‘For All Mankind’ Stars Tease Karen’s Evolving Grief, The 9-Year Time Jump & More Season 2 Scoop

‘For All Mankind’ returns for season 2 on Feb. 18. HL spoke EXCLUSIVELY with Shantel VanSanten and Sarah Jones about how Karen’s processing her grief a decade later, Tracy and Gordo’s ‘orbit’ around each other, and more.

When For All Mankind comes back, the show is well into the 1980s. It’s the height of the Cold War, and the tensions between the United States and USSR have reached a boiling point. The lives of our favorite characters have changed drastically, but the past hasn’t been left behind for good. HollywoodLife talked EXCLUSIVELY with Shantel VanSanten and Sarah Jones about what’s going on with Karen and Tracy in 1983.

In the first season, Karen and Ed were devastated when their young son, Shane, was killed in a tragic accident. Karen grieved the loss on Earth, while Ed was in space. Years may have passed since Shane’s death, but grief is still very much a part of Karen and Ed’s lives.

“I think grief is constant when it comes to a tremendous loss in your life, whether it be a loved one, a spouse, a child,” Shantel told HollywoodLife. “My heart breaks for anybody who’s lost a child. For me, I lost somebody six years ago who was like my pillar. There’s this beautiful line in the season that says, ‘There’s BC and there’s AD. There’s life before with Shane, and there’s life after.’ That’s kind of always going to be the cornerstone of her life. So many things can happen. But yet, that will always be a definite line crack in her heart. As much as I was really worried about the 9-year time gap and the fact that we wouldn’t see her grieving process and that it might feel forgotten… no, it is so there. In fact, it’s really interesting to process 9 years later. I think to allow audiences that may have lost a loved one to be able to watch and see that it still happens, it comes out in unexpected ways, and grief never leaves you. It’s just kind of there. It is a shade of every other feeling that we experience in this human life.”

For much of the first season, Ed was up in space. He’s back on the ground (for now), which means Karen and Ed’s marriage will look very different in season 2. “In this season, to actually be around each other is so interesting because you would think they have to be closer,” Shantel continued. “I still think that there’s a little bit of this way of being that they’ve learned to kind of hide things from one another and not share and don’t want to bother each other with it. It’s a little bit of that independence that they had to have from before that they have to fight through, but they have to lean on each other and learn how to be partners again. And for them, fill in the gaps of what they missed from all the years of being apart. I think that they’re soulmates in that sense where this is their journey to experience in this life together for sure. Not in a romantic sense, but just in a very real way where they get it and they get each other. But I think there’s a lot of things that they haven’t talked about, and a lot of things they haven’t discovered that we’ll see throughout the season, and they’re really important to their marriage.”

When it comes to Tracy, she’s “still rocking it” nearly 10 years later, Sarah revealed. “She has established herself as a veteran at NASA and certainly a skilled pilot. She’s very much relevant in that arena.”

In 1983, things in Tracy’s personal life have changed a lot, especially when it comes to Gordo. “When we come back, they’re not together anymore,” Sarah said. “Despite the thing about Tracy and Gordo, they are kindred spirits. They sort of orbit each other whether they’re involved in each other’s lives or not. Season 1 I felt established that dynamic, it certainly follows through into season 2 as well.”

Sarah acknowledged that Tracy is “constantly seeking validation” both in her personal life and at work. “I think she has yet to
fully commit to, as after school special as this sounds, a healthy relationship to herself and what she gives herself, which she goes through in the second season,” Sarah told HollywoodLife.

In season 2, the stakes have never been higher as the U.S. and Soviets go head-to-head to control sites rich in resources on the moon. Sarah weighed in on how Tracy feels about the mounting Cold War pressures. “I think with her age and experience and wisdom, it’s not as concrete as there’s a bad guy, and there’s a good guy,” Sarah said. “Or the Russians are this, the Americans are that. I think that she understands the gray areas and all of that while she still has a sense of duty and patriotism. She also acknowledges the consequences that can come if decisions that are made under those ideals aren’t truly just meticulously examined and considered. I think she lives in the gray when it comes to that kind of stuff. I don’t think she’s gung-ho one way or another of peace or war. It isn’t about that for her.” The 10-episode second season will debut globally with the first episode on Feb. 19, followed by one new episode weekly on Apple TV+.

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