Near the end of Season Three of “For All Mankind,” Dev Ayesa, the show’s stratospherically ambitious CEO, makes a risky pitch to his employees without seeming to consider the possible downsides—for them. His company, Helios, has already revolutionized renewable energy and for-profit space travel. Now he wants the staff to take pay cuts and give up stock options to leap into another abyss with him.
“When the conversation turns financial, that’s just a pure blind spot” for Ayesa, said Edi Gathegi, the 43-year-old Kenya-born actor (“Twilight,” “X-Men: First Class,” “The Blacklist”) who plays him. “He is so rich that he hadn’t considered that would be a problem for anybody that he was appealing to.”
Hmm, a brash tech visionary with his head in the sky and a trail of disgruntled people around him on Earth: That sounds rather…familiar? It should. Ayesa has some obvious parallels to our real-life Elon Musk. But the character is more than a pastiche Elon, and it’s the consistent ability of “Mankind” to believably reimagine real-world people, events and technology that has made the Apple TV+ show stand out—no phasers set to stun, no Kessel Runs.
The series first takes off by rethinking the space race—the Soviets beat America to the moon in episode 1—and by season 3, crews from the U.S., the USSR and Ayesa’s for-profit Helios have made it to Mars. As viewers catch up to the recently concluded Season Three, we asked Gathegi about the tech leaders who informed his portrayal, the show’s alternative vision for the future and whether he’d ever want to become a real-life CEO.