Behind the scenes of ‘Masters of the Air’

The new show's writer is sharing glimpses of the research and work it took to bring the World War II series to life.
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(Apple TV+)

After a long wait, audiences are finally getting a new World War II series from the team behind Band of Brothers and The Pacific. It’s been years in the works, but Masters of the Air is set to premiere late January 2024. So far though footage and glimpses of the series have been limited to just one teaser trailer from Apple TV+.

But until the show premieres in two months, there are some tantalizing looks behind the scenes already out. Screenwriter John Orloff, who’s credited with all nine episodes of the miniseries, has been sharing some of his favorite shots from the trailer and offering snippets of information about how the show was filmed.

The series follows members of the 100th Bombardment Group, part of the Army Air Force’s 8th Air Force fighting in the skies over Europe. Adapted from historian Donald L. Miller’s book Masters of the Air: America’s Bomber Boys Who Fought the Air War Against Nazi Germany, drawing on stories from the Army Air Force’s 8th Air Force during the war. Specifically, it follows the 100th Bombardment Group and supporting pilots as they conduct raids over Germany, drawing heavy casualties despite successes. 

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Orloff, who also wrote two episodes of Band of Brothers, posted on Instagram and Threads several looks at the production. According to one post on Threads, the production is “kinda like four movies….” and he’s been working on it for a decade. That involved extensive research. Online, Orloff has posted some real-life history of the 100th Bombardment Group alongside details from the show, including photos of the real-life pilots and the story of an Aug. 17, 1943 bombing raid. 21 B-17s took off for the mission, with only 12 returning. 

Much of the series is using the same digital backdrop technology as The Batman and The Mandalorian, with computer-generated backgrounds for pilots inside the cockpits. So no, the cast and crew are not flying around in real aircraft like the cast of Top Gun: Maverick. But don’t let that make it seem artificial; much of Band of Brothers was shot on a soundstage, not the woods of France (yes, even the snowy battlefields of Bastogne). That said, there are plenty of physical planes being used for the show, brought out to British fields for filming.

Despite the long gestation period and production, the cast and crew have been relatively quiet about the show, in part due to the recently wrapped Writers Guild of America and Screen Actors Guild strikes. Orloff’s posts come after the WGA won its bargaining contract with the studio.

Masters of the Air has been in development for years, with Steven Spielberg and Tom Hanks working on some form of the show since The Pacific ended. Even though the air war is not as well known or widely covered as the ground campaigns in Europe and the island hopping in the Pacific, Masters of the Air looks just as detailed and researched as Spielberg and Hanks’ past two series. 

“I don’t think most Americans have any idea of what these young men went through… yet,” Orloff posted on Threads. 

Masters of the Air premieres Jan. 26, 2024 on Apple TV+.

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