?
I wouldn’t want to be stuck on a ship with anyone for 400 days! [Laughs] But if I had to, yeah, it wouldn’t be so bad. Brandon is a sweetheart. And Ben and Dane are two of the funniest people I’ve ever met.
400 Days is available now on VOD and limited theatrical release. Check out the trailer below.