At first glance, the plot of Umbrella Academy’s upcoming second season might seem as if it were torn right out of the pages of Gerard Way and Gabriel Bá’s second volume of the Dark Horse comic. After narrowly avoiding an apocalypse, the Hargreeves siblings all become entangled in a series of events leading up to the assassination of President John F. Kennedy, an event that changed the arc of history.
Gizmodo spent some time last winter on the set of Umbrella Academy to speak with the cast about what to expect, and they were all were careful to point out that the series and the comics are two very different animals. Though this isn’t the first time we’ve seen the Hargreeves siblings in the past, the new season’s time jump into yesteryear is going to be something new for the series. And it’s something that will give them all reasons to become even more complicated versions of themselves.
For the teleporting Five (Aidan Gallagher), ending up in the ‘60s isn’t exactly an out of the ordinary turn of events, considering he’s a natural-born time traveller who’s been frequently hopping around various points in history. From Gallagher’s perspective, being stuck in the past doesn’t particularly change how Five feels about any of his siblings, because as was the case in season one, his primary focus is on averting yet another apocalyptic event that’s somehow connected to his family.
“I think he’s crawling less out of his insanity and more into his anxiety,” Gallagher said. “Because in season one you see him with Dolores still very much clinging on to that support that he had for like 30 years or something in the apocalypse. Now, in season two, it’s just the stakes are a lot bigger. Not only is he trying to stop the apocalypse, but he’s also trying to repair the timeline in time so that he doesn’t erase his own existence and everyone else’s.”
Because of Five’s inexperience teleporting so many people all at once, the Hargreeves don’t actually end up being dropped into the exact same point in time together, something Gallagher said would factor into how Umbrella Academy brings new elements of its characters’ identities to the surface.
“I don’t know that too much of the dynamic between any of us really changes in season two,” Gallagher reasoned. “It’s more so just the context that we’re placed in. So the situation is a lot different for all of us, but also similar in the fact that we’re all a bit reluctant to start saving the world again. We’re all a bit reluctant to get out of the ‘60s.”
Allison’s (Emmy Raver-Lampman) arc is a prime example of how The Umbrella Academy’s new setting immediately pushes its heroes into dramatically new emotional territories. For reasons that should be obvious, Allison’s race makes her particularly visible and a target for anti-Black, racist violence in early 1960s Dallas, Texas. Raver-Lampman described how, even though Allison’s still wounded following the events of the first season, finding her voice in both the existential and physical sense plays a key part in how she adjusts to her new circumstances.
“I think she’s having to quite literally fight for her life in many ways, and you know fight for her voice and kind of try to figure out who she is in this new place without everything that she’s ever known,” she said. “It’s a very humbling experience because she’s always had her powers, she’s always had her charm and her looks and, you know, this family behind her and her fame. This is kind of a very like grassroots version of Allison that really has to work for everything that she has.”
Raver-Lampman echoed Gallagher’s sentiment that, for different reasons, all of the Hargreeves end up contemplating whether they’re better off in the past despite the fact that they know the world’s about to end. Free from their fates in the future, they’ve all got a shot at living lives outside of their capacity as infamous superheroes.
“I feel like it’s almost this competitiveness with herself to create a new life free of everything that went wrong the first time,” Raver-Lampman said. “She’s found herself in a new era and in a new time period, and she doesn’t know if she’ll ever go back. So I think she’s kind of being forced to start fresh but I think after the initial shock of it, it kind of feels like she’s wanting to embrace it and kind of not make the same mistakes that she made before.”
As each of the Hargreeves siblings gradually re-enter one another’s orbits, the gravity of just how different their paths became after being separated in time becomes more clear. Unlike the rest of her siblings who all recall their troubled history, an accident early into the new season leaves Vanya with a convenient, but alarming, case of amnesia that Ellen Page described as being something of a blessing and a curse.
“She remembers her name, but nothing else,” Page said. “And this woman, Sissy, who’s played by the amazing Marin Ireland, ends up taking her in. And she’s out at this ranch house with her and her husband, and they have a young child named Harlan and Vanya becomes a nanny out there. Vanya is definitely much more comfortable in her skin, she’s more confident she’s much more… it’s freed her in so many ways.”
Vanya’s sense of freedom is mirrored somewhat in Luther’s (Tom Harper) realisation that being separated from the rest of the Umbrella Academy requires him to, for the first time in his life, choose for himself what kind of man he wants to be and how he wants to interact with society. As Harper explained, beyond paying his bills and throwing fights in an underground boxing league, what Luther’s most focused on is simply figuring out how to exist with his days at the Academy firmly behind him.
“Luther’s always either been a part of the Academy, on the moon, you know, super privileged and not really knowing what it’s like to be a normal guy in the real world and hold down a job and stuff like that,” he said. “He still gets it wrong, a lot, which is why I find quite funny. But he’s trying to fit in and actually, he’s kind of forgotten about the Academy a little bit. He’s like, ‘You know what? I’m doing all right I don’t need the Academy anymore.’”
In sharp contrast to Luther’s willingness to let the hero lifestyle behind, Diego (David Castañeda) takes it upon himself to step up to the plate and attempt to become something more like a team leader in the new season. Castañeda went into detail about how, after spending so much of his life feeling like an outsider within the Umbrella Academy, ending up in a new decade isn’t all that disorienting an experience for Diego. For him, being in the past means he’s got another shot to finally become the kind of hero that his late father wanted him to be.
“He’s never really felt like he fit in, so it’s not so much out of [his] comfort zone to be in a different era,” Castañeda said. “Everything he sees as an opportunity, and most of the opportunity is trying to understand his father and trying to figure out what is the reason that he’s been put in this position, whether it’s in 2019 or back in time.”
Grounded in relatable emotional struggles as most of Umbrella Academy’s second season is going to be, the series gets back to its more ridiculous roots with Klaus (Robert Sheehan) and Ben’s (Justin H. Min) interwoven arcs that revolve around the two of them learning what it means to exist at the centre of a quickly growing cult.
The idea to turn Klaus into something of a new age spiritual leader stemmed from conversations between Sheehan and showrunner Steve Blackman about how the series could further define Klaus by the way that others perceive him.
“I think Steve found it funny that last season there’s a lot of examples of nobody listening to Klaus. You know, it’s like everybody just disregards what he has to say because they think he’s just odd, or they think he’s trying to get something or make it about himself,” Sheehan said. “So we wanted to put Klaus somewhere where people are listening to him way too much, and it puts him at the top of this very, very Jesus-y kind of cult.”
Easy as it is for Klaus’ followers to see him as a divine figure, to Ben, he’s every bit the self-centered arsehole he’s always known his brother to be. However, them being linked to one another continues to provide Ben with a unique way of being able to interact with the world of the living.
“In terms of the interaction between Ben and Klaus and this sort of interplay between both their powers, something really, really exciting and fun happens sort of midway through the season that they discovered that they can do with each other,” Min said. “[Ben and Klaus] evolve and change this season, and that sort of makes [Ben] more fun as a character to play, because I think this discovery leads to a sort of independence and agency that Ben, unfortunately, didn’t have much of last season.”
“It’s a huge point of contention when we see Ben coming into his own this season and making decisions for himself, and using whatever sorts of tricks up his sleeves with his powers he has in order to do what he wants when he needs to,” Min teased. “I think at the end of the day, you know, that dynamic — that sort of yin and yang that Klaus and Ben have — is one of the joys of that relationship. We’re so different, yet it works sometimes. Other times, though, it’s a train wreck.”
Stay tuned to Gizmodo in the coming weeks for more with the cast of The Umbrella Academy. The second season hits Netflix on July 31.