If you've been watching For All Mankind this third season, chances are that you immediately started thinking of two specific people when you first met Dev Ayesa, the billionaire space entrepreneur played by Edi Gathegi.
Dev leads Helios, the newest entrant in the space race, with a ton of money and no government red tape to deal with. For those of us watching in 2022, it was hard not to envision him as a reimagined 90s version of Elon Musk and Jeff Bezos, who both have a well documented obsession with space. But while neither Musk nor Bezos have managed even a moon landing just yet, Dev's team has achieved a full trip to Mars, right in step with NASA and Russia. And if you ask Gathegi, Dev has absolutely nothing to do with either Musk or Bezos. In fact, Gathegi tried his best to avoid any and all comparisons to our most famous real-life space-obsessed billionaires.
"As I was figuring out my entry point into this character, I decided that I wasn't going to use Elon Musk or Jeff Bezos as templates in any way, shape or form," Gathegi tells Metacritic. "And I didn't intentionally read any of the stuff that they were up to. I wanted to approach this character from an imagination standpoint. What would it be like to have this kind of money, having created this kind of tech and be interested in these kinds of things?"
If anyone is looking for a real-life comparison, a better one might be the late Steve Jobs, who was well known for his splashy presentations.
"When Dev is introducing Phoenix to the world, with millions of people watching, and he's going into detail of what Phoenix will accomplish, that's essentially Steve Jobs introducing a new Apple product," Gathegi says.
Of course, none of those men have ever failed quite as publicly as Dev and his team did over the past couple of episodes. His drilling plans were foiled by a landslide that trapped two of his star astronauts, Ed Baldwin (Joel Kinnaman) and Danny Stevens (Casey W. Johnson) — both of whom he stole from NASA — underground and near death, and killed multiple others. Helios' base was also destroyed along with the only shuttle that allows astronauts to get between Mars and the ships waiting in orbit. It all left Dev a broken man. He spent most of the latest episode, titled "The Sands of Ares," sitting, staring, and regretting, but he's not stupid. He knew there was no way to recover, so he essentially had to put his tail between his legs and do what he could to help NASA with the rescue mission. In the end, they were successful, but his pride and mission morale certainly hit an all-time low.
In a conversation with Metacritic, Gathegi reflects on that humbling experience for Dev and how he might move forward in the final two episodes of the season.
Even if you didn't use Elon or Jeff for inspiration, what has it been like for you to see what has happened with private space travel since you filmed the series?
I get what they're trying to do, but right now, it's almost stunty. Dev never did that. Dev never was like, "Look at our test run!" [He was never] going up there to have fun and make press headlines. Dev is actually trying to accomplish — and they might be too — something historic, and that's what he sets his sights on. He's not a showman, even though he does know how to use the media to his benefit. He's doing it for real.
We spent the first two seasons getting to know all of the astronauts and some of the cosmonauts and wanting to root for most of them. Helios is almost set up as an antagonist, in a way. What was that like for you to come into this show as an underdog like that?
I think that's the point of the entire show. Characters constantly make choices that are polarizing the audience, and I, for the purposes of being able to play the part, never look at him as a villain. He's just a man who believes very deeply in what he's trying to accomplish. And by hook or by crook, he's going to accomplish it. So, if that means stealing people away from a company, that's just part of business, that's part of the game. And what I love about Dev is that there's a very earnest, sweet, honorable side to him. So while you have a character that sort of, by job description, can be villainous just in terms of the sheer amount of power and wealth that he has that's not being divvied up to everyone else, he is also a human being who cares and has issues. It's that complexity that I think all of the characters have which makes it so interesting.
Where does Dev go from here after having to join forces with NASA?
There's definitely a moment where Dev is humbled, and I think he understands that he's been humbled. So, it's about figuring out a way forward. It's about problem solving, and minimizing the collateral damage. It's a human moment where he's humbled, and I think now he's gonna have to try to figure out a way to still maintain the company and maintain the goal.
We rarely see men like this get humbled in public like that, even if something has gone wrong. What was that like for you to take this guy down a bit like that, and admit that he made mistakes?
I wouldn't say that Elon or Jeff don't have these moments, but you're never gonna see them, right? It's really nice to have this character at this moment privately. Those moments are really important. They're just real. This guy, he's not a machine. He's not Teflon. He's just a really smart guy who is an extraordinarily hard worker, and he is suffering maybe the biggest loss he has ever suffered. And I know people like this. I know people who are just very, very high achieving, and then at the first setback, their whole world gets rocked. And then there are people who it doesn't affect. That's part of the success is being knocked down. In this moment, the loss is just too great, and Dev has just been rocked, and we're watching him slowly put the pieces back together.
The Season 2 finale was one of the most shocking things I've seen on TV, and I've been told they're at least trying to match it this season.
How good was the finale last season? It was like television at its peak. Funny story, but one of the things that made me want to join the show was Sarah Jones' performance [as Tracy Stevens]. I was like, "Oh, cool, I'll get to act with her." And then we're filming Episode 3 of Season 3, and the finale of Season 2 is happening around the same time, and I'm like, "Oh OK so this is not happening." [As for this season finale], I, to the best of my instinct, understand what the showrunners are doing, and it feels like the masterpiece is the series. Each season jumps, and when the show is done, you will have a box set of a masterpiece.
What do you think of the finale this year?
I don't want to oversell it, and in fact, I don't know if it will top [last season], but it's gonna be damn good. And by good, I mean like, all the things. Like not good.
For All Mankind
Get to know Edi Gathegi:
Gathegi has appeared on dozens of popular television shows since making his industry debut in 2006. Some of them are House (Metascore: 75), on which he played Dr. Jeffrey "Big Love" Cole; Justified (86), on which he played Jean Baptiste; and The Blacklist (74), on which he played Matias Solomon. However, he has almost as many film credits to his name, too, including Twilight (56) and its sequel New Moon (44), X-Men: First Class (65), and The Harder They Fall (68).