NEW YORK (AP) – As the wife of Cleveland Indians baseball player Nick Swisher, actress JoAnna Garcia Swisher knows what it's like to have her husband's back.
"Sports can be incredible on the most incredible day and terrible on the most terrible day," she said in a recent interview. "It's the highs and the lows and I do feel very protective of my husband."
She channeled "that sense of love and commitment" into her role on ABC's "The Astronaut Wives Club," premiering Thursday (8 p.m. EDT).
The 10-episode series, also starring Yvonne Strahovski and Odette Annable, follows wives of the first Americans in space.
Garcia Swisher, 35, plays Betty Grissom, wife of astronaut Virgil "Gus" Grissom, who became the second American to rocket into a suborbital pattern around the Earth, flying aboard the Liberty Bell 7 space capsule in 1961.
Grissom returned to Earth in a splashdown at sea, but the hatch blew off prematurely, causing the capsule to sink. Some blamed Grissom for panicking and blowing the hatch, but NASA launched an investigation that determined he wasn't at fault.
"I understand that as someone whose husband shares his life with the public," said Garcia Swisher, "these (athletes) work really hard and make a lot of sacrifices. There's an immense amount of perks and an incredible lifestyle and all of these things that come along with it, but at the end of it all we're just all humans and wanting to do our best."
Garcia Swisher, who played Reba McEntire's daughter for six seasons on the sitcom "Reba," recently met Grissom's wife.
"Without going into too much detail about what our meeting was like because it meant so much to me, the one thing I really wanted her to know is that this story was told with so much love and so much respect," she said.
Garcia Swisher also appeared as a live-action version of Ariel the mermaid on ABC's "Once Upon a Time." An arc on "Gossip Girl" in 2009 introduced her to producer Stephanie Savage, who is behind "The Astronauts Wives Club."
Savage offered her the role of Betty and suggested she read Lily Koppel's book of the same name for guidance.
"I fell instantly in love. There was never any question as to what character I related to the most. It was Betty all the way," she said.
Garcia Swisher also hopes the series reminds viewers about the excitement about the U.S. space shuttle program, which ended in 2011.
"Today you're like, 'I wish there was an App for this,' and then there's an App for it! You have all of these things that are in the palm of our hand and it's really changed the way we view the world. There are not a lot of things that really evoke that sense of wonderment; it's really important to connect to that."