Project Blue Book takes HISTORY out of this world
Wed. January 2, 2019 by Jerry Nunn
This project has been one of my favorites to do research for, not only for UFOs but for women in ‘50s.
blue book cast
Project Blue Book Flies Into Space
Project Blue Book is the new 10 episode drama series based on true, top secret investigations with UFOs. Cable subscribers for HISTORY will have the chance to view theories blended with actual events on the creative new show debuting Jan. 8 at 9 p.m. central time.
Executive producers Robert Zemeckis, David O’Leary and Sean Jablonski are bringing this story taking place from 1952 to 1969 to life. A college professor named Dr. Allen Hynek is recruited by the U.S. Air Force to handle an operation called Project Blue Book. He investigates UFO sightings around the country where each episode will draw from actual case files.
Michael Malarkey plays Hynek’s partner Michael Quinn, who is an Air Force captain. He is known for the CW series The Vampire Diaries and as Foster in the series The Oath. He played Elvis in the original London cast of Million Dollar Quartet.
Laura Mennell plays Hynek’s wife Mimi. She is known for the series Loudermilk and the film Watchmen.
Captain Hugh Valentine is played by Michael Harney. He is known for television series Orange Is the New Black, Deadwood, Weeds, and True Detective as well as movies such as Widows and A Star Is Born.
Sean Jablonski is the executive producer and writer of Project Blue Book. He brings experience from writing on HBO’s Oz and producing Showtime’s The Hoop Life. He executive produced FX’s Nip/Tuck and the first season of USA’s Suits.
Paul Hynek is the son of Dr. Allen Hynek, who the show is based on. He works in technology and entertainment.
Several of the stars and creatives came to Chicago to talk about the new series.
JN: (Jerry Nunn) How does everyone feel about UFOs? Do you believe in them?
SJ: (Sean Jablonski) I have always been a believer in the phenomenon. Things in the sky ever since I was a kid. In terms of aliens and how it relates beyond that the jury is still out a little bit.
JN: Did everyone have that feeling?
MM: (Michael Malarkey) I have had that feeling that there is something definitely there. The question is, “What is it? Who are they?” From sheer science alone we can deduct that something is out there.
LM: (Laura Mennell) I started off as being open to the possibility, especially to this day. There is intelligent life out there other than ourselves. It sounds pretty probable. Now with our show exploring real life cases I don’t know how people don’t believe it, because that is a pretty big case.
MH: (Michael Harney) I remember in college I was doing some heavy research in the bar. I would talk about his father’s work and that UFOs exist. They have for a long time. I have always been a believer pretty much. I never thought much of it until I went down the rabbit hole on this.
PH: (Paul Hynek) What can I tell you? It’s my family’s business! There’s enough credible evidence out there with witnesses, radar corroboration and multiple sightings that there is something happening. Even the Air Force has let out evidence in a clumsy bumbling way showing there is something there. There is definitely something going on.
MM: Now we have all this information. If you do go down that rabbit hole the facts speak for themselves.
JN: Was it hard to convince studio execs to make this?
SJ: Arturo Interian was our main contact at HISTORY. He is a huge UFO nerd and buff. You can go tit for tat with cases and he can tell you details you have never heard of. They were onboard from the beginning. Truthfully we are telling real life stories to where these characters are going. Their journey from skeptic to believer and seeing it from all angles was a natural fit.
JN: How was Robert Zemeckis involved?
SJ: David O’Leary who was the creator of the script gave it very early on to Robert Zemeckis. With Back to the Future and Contact, he has a passion and a connection to those kinds of stories. Immediately he saw the potential for it and loved the characters. He put his stamp on it and we were off to the races. When you have someone that sets the bar and brings a top shelf mentality to it then it moves things forward. He brought his camera department to it, which is why it looks so great.
JN: Talk about your characters.
MM: I play Michael Quinn, who is on the ground leading the project. He’s a highly decorated bombadeer with many medals. He’s a hot shot pilot. He’s an Air Force man through and through. He was a kid when he was there. He’s given his life to the cause and his country. He doesn’t ask questions and is honored to be doing this. He’s got a mind to move ahead and be promoted. He is keeping his mouth shut and being a wholesome American boy doing his job.
Enter Dr. Allen Hynek who comes to recruit him. That is in the first episode. They start to see certain things together after they interview witnesses. The powers above are cracking down and making sure he does his thing. How much is too much? That’s the fascinating journey.
He’s a complicated, deeply damaged character who is very good at his job.
JN: There’s a lot more of this character to see?
