Fan Fest Exclusive Interview: Mina Sundwall talks playing Penny Robinson in Netflix’s ‘Lost in Space’
If there is one thing that Netflix does with every new series, it is deliver – and to the best they possibly could. Now that they have originals such as Luke Cage, The Defenders and recently a second season of Jessica Jones, the nerd flag flies quite high when it comes to Netflix original series. Proudly, I may add.
The network certainly has a way of taking these story-lines and these characters, and finding the perfect plot in addition to a stellar cast. Next up for Netflix, is the rebooted series of ‘Lost in Space’, which debuts on April 13, 2018. It is already anticipated by many to be quite an amazing and unique show.
Recently, I had the opportunity to speak with Mina Sundwall, who plays Penny Robinson in the series. Mina was such a delight and an amazing person to speak with, and her passion and excitement for this series is off the charts!
Born and raised in New York, Mina landed her first ‘role’ at only 8 months of age! Being half Swedish and half Italian, Mina has spent a lot of time in Europe growing up. When she is not acting, Mina enjoys fun activities like reading, song-writing and taking part in service projects! Many can recognize Mina for her role as Maya Kellner in ‘Freeheld’.
In the upcoming ‘Lost in Space’ series, Mina plays the role of Penny Robinson, the quirky and quick-witted middle child. In my discussion with Mina, she expressed how passionate she is about this series and how much she truly relates to her character of Penny.
Jules: Here at Fan Fest News, we are extremely excited for the release of Netflix’s new ‘Lost in Space’! What can you tell us about your role?
Mina: I play Penny who is kind of the quick-witted, sarcastic middle child in the family. I think especially in the beginning of the season she definitely takes a minute to find her place and really be comfortable with herself. She’s the literature buff in the middle of a science family. But yeah, she’s pretty cool!
Jules: What do you see about yourself most in your character of Penny? What is it about her that when you look at her you think ‘that is totally me!’
Mina: I actually relate a lot to Penny. I mean I love her as a person and she and I are the same in so many ways. Starting from the middle of that super awkward teenage stage (laughs), and also I don’t like feeling out of my element and you’ll see it in the season but she brings in every opportunity to interrupt a serious situations with comic relief. I definitely identify very strongly with that!
Jules: You worked with amazing actors like Toby Stephens and Molly Parker! What was that like, working with them on set?
Mina: We very much created a very family pretty much immediately. The first scene that we ever shot was one of the hardest scenes to shoot in the season, the crash! We bonded very, very quickly. I think we kind of all immediately took on the roles of our characters. Molly is very much an on screen and off screen mom. She kind of brings this natural bubbly energy that makes you feel like working with family. At any point where you’d feel tired or in need of a hug or if we needed a time out, she was there. Toby is pretty much the exact opposite!
It is very, very comfortable to work with him! I will never forget this – Toby and I have a very complicated scene at one point. Our scene had us being followed by certain creatures on our ship and at this point I’m like crying and trying to stay as serious as possible in-between takes and I remember one take I looked over at Toby, who was eating dinner, and he just kind of looked over at me and goes ‘would you like a taco love? You’re looking a bit under distress there!’ It was such a perfect moment, and that kind of epitomizes what it was like to work with him. He makes every situation feel much more comfortable, and he is a lot of fun to be around.
Jules: Did you ever watch the original ‘Lost in Space’ series? Or were you new to the series?
Mina: I was new to the series, neither one of my parents are American and I mean within our household we are very European so I wasn’t really familiar with it beforehand. They didn’t really grow up with it, but I was familiar with ‘Danger, Will Robinson’ the phrase. So as soon as I started watching the original series I was like ‘oh! that makes sense now!’ (laughs)
Jules: You’ve been in other series like ‘Law and Order’ in addition to ‘Lost in Space’. What is your favorite genre to be a part of? Are you more along those action and mystery lines or the science fiction route?
Mina: I would have to say that ‘Lost in Space’ was definitely my favorite project to work on so far. I was very new to all of the action side of it and the very precise and meticulous special effects side of acting. I love the fact that even though its a show that is set in space, it is very much a family dynamic and there is drama and it is very emotional. That is something that I will always connect to and something that I will always love.
Jules: Speaking of the action, what was it like working with all these awesome creatures and those intense CGI effects?
