Danielle Poole is one of the best characters currently on TV, and Krys Marshall brings her to life beautifully, with so much passion and a keen insight into the character she embodies.
For All Mankind Season 4 Episode 5 was a doozy. As the tensions on Mars rise, Danielle and her longtime friend Ed Baldwin are increasingly at odds, and by the end of “Goldilocks,” they had reached a tipping point that threatens everything they have been to each other through the decades.
You can read a full recap of the episode in the link above, and below, you can get a better understanding of the weight Danielle carries with her and how Marshall carries it on her capable shoulders.
Beware! Spoilers for the episode follow. Proceed at your own risk!
It’s not very often that an actor gets to play a character with such depth throughout so many different phases of their life. How would you summarize Danielle’s journey so far and what it’s been like for you bringing it to life through all of these different, scattered phases of her life?
Scattered is a great word. I look at myself when I was in my early 20s, and I hardly recognized me. So the idea of me being able to see myself 10 years from now and 10 years after that it’s sort of unimaginable. I can speak about it first as an actor and then talk about it as a person.
As a character, it has been just a blast. Being able to see the evolution of Danielle has been a surprise to me as much as it’s been a surprise to our audience. We, as the cast, have no idea what the writers have in store for us each season. So it really is a grab bag.
And unlike many shows where you follow the progression of a person through a more linear timeline, we pick up each season, and they’re in a completely different place.
At the end of season one, we see that Danielle is newly married and new in her career, and her husband is in peril because of his experience in Vietnam.
She’s had this traumatic injury while she’s on Jamestown, and we see her leaving Jamestown as a sort of fallen hero, having broken her arm to protect her colleague, Gordo. When we start season two, we would imagine that we’d see some version of that Danielle.
So it was a total shock to me to discover that not only did we not see that version of Danielle, she’s completely changed. She’s been down and out. She’s been separated from the program. She is widowed. Her husband has committed suicide.
So it was just an enormous task to jump back into Danielle with her in such a different place. The same is true for season three and definitely true for season four.
As a performer, it has been really wild to bring some of the mannerisms and the colloquialisms, the ways in which she speaks, her sense of humor. Those things never change.
She may have more gray in her hair. She may have put on a little weight. She’s got more lines in her face and more wisdom in her eyes, but the essence of who she is always there.
So I think it’s important for me to honor the Danielle we meet as a 25-year-old kid who is brand-new to this program, the only Black girl, simply trying to find her way, as well as bringing in the 60-year-old woman who is very worldly, very wise, experienced some real heartache, has loved and has lost and has loved again.
So it is both an enormous task, but also a real honor to be able to thread the needle of those different variations of this character over… I guess it’s been over 30 years.
It’s crazy. I mean, it’s such an amazing evolution to watch, but I can’t imagine what an amazing evolution it must be to play.
And like you said, the way you find her mannerisms, and you keep the generalities of her and the things that make her, but then you get to completely reinvent her every season.
Yeah. Yeah, and another lovely thing is that not only does Danielle evolve over 30 years, but we watch her friendships and her relationships evolve. I think anybody who has a sibling or family knows that the relationships that you have that are the longest sometimes are the most sort of tempestuous.
Like the saying goes, with familiarity breeds contempt, and I think some of the ugliest parts of me are seen by my sister, by my mother, and by my husband. So we’re starting to see those cracks in the relationship between Danielle and Ed.
I think because they know each other so well and there is such a comfort, there is also a cavalier energy that you can bring to a longstanding relationship and sometimes a bit of recklessness.
And so, as we see the season progress, we see Danielle is a bit more formal and more measured when she’s dealing with her newer professional relationships. But then, in many ways, because of the comfort with Ed and the years that they have together, she really starts to take the gloves off.
And speaking of Danielle and Ed, we find out really what happened maybe to start this fracture between them. I mean, I love that we have one quick “Hi, Bob,” but from there, this season-
Yeah! This season, they’ve struggled. And now we find out why, and we see the torturous thing that they went through on Mars and what happened with Danny.
