When Halle Berry shot the opening scene in Extant, she was pretty sure she was going to throw up.
That’s not because the Oscar-winning actress was nervous about doing a TV series for the first time in more than two decades, or because she’d eaten something heavy for lunch. Berry plays an astronaut who returns from a solo space mission with a surprise castaway in her belly, so she was prepared to act out some graphic morning sickness. That is, until someone told her about the no-nos of TV nausea. ”This is gross, but I heard that we couldn’t show vomit on CBS. Like, we couldn’t actually put fake stuff inside my mouth and show it on network television, so the best we could do was to show a little spittle,” says Berry, laughing. ”Everybody joked about how people are going to want to watch me on TV, and I’ll be, like, vomiting. It was a running joke: Welcome to TV!”
It’s hard to say which is crazier: CBS lassoing an A-lister for a summer show about space babies, or one of Hollywood’s most gorgeous celebrities drooling into a toilet in prime time. Then again, where this show is concerned, everything is a little out of the ordinary. Penned by newcomer Mickey Fisher, Extant (debuting July 9 at 9 p.m.) tells the tale of Molly Woods (Berry), an infertile astronaut whose scientist husband, John (Goran Visnjic of ER), creates a robot-child prototype named Ethan (Looper’s Pierce Gagnon) to build their family. But when Molly returns to Earth after a 13-month mission, she finds out she’s pregnant — the result of a zero-gravity tryst that may or may not have involved her dead boyfriend’s alien doppelgänger and a potentially sinister high-level conspiracy. ”I was pregnant when I met the writers for the first time, and I said, ‘Wow, too bad I’m not really like this when we start because we could use my real pregnant belly,”’ Berry recalls. ”And they said, ‘Well, you’re never going to look pregnant like that in the show.’ I said, ‘But I come back pregnant with this alien baby, right?’ They said, ‘Mmm-hmmm.’ So then I asked, ‘I don’t kill it, right?’ They said no. I said, ‘Does anybody kill it?’ They said no. So I thought, ‘Wow. Okay. I’m in.’”
On this hot afternoon in June, Berry’s attention is drifting to a different baby — one who’s definitely from this planet. The 47-year-old actress has just retired to her trailer after shooting on location outside Los Angeles when the family nanny walks in with Berry’s very tired son, Maceo. The double-wide dressing room now serves as a satellite family room, since it’s where her 9-month-old son with husband Olivier Martinez, and Nahla, her 6-year-old daughter with ex-boyfriend Gabriel Aubry, routinely gather. ”My family has had to come to set far more than any of them have ever wanted to, but that’s the only way for me to see them.”
And yet they’re one of the chief reasons that Berry decided to explore the strange new world of Extant, boldly going where few Oscar-winning actresses have gone before. Berry is arguably the biggest movie star to ever make the transition to broadcast TV — a decision that had as much to do with her home life as it did with the quality (or lack thereof) of her film roles. ”I was being offered parts that I felt like I had done before,” she says. ”They weren’t exciting enough for me to leave my family for four months.”