Mina: It was AMAZING. I mean I have never done anything that special effects heavy before and the special effects were definitely my favorite part of that whole thing. Working with that many green screens and that many machines, you learn how much of a choreography it really is – it’s not just emotions and it’s not just lines. It is getting down to that mixture of light and movement, and places where you are supposed to look. It is a lot to learn.
Jules: Do you have a favorite on set moment, one that you can tell us about?
Mina: I do! I would actually have to say it was the day we shot the crash scene. Just because that was the first time we all met one another, and I feel like that was the first point where we really rooted our grounds. We were new to the story and we were new to each other and new to this incredible well, built and complicated space ship set. It was kind of one of those moments where we all realized ‘this is real! this is intense’ (laughs)
Jules: What was it like filming this in Canada? It seems like a truly beautiful place!
Mina: It was great! It was perfect to fit into the experience because my on screen family was very lost in space and my off screen family was very lost in Vancouver (laughs) aside from the weather conditions, which you know they call it ‘Raincouver’ for a reason! It was as a city, great! To be plucked out of New York and just put in an environment that I was completely new to played to the experience perfectly.
Jules: You’ve talked about what you see most about yourself in Penny. What was the best part of playing her?
Mina: Apart from the fact that I find Penny’s lines absolutely hilarious and every time I got a script I laughed about it until we shot the scene, after we shot the scene and I am still laughing. I admire so much her generosity and her ability to see through all of the BS, the fake. She is always who she really is and she never fakes it or filters. She is the sore thumb in her family, but at the same time she learns to embrace it. I just admire how genuine she is!
Jules: What did you have to do for your audition for Penny?
Mina: (laughs) our showrunner makes fun of this ALL the time. There is a scene that is in the dead of the ice. It was supposed to be in this glacier setting and so my family got very creative and we shot it underneath a table on an iPhone. We sent that into Netflix and then I flew out to LA for the callback. My audition was possibly one of the scariest days of my life. I thought I messed up so bad, that they ended up printing out a script for me because I messed my lines up so much. I read it and went back and did it again! Apart from the scare factor, it was pretty straight forward.
Jules: Being as Penny is the jokester, this is something I have always wondered. When it comes to acting in comedy, how do you manage to keep a straight face and deliver all of your funny lines and be on the receiving end of some as well? I personally would probably not be able to stop laughing.
Mina: Many, many, many takes! (laughs) A couple of the lines I would say to my mom and my dad on the drive over time and time again to the point where it wasn’t funny anymore. That way, I wouldn’t crack up! Or I would try my best to get so invested in the moment so that it doesn’t feel funny until after you realize what just happened.
Jules: When you are not acting, what other activities do you like to do?
Mina: Well, right now I’m actually studying for the ACTs! So, lots of studying and reading and writing. It varies within the school year, really. In my personal time I like to read; and I cook a lot. In the summer, which is kind of in-between the chunks of filming, I did one a couple of years ago and I plan on doing one again – a service trip! You go and you spend about two weeks and you hang out with a bunch of kids and you teach English and you build houses!
Jules: Is there an actor who inspires you?
Mina: It sounds very straightforward, but hear me out! I would definitely say Meryl Streep. If you look just through her IMDB page, the versatility in one person and the amount of different characters and personalities and complete how changeable everything she really does is….I just find that amazing!
Jules: Do you have a fandom in particular that you really love?
Mina: I used to read, and I would go as far as reading some FanFictions, of the ‘Buffy the Vampire’ series. I would get really, really into it! (laughs)
Jules: How about a fun question? If you could be the sidekick to any superhero, who would it be?
Mina: Oh oh oh!! Wait, does it have to be a superhero or can it be a supervillain!?
Jules: If you’d like to side with the villains, that is completely fine by me!
Mina: Yes! (laughs) I would actually have to go with the Joker! 100% of the way! That would be so much fun!
Jules: Last question for you, what would you tell fans of either the original series or fans who are intrigued by this new series, to expect?
Mina: I think they should, like I said before, it is a space show and we take a lot of inspiration from the original series. We have also, made it our own. If you are familiar with the original series there are specific moments when you find a direct, distinct connection but overall we twisted it alittle bit and made it our own modern take. I would expect to see a very, very family dynamic story!
Be sure to check out ‘Lost in Space’ when it debuts on Netflix on April 13, 2018!