How do they recover from this? Can they? Where have they been in these last 10 years?
And Carissa, remind me. You’ve seen up to episode seven?
I have, yes.
Okay. I don’t want to spoil the end of the season for you. I openly wept when I read Episode 5. I mean, I was inconsolable. It’s difficult for me to really divorce myself from the story that we’re telling as a person, I think, because we, as a cast, have also gone through so much.
When we started this process, it was the summer of 2018, and I don’t need to tell you how much has happened to our world in the last five-plus years. So, during the pandemic, it was a really difficult time because we didn’t know what was going on. We didn’t know how things would progress.
Our Covid pod, our pandemic pod, was the cast of For All Mankind. So we spent our weekdays swimming in Shantel’s pool, and we spent our weekends hanging out in Sarah Jones’s backyard.
And we just spent a ton of time together. And I think it really was our, for me at least, it was my saving grace, having this teeny little community that I could feel close to.
And going on long walks with Jodi, keeping our 10-foot distance and just walking and talking across the same street. I feel very much like that connection that we have with each other bled into the work that we did together.
So in reading Episode 5, there’s so much mystery around what happened to our marooned gang on Mars in the, I think it’s about 18 months that they were left there.
What happens to a group of people who are running out of fuel, running out of food, running out of resources, not certain that they can actually make it until someone can come and rescue them? So your mind can start to wander as to what they experienced, but for the first time, we actually get to see it.
In reading that Danielle has decided to sacrifice her already dwindled portion of food in half every single day so that she can provide food for Danny Stevens to keep him alive is a level of sacrifice I, Krys Marshall, don’t know if I have in me.
Watching her physically begin to deteriorate, I spoke to our producers and said, “I want to start to lose the weight. I want to really be in this head space.” And they said, “I hope that’s safe. I don’t know if you can do it.” And I was like, “I’m going to give it a whirl.”
So, on the days that we did that, I did the best I could to stave off eating so that I could really feel what it’s like to really be hungry. And your brain starts to kind of fritz and be a bit foggy when you’re feeling that hungry. It was just a beautiful version of Danielle that I’d not seen before.
I think that we had already seen her be very valiant.
We’ve seen her be headstrong, but we’ve not seen her sacrifice in that way, truly put her life in the hands of sheer luck until we saw that episode. So, as it progresses and we return back to the present day, we see the fractures of that relationship between Danielle and Ed.
We see that Danny Stevens has committed suicide at the end of the episode. So, what’s it like for two people to discover a dead body? What’s it like for those two people to drag that body back to the Rover and drive however many hours back to the base with a body in the back?
It will mess you up. So I’m so grateful for Joel, who really went there with me. It was tough. The days are really long, but I would do it again in a heartbeat if I got the chance.
I really like how you compared what happened to them in those 18 months with Covid. And I think it is almost fortunate that you had that experience of being marooned in our lives to bring that to the screen.
You would’ve never imagined that that’s something that would happen and would even give you even a fraction of that playing out like that in real life, but there you go.
Do you think Ed is equating Svetlana with what happened with Danny? It seems like he went to bat for her, and I can’t help but think he’s kind of conflating the two. But now we know how much she sacrificed to keep Danny alive. Is there a connection there or not?
Yeah. I think one of the beautiful things that our writers do is that they leave our story open to interpretation.
So, for you, Carissa, you’re seeing Ed’s attachment to Svetlana and connecting it to the relationship with Danny. That he wasn’t able to save Danny, so perhaps he can save Svetlana. I can totally see a world in which that is the connection.
For me, as I read it, it really rang true to me that Ed has always been this alpha male who was at the top of the class, the person who was admired, and the strongest man in the room.
Karen was the dutiful housewife in season one who adored him, who loved him, who cooked for him, who essentially worshiped him. And that relationship begins to disintegrate in Season 2.