MM: Yes. He keeps his cards close to his chest at first. He doesn’t know who to trust, especially a civilian coming in. Who is this guy? What is he going to do?
LM: I play Mimi Hynek, who is the supportive wife of Allen Hynek, although she is much more than that. She loves her family and will do anything for them. There are a few tweaks to her storylines in terms of where she goes that have not come out yet. She’s not an exact carbon copy. I love her journey. We start off the story with her being a little more sheltered and feeling stagnant in her role of domesticity. The ’50s were a tricky time. I love how Project Blue Book comes into her world it creates a catalyst of a lot of change. She really finds herself and her inner strength.
JN: Your character says a lot about how women were treated at that time, right?
LM: Yes. This project has been one of my favorites to do research for, not only for UFOs but for women in ‘50s. There are all these education videos teaching women how to be fantastic wives.
SJ: They should do that for men now!
LM: They are very sweet, but from a modern day perspective, a little screwed up! It was fun playing with a little bit of that as well. The audience will love that as well with the journey and transition that she makes. It’s been a trip!
MH: I play Hugh Valentine. He holds a position in the government and military. He has a hefty embracement of the intelligence community. He’s responsible for repressing and dispersing information. The information that is released he decides how it is released. He makes decisions on how to defend the country.
I think it’s a great role in terms of exposing the complexity of what that person has to do and the conflict they face on a daily basis just in terms of getting through the day. He has to serve and protect ultimately.
Culturally during that time we had threats from other countries adding to the alien threat. We really wanted to suppress that because having the Cold War threat was enough. To prevent mass hysteria was a hefty thing for my character to be in charge of so he carries the weight of the world on his shoulders. We work as a team to support the country and not give out too much information where damage could be done.
MM: That is the key thing to mention. The Air Force are not the bad guys here. It was a smoke screen but the greater good was on my end, more so than the individual. It was in order to protect the nation. It went crazy skewed along the way.
SJ: I am from a creative stand point on what the Air Force is there for and it’s to serve and protect. We make no judgments on that. They have a tough job doing what they have to do.
MH: We were on a learning curve. In my case dealing with the government going into hearings and talking with national security advisors consistently.
PH: The Air Force was brand new at that point. The Air Force came into existence months after Roswell. It was part of the army then it split off not long after the Roswell incident. It is not a very old institution.
JN: People are going to learn a lot from this show. Was that the goal?
SJ: I don’t know if it was a goal but I think everything we are doing is based on historical fact and real history, every case and character that is involved in it. You are entertained and you mind is opened. You can go online and look it up. The case on episode one was called the Gorman dogfight. It is based on a real life case. You can look up the facts. The plane was damaged and radioactive. They found a weather balloon.
LM: We are dealing with the beginnings of the studying of UFOs. Alan Hynek is the one that termed that expression UFO as an unidentified flying object.
SJ: Alan came up with the close encounters of the first, second and third kind.
JN: With this being on HISTORY then people may take it more seriously.
SJ: It adds a little brand stamp of accuracy. Kudos for HISTORY for taking it on, but it is also a scripted drama. It is grounded in truth but we go to another place with the characters. As you saw on the first episode, this is not Law & Order. It is about following these characters, especially with Hynek. It is about being skeptic to believer throughout the course of the series.
It is the search for identity. I look at that from a character point of view. Each one of these characters is covering up something about themselves that is going to emerge throughout the course of the season.
JN: Do we know about a second season yet?
MM: We want six seasons and a movie!
SJ: It holds its own with some of the great cable shows out there right now in spec and talent that is involved. It’s a proper cable show.
JN: It covers a big time period.
PH: In the first season it is about a year, but the Blue Book was in the ‘70s.
JN: So it could keep on going. I love you in Orange Is the New Black, Michael. I hung out with the some of the cast recently.
MH: I just finished an episode and I go back and play once in a while.
LM: And he’s in A Star Is Born, no biggie…
JN: Of course. Maybe some more singing for you, Michael?
MM: I have done all the demos for my next record. I just got off a big European tour after Blue Book finished. I went back to Puerto Rico to do season two of a show called The Oath. The time in between I focus on family and my music.
LM: I have a great recurring in A Man in the High Castle. Loudermilk I am back in the second season, not as much as the first season, but I have change focus a bit. I love that show. Those shows are in Vancouver, which is my hometown. With Blue Book there too, if I want to stay in Vancouver I can be very picky!
JN: The show is filmed in Vancouver and not where it happened?
SJ: We are all over the country. We are in the desert so in New Mexico, Ohio and all over the place.