WATCH: First Mexican Farmworker to Become NASA Astronaut Gets Biopic in ‘A Million Miles Away’ Trailer

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Ever since José Hernández was a kid, he wanted to touch the stars. As part of a farm-working family in California, his dream to become an astronaut might have seemed like an impossible goal in the eyes of others, but not to Hernández. In 2009, Hernández got the chance to live out his dream when he served as a mission specialist during a NASA Space Shuttle mission to the International Space Station, making him the first migrant farmworker to go to space.

In the upcoming drama A Million Miles Away, director Alejandra Márquez Abella tells Hernández’s story, which took him from a rural village in Michoacán, Mexico, to the fields of the San Joaquin Valley and ultimately into Earth’s orbit. Michael Peña (End of Watch) portrays Hernández, a determined engineer who applied and was turned down for the space program 11 times before being selected for astronaut training. Rosa Salazar (Alita: Battle Angel) plays Hernández supportive wife, Adela, who puts her own dreams on hold to help him pursue his.

Márquez Abella was drawn to Hernández’s life story because of how universal and inspirational it was. Her father’s family also migrated from Mexico around the same time Hernández’s family did, so the narrative felt personal to her.

“I think a story like this resonates with everyone,” Márquez Abella, 41, told Remezcla during a recent interview to mark the debut of the film’s first official trailer. “It’s so unbelievable what he achieved. It’s a story about perseverance and tenacity.”

In the trailer, Hernández explains that every decision he’s made in his life, he’s made “with the space program in mind.” With encouragement from Adela, the two sacrifice everything and set Hernández on a path to fulfill his calling in life. For Márquez Abella, A Million Miles Away was all about the journey.

“I think that’s the most exciting way to tell this story – from the beginning to the end,” Márquez Abella said. “For me, it was all about how he became an astronaut. It was about his work ethic and his soul. That’s a big part of the whole story that [José] wanted the world to know.”

Márquez Abella couldn’t think of anyone better to develop Hernández into a three-dimensional character than Peña, an actor who has played everyone from a 9/11 hero at ground zero to labor leader and civil rights activist César Chávez.

“I think Michael is the most amazing actor,” she said. “I think he is unbelievable. We’ve seen him on the screen a lot, but we’ve never seen him like this. I think this is a big role for him. My experience with him was just amazing.

A Million Miles Away premieres on Prime Video on September 15, 2023.

This piece was written during the 2023 WGA and SAG-AFTRA strikes. Without the labor of the writers and actors currently on strike, A Million Miles Away being covered here wouldn’t exist.