Lost in Space: Penny’s Place in Season 2

Mina Sundwall, who plays Penny Robinson, talks about being the middle child on the show and speculates about Lost in Space season 2.

The Robinsons of Netflix’s hit spring reboot of Lost in Space are unique among space drama shipmates; some crews may purport to be like family, but those onboard the Jupiter 2 actually are one. Those in the audience with older and younger siblings can perhaps sympathize with Penny as the middle child between the young doctor, Judy, and the geology prodigy Will with his command over the Robot, but actor Mina Sundwall finds her character both realistic and empowering besides being the comic relief at times.

“Something that is so important to remember is that these are people that are colonizing, and they’re not necessarily explorers,” says Sundwall of the Robinson family. “Penny takes this entire mission on a very different note. She is the one non-science person in a science family. She’s interested in literature and philosophy, and she takes on more of this rediscovering and perseverance of humanity. And when you are into language and when you are into speaking and reading and writing on a colonize mission, what do you become? You become the head of communications, and that’s what she is.”

Penny was not without her moments of crucial importance, such as when she rescued her parents and Will from an oncoming mega-storm by driving the Chariot at top speed to their location. “There are certain moments when… she knows what the right thing to do is,” Sundwall asserts. “She just follows her gut, and she can be a very spontaneous person. And sometimes that doesn’t work out for her, but sometimes it does. And taking that initiative and taking charge is very, very important to her, and in the end, she saved her family. So it was for the better!”

Sundwall, now 16 years old, was 15 when those driving scenes were shot, and she recalls being excited about performing them despite not yet having her driver’s license. “I wasn’t actually allowed to drive the Chariot,” she admits. “What you see me doing is against a green screen, and it was a lot of fun to be able to see it the first time I saw it. I mean the Chariot is super-cool — it’s huge! When I saw in the script that I was supposed to drive it, I was scared that I would crash the whole thing and everyone would hate me and I would get fired. But through movie magic, I had an incredible stunt double, and she did the real driving on real terrain, and she gets to make me look a lot more bad-ass than I actually am.”

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The Robinson children steal the show in some ways in Lost in Space, and Penny’s relationship with her family and even flirtations with fellow colonists like Vijay are often as compelling as the action sequences. “It is sci-fi; we are in a spaceship,” Sundwall concedes. “But at the same time, this is a story that follows people and a relatively ordinary family with kids that are growing. And part of Penny becoming a teenager is learning to deal with the boy crush and where that goes and whether or not it goes well. And that’s what I love about it, too, is that it follows the up and down human emotions.”

Sibling rivalry doesn’t really come into play too much in Lost in Space, and Sundwall admires the closeness between Penny and Judy, even though don’t share the same father. “There’s never a question of whether or not they’re completely sisters just because of the literal relationship between them. They are sisters, and they have the relationship that sisters have… at the end of the day, we make a family, and we care about each other the way that any average family would be. Just because there’s an element that’s not part of this standard idea doesn’t make us any different.”

Sundwall even admits that Penny looks up to her younger brother somewhat because of his intelligence and despite his other shortcomings. “There’s this level or recognizing that nobody’s perfect, like he didn’t score as high as the rest of us on the tests that are required to be accepted into the program, but he is at the same time the person that saves us all in the beginning,” Sundwall recalls. “And I think that there’s a very, very high level of respect for her little brother, and she doesn’t really view him as a little brother. She views him as completely equal and is in admiration of him many times.”

So what’s in store for Penny and her family in Lost in Space season 2? Sundwall is more than happy to speculate. “I’m very excited to see where the writers take it,” she says. “They left us in a very different position from where we started. I do expect us to travel into new worlds and see new parts of the universe, and hopefully there we’ll meet either other people or other life forms. But for Penny, I’m really, really curious to see what teenage troubles the writers are going to think up for her. I think it’ll be very exciting to see her grow into her own skin, but at the same time I’m pretty sure that it won’t be completely painless because every time that Penny gets in trouble, we discover something about her and we add this other layer to her character.”

Whatever happens, Sundwall is proud to have played Penny in Lost in Space and looks forward to portraying her in future adventures. “The more that I’ve been able to have her in my head, the more that I realize how complex she is and how many layers she has,” Sundwall says. “She’s very caring and she’s very headstrong; she’s scared and she’s also brave, and it creates this kind of interesting combination and this balance inside. As she grows, I think the complexities of her character will also become more evident, and I’m really looking forward to getting to play her every step along the way and see every little teenage up and down she goes through.”

The first season of Lost in Space is available on Netflix, and the season two renewal assures viewers there’s more adventure to come. For more discussion of Lost in Space, listen to our discussion on the May edition of Sci Fi Fidelity, and you can also hear the full audio of our interview with Mina Sundwall by subscribing to the podcast or simply listening below. Apple Podcasts | Stitcher | Soundcloud

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