When you think of the early NASA space program, the people who come to mind probably look like astronauts John Glenn and Neil Armstrong. The brains behind the operation, however, were a diverse group, including the three black women whose story is told in the upcoming winter drama Hidden Figures. Taraji P. Henson, Octavia Spencer, and Janelle Monáe star as the mathematical geniuses who calculate the trajectory for Project Mercury, which sent the first American astronauts into orbit starting in 1962. Watch the trailer above.
At a time when women weren’t taken seriously in the workplace and African-Americans were denied basic civil rights, Katherine Johnson (played in the film by Oscar nominee Henson) became one of NASA’s stars on the strength of her intelligence and determination. The trailer shows how Johnson and her colleagues, Dorothy Vaughn (The Help Oscar winner Octavia Spencer) and Mary Jackson (singer Janelle Monáe), were consistently underestimated, denied opportunities, and even mistaken for maids as they worked as “computers” on the American space program’s groundbreaking first mission. Nevertheless, the women went on to make history, all while raising families — and now they get to deliver snappy comebacks on the big screen. “There’s no protocol for women attending,” says a government official while barring Katherine from a meeting. “There’s no protocol for a man circling the Earth, either, sir,” she responds. Hidden Figures opens in theaters on Jan. 13.