In Season 3, we see him again sort of really fighting hard to keep his, in many ways, machismo, classically male vantage point of, “I’m going to be the first. I’m going to be the leader. I’m going to be a champion.” And now we see him in season four, and he is crumbling. I mean, he is like an old home in disrepair.
Basically, the thought of who he is has begun to deteriorate. He’s gotten older. He’s gotten grayer. He’s lost his hair. He no longer has the sort of virility and handsomeness that he once had in previous seasons.
I think we see that in a lot of men in our culture when they have to ask themselves, “If I’m not the leader of the pack, if I’m not the alpha male, who am I?”
And with the relationship with Svetlana, I think he feels, again, for the first time in a long time, that little spark of what it feels like to be adored, what it feels like to be loved, what it feels like to be admired.
I think there are parts of that relationship that mirror the relationship he had with Karen, maybe in ways that mirror the relationship he has with his daughter Kelly. But in so many ways, he’s disappointed Kelly because he refuses to come home.
So you could see him kind of avoiding her emails. He’s avoiding this email with Kelly because he knows he’s going to go to that conversation and come away feeling bad.
And Svetlana is a little ray of hope. It feels good to be in her presence. She listens when he speaks. She’s excited to hear him, excited to receive his advice and his encouragement and guidance. So I think that little whisper of who he used to be cannot be taken away.
And it’s no longer just a professional relationship; it’s personal. I’m also really grateful that our writers didn’t make it some tawdry sexual relationship. I think that’s boring. The connection that they have is deeper and bigger than sex.
So when Danielle is threatening and eventually sends her home, it is like his last lifeline. It’s the one thing he’s held onto, and she’s taking it from him.
Well, it’s not the one thing because she also takes away his flight and his XO duties.
Yeah, there you go.
What an amazing final scene! How did it feel to let loose on him like that and get three decades of his ego-driven decisions out as Danielle? What was it like filming that?
It was delicious. It was delicious. I mean, I think we’ve all been there before, where you have someone in your life that you just think to yourself when you’re in the shower, and you’re sudsing your hair, and you’re getting pissed off, and you’re like, “If he says one more thing, I’m going to cuss him out.”
We’ve all been there, and you just can’t. You can’t. So you bite your tongue until you’ve got blood in your mouth. It is infuriating. And I think for Danielle, she has seen him make the same mistakes time and time again.
It’s like Groundhog Day, and she constantly is reminding him and warning him, “You can’t let your heart get in the way of doing what’s right.” And he continues to pat her on the head and condescend her and patronize her and ignore her, and she’s had enough.
I have been waiting for the last five years just to get the chance to do that. And when I did, it was such sweet relief. And not often in life do you have that opportunity to. And one thing I really love about the way the show is written is that we really have to earn that from Danielle.
She doesn’t have the luxury of going ballistic on people. I think oftentimes, women are so labeled as emotional and dramatic. So in a professional setting, you have to do everything you can to not play into that stereotype of who we are.
As a Black woman, we’re labeled as angry and irrational, all those things. So Danielle doesn’t get the luxury of expressing herself the way that Ed has, who has lost his temper a number of times. So, for her to finally have that moment was just delicious and well-earned.
I love how articulate you are about everything that she goes through, and this has just been a wonderful interview. Thank you so much. I have two more questions for you. One is that this puts them in a really difficult spot going forward.
Tensions are rising on Mars, and it’s just going to make life even more difficult for Danielle and everybody on board in the upstairs-downstairs type scenario.
How would you describe what she’s experienced before compared to what she’s getting ready to experience as a commander and in this new reality of the relationship with Ed, where she finally got to say what’s on her mind?
Danielle’s back is against the wall, for sure. She is beginning to lose the run of the base. She’s beginning to lose respect from Ed. Her number-one person, her go-to, her best friend on base, her oldest friend, has begun to turn against her. Ed, when he is angry, can be very vengeful.
