Nick Searcy, a Cullowhee native who attended the UNC School of the Arts and UNC-Chapel Hill, has a long resume acting in film and television, but he said he is probably best known for one specific role: Deke Slayton, director of flight operations for NASA’s Apollo program in HBO’s 1998 “From the Earth to the Moon.”
“I hear from more people about (the miniseries) than probably anything else I have ever done,” he said.
The 12-part miniseries followed the American space race from the 1960s to the early 1970s, with a cast including Bryan Cranston, Cary Elwes, Clint Howard, Tom Hanks, Mark Harmon, Chris Isaak, Adam Baldwin, Gary Cole, Dan Lauria, Sally Field and many more. Searcy appears in all but one episode.
The miniseries has just been digitally remastered by HBO with enhanced special effects — based on reference models provided by NASA — and audio in advance of the 50th anniversary of the first moon landing this Saturday.
“I am so glad that HBO is re-releasing the series with advanced graphics,” Searcy said. “We shot the show right before the digital age kicked in. And I can’t help but think this is why they haven’t been featuring it until now.”
The miniseries will be available starting Monday on HBO streaming services such as HBO GO, HBO NOW and HBO On Demand, and on Tuesday it will be released on Blu-ray for the first time, with a new featurette that looks at the work put into updating and replacing previous CGI effects for the new remastered version. A marathon of the entire miniseries will air on HBO2 Saturday starting at 8:45 a.m.
“It was a monumental achievement, and a great experience,” Searcy said of filming the miniseries. “ We shot scenes in the original blockhouse that was the command center. ... I will never forget being there, and walking on the same ground that these American pioneers trod.
“America went to the moon with computers at the time that weren’t much better than calculators strung together. It was a feat of engineering and ingenuity that is hard to imagine now.”
Though rarely shown in recent years, the miniseries was acclaimed in its time and won three Emmy awards, including outstanding miniseries, and a Golden Globe. “I showed my children the episode that was screened at the White House, and told them the story of how I met Bill Clinton and Hillary,” Searcy said. “They found it fascinating and wanted to watch the rest of the series.”
He described playing Deke Slayton as “a great honor.” He never got to speak with Slayton himself, who died five years before the miniseries aired. “I actually got to speak to his widow, Bobbie, in preparing for the role, and she gave me an autographed patch for the Apollo-Soyuz mission that Deke finally flew on,” he said. “And I had a great wig.”
In addition to “From the Earth to the Moon,” a slew of documentaries are airing this week (and some have already aired) in honor of Saturday’s anniversary. Here are some of the forthcoming programs:
- “8 Days: To the Moon and Back,” at 8 p.m. Wednesday on UNC-TV, is a 90-minute documentary with archival footage, re-enactments, and interviews with Neil Armstrong, Buzz Aldrin and Michael Collins.
- “NASA’s Giant Leaps: Past and Future,” at 1 p.m. on NASA TV and the Discovery Science Channel, as well as NASA’s live streaming feed at www.nasa.gov/nasalive, will look at the history and future of the space program, with segments from various locations including the National Mall in Washington, Johnson Space Center, the Apollo 11 command module, and Armstrong’s hometown in Ohio.
- “Apollo: The Forgotten Films,” at 8 p.m. Saturday on Discovery, uses archival footage to show the work that went into the moon landing.
- “Moon Landing Live,” airing at 9 p.m. Saturday on BBC America, delves into news archives from around the world to show how the event was covered internationally.
- “Confessions from Space: Apollo,” at 10 p.m. Saturday on Discovery, has insights from six astronauts who participated in the Apollo space program.
Adult Swim has picked up new seasons of a bunch of adult animated comedies, including one co-created by a Wake Forest alumnus. “Squidbillies,” co-created by Dave Willis, returns for its 12th season on Aug. 11, telling the story of a family of degenerate hillbilly squids. Unknown Hinson, a rockabilly troubadour from Albemarle, provides the voice of family patriarch.
Also renewed are “Mr. Pickles,” a spoof of “Lassie” about a boy and his homicidal border collie; “Ballmastrz 9009,” a sports parody set in the future, in which Willis provides the voice of a character; and “Tigtone,” a spoof of fantasy adventure stories.
Also, a new animé-style series, “gen:LOCK,” with a voice cast including Michael B. Jordan, Dakota Fanning, Maisie Williams and David Tennant, will premiere on Adult Swim Aug. 3.
Gina Torres, one of the stars of “Suits” — and before that such shows as “Firefly,” “Cleopatra 2525,” and a slew of guest and recurring roles — is getting her own series, a spinoff of “Suits” that switches from legal issues to political drama.
In “Pearson,” making its debut at 10 p.m. Wednesday on the USA Network, Torres reprises her role from “Suits” as a recently disbarred attorney who becomes a “fixer” for the mayor of Chicago, using her skills at getting seemingly impossible tasks accomplished.