The Midnight Sky is this year’s annual prestige space movie, and therefore something I typically would not watch. It’s just that space movies are so stressful: There’s always a terrifying sense of aloneness, a space-induced death, and the lingering feeling that life on Earth is totally insignificant in the blankness of the universe.
And this film, which is directed by and stars George Clooney, checks all of those boxes. Sporting a Zeus-like beard, Clooney plays a cancer-stricken scientist trying to prevent a group of astronauts from coming back to Earth. Thankfully, part of this group includes Tiffany Boone, who plays Maya, a young Black astronaut who is too hip to know who Neil Diamond is.
Beyond that, Maya doesn’t get much more of a backstory, and she’s killed off in one of the most harrowing death scenes I’ve seen in any film (let alone a space movie). Despite of having such a transient role, Boone is tremendous, delivering the most memorable scene in a movie full of them, and standing out in a cast full of A-listers. The Cut talked to her about space movies, dying onscreen, and working with George Clooney:
What drew you to this role (especially since you die about halfway through!). Do you just love a space movie?
I think it’s supercool to see a Black female astronaut. There have only been three Black women in history that have gone to space, and I feel like representation is really important — the more we continue to see it in the world, the more little Black girls can think that is an option for them, and hopefully we’ll have more Black astronauts going to space.
What was it like working with George as a director and castmate?
George is everything that I feel like we all think he is. You’re like “George Clooney just seems so charismatic and funny and smart,” and he’s all of those things: generous and warm, and efficient on set.
Not too intense? I can see him going that way too.
No, he’s not too intense. There were more technical moments — like during the spacewalk stuff — where somebody could get hurt, and so he can be very serious then … But he’s not super intense. More jovial and fun.
I loved his wild beard in the movie.
He hated it.
Actually, let’s talk about that spacewalk scene. Your character gets hit by a chunk of space junk and bleeds out in zero gravity — it’s been described as a “floating blood ‘ballet’ sequence.” I’m shuddering just thinking about it. How did you feel when you found out your character was going to die in such a traumatic way?
I have died onscreen before. In The Following I was tortured to death. But I was very concerned about this death scene. It was originally written that she takes her last breath onscreen, which I was freaking out about. And also, it’s in zero gravity, and your limbs are still kind of floating. I was like, How am I going to do that?
So how did you prepare for it?
It was hard to prepare for because I don’t really want to watch other people acting like they’re dying, because it’s like pretending to do something someone else was pretending to do. So oddly, I YouTubed videos of people dying, which it’s really like a dark place to go. But George wanted to focus on the pain of it and the anxiety of it all, so while I was nervous about it, it ended up being, you know, as fun as a dying scene can be.
Would you go to space given the option?
I don’t really want to. I mean, I hope we get the world together enough that I don’t have to. I’d love for us to save the planet and make it habitable.
The Midnight Sky is now streaming on Netflix.