And we see that vengeance begin to consume him as the season goes on. And in many ways, she is really on an island, on an island on her own.
And conversely, she has the relationship with her husband, Corey, and her stepson back at home, her family who loves her, who needs her. Isaiah, her stepson, has found love and has gotten married.
And she’s just pulled truly between two worlds, a world of life back on Earth, where she is this well-loved, cared-for mother and wife, to her life on Happy Valley, where it’s very cold, very austere, and she’s met with a cold shoulder.
We see at the end of Episode 4 that many people are in agreement with Danielle’s choice to send Svetlana back, but a lot of people aren’t. So she’s getting the experience of walking into rooms and having the room fall hush.
She’s getting the experience of having to eat alone and not finding many friends and not many soft places to land. So her core relationship on the Mars base with Ed continues to disintegrate to a place where we really do wonder if it can ever be repaired.
When Danielle finally made it back to Mars, the first thing that came to my mind was that everybody needs a Danielle and that she could put the pieces back together and soothe everybody back into the place where they need to be.
Of course, we’re going to find out that that may not work this time around, but time will tell. But I have to ask, do you think Danielle is the real hero of this story?
[laughs] Hell yeah! Come on!
I do, too.
Obviously. Hell yeah! She is the backbone. I think that many times in life, there is a man who is speaking louder and standing taller and receiving the accolades and the acknowledgment for good deeds that have been put into place by a woman.
I think that at times, women are often — and Danielle suffers this too — women are often so humble that their humility stamps out their achievements. Danielle is such a team player, and she’s such an everyman in many ways that her good deeds oftentimes don’t get recognized.
So I think everybody needs a Danielle in their life. Her stick-to-itiveness is remarkable.
Her sacrifice for the people that she loves and for her colleagues is truly honorable. I know that she’s a make-believe character, but I look up to Danielle.
I find myself sort of emulating her when I’m in sticky situations or moments when I have to stand up for myself or speak up for myself. It’s not so easy to do and to do with grace. And I think she does that, and she does it in spades, and she does it effortlessly.
Wow! What a great job that you’re actually learning to be a better person through your portrayal of such a good person.
Yeah, it’s a bit strange to watch yourself play a character that you admire and feel at times like I want to be like her, even though it’s me playing it. And I have just to attribute that to our writers. I, Krys, am a real hothead, and I struggle with this. I love hard, but I also fight hard.
It’s tough for me to keep my cards close to my vest. If I don’t like something, it’s really on my face. If I feel strongly about something, I’m going to really say it pretty quickly. And I could use a teaspoon of candor and some of Danielle’s grace. So I just think she’s pretty cool.
Oh, I think everybody thinks she’s pretty cool. And I asked that question about being a hero because I think that it’s like a hands-down, across the board, everybody believes that. What a great character to play! And your insight into her has been incredible. Thank you so much.
Thank you so much. You’ve got just a group of really great questions there that were really giving me pause, and it’s making me rueful. It’s making me rueful for playing Danielle. I miss her. It’s been like ten months since we wrapped, so getting to see the episodes come out is really great.
But also getting to speak to journalists who not only watch the show but really love the show, and can speak intelligently about the story and about the characters, and who are excited to talk to us about the work we do and not ask sort of punchless questions of this and that and that, but really asking thoughtful, in-depth questions, so it’s been great talking to you, Carissa. Thank you so much.
Oh, absolutely. My pleasure. I can’t wait for people to see this episode, and I want to see their reactions to it. It’s going to be amazing.
Yeah, me too. Me too.
New episodes of For All Mankind drop weekly on Apple TV+.
Carissa Pavlica is the managing editor and a staff writer and critic for TV Fanatic. She’s a member of the Critic’s Choice Association, enjoys mentoring writers, conversing with cats, and passionately discussing the nuances of television and film with anyone who will listen. Follow her on X and email her here at TV Fanatic.