Dys­func­tional su­per­heroes unite

The kids from Um­brella Academy re­turn for a blast to the past in an ef­fort to pre­vent the apoc­a­lypse

The Province - - ENTERTAINM­ENT - MELISSA HANK This in­ter­view has been edited for length and clar­ity.


Where: Stream­ing, Net­flix

As the song goes, it never rains in South­ern Cal­i­for­nia. But The Um­brella Academy is prep­ping for a stormy spell in Dal­las, as the Net­flix show time-trav­els to the 1960s in a bid to stop the apoc­a­lypse.

Based on the like-named comic book se­ries, The Um­brella Academy fol­lows seven adopted sib­lings who have su­per­pow­ers, with six of them trained as young­sters to fight crime. The sev­enth, Vanya (Ellen Page), thought she was just an or­di­nary girl un­til she dis­cov­ered a dan­ger­ous power to con­vert sound into en­ergy.

Net­flix re­ported that 45 mil­lion house­holds world­wide watched The Um­brella Academy within its first month on the ser­vice, which nat­u­rally led to a prompt or­der for an­other batch of episodes — now stream­ing al­most a year and a half later. Page joined se­ries cre­ator, ex­ec­u­tive pro­ducer and showrunner Steve Black­man re­motely to speak about the new sea­son.

Q Were you af­fected by the pan­demic while film­ing sea­son two? Black­man: We wrapped just around the end of Novem­ber. We didn’t have to worry about the pro­duc­tion part of it, but our post-pro­duc­tion was thrown com­pletely out of whack. Post is a very in­ti­mate thing — you’re with peo­ple day to day — so we had to come up with new cre­ative ways of get­ting through an en­tire post with­out be­ing in a room to­gether.

Q This sea­son is set in the 1960s — how does that af­fect the over­all tone of the show?

Page Spe­cific is­sues that are tack­led are al­ways rel­e­vant, and very much so right now. They’re rel­e­vant in terms of the civil rights move­ment be­ing a huge part of the sea­son, the ex­pe­ri­ence of the queer com­mu­nity in the ’60s and what we’re see­ing right now with the Black Lives Mat­ter move­ment.

Q Can you give any more hints of what’s com­ing up in sea­son two? Black­man We’re go­ing to put our char­ac­ters through much more chal­leng­ing cir­cum­stances. They’re out of time in 1960, where ev­ery­thing is dif­fer­ent and for­eign to them. Like

Ellen said, they’re go­ing to be faced with re­ally chal­leng­ing is­sues about civil rights and ho­mo­pho­bia, and I think the strug­gle is they’re not to­gether. They have to find each other and hope­fully come back stronger as a fam­ily. And of course we have the tick­ing clock of the end of the world.

Q Ellen, as an ac­tor, how has it been play­ing Vanya’s trans­for­ma­tion from meek to pow­er­ful?

Page It was the first time I’d got­ten to ex­ist as a char­ac­ter for such a long amount of time. Her arc is very ex­treme in the first sea­son and that was a thrill to play. And then when we find her at the be­gin­ning of the sec­ond sea­son, Vanya’s very dif­fer­ent in many ways. So it felt like a restart as she con­tin­ues her jour­ney, and in many ways it’s the first time she re­ally starts to dis­cover a sense of self, her abil­ity to re­late to emo­tions, to re­late to other peo­ple.

Q Steve, did you feel pres­sure to stick to the sto­ry­line of the orig­i­nal comic books?

Black­man Adapt­ing any source ma­te­rial is a chal­lenge, and this one had ra­bid fans — the graphic novel has been around 10 years. I’m very close to (writer Ger­ard Way) and (il­lus­tra­tor Gabriel Bá). I couldn’t imag­ine do­ing an adap­ta­tion and not hav­ing the re­spect and bless­ing of the two peo­ple who cre­ated it. Early on, Ger­ard and I re­al­ized that the TV show and graphic novel didn’t have to be car­bon copies of each other to co­ex­ist. We could co­ex­ist and be dif­fer­ent. But it’s lovely to have a spring­board and I’m al­ways try­ing to be re­spect­ful to­wards the old fans who knew the graphic novel, and this huge new fan base we’ve brought in. So any­time I can bring a char­ac­ter over or some­thing over, I’m al­ways try­ing to do that.

Q Have you given thought to sea­son three? Black­man I have a great sense of sea­son three. If we’re lucky enough to get a sea­son three, I know what it is.

Q How have you two been spend­ing time dur­ing the pan­demic? Black­man I’ve been work­ing. It’s been a tran­si­tion, but I’ve got­ten to spend more time with my wife and kids.

Page I was in New York City for most of it, and that was def­i­nitely in­tense and tragic to see what was hap­pen­ing at that time, and con­tin­ues to hap­pen in so many places. I’m so in­cred­i­bly for­tu­nate, and mostly I’m just think­ing of those who are strug­gling to af­ford food, who have lost loved ones, who are strug­gling to pay their rent and mort­gage. And I’ve just been try­ing to do what I can in the ways that I can.


The Um­brella Academy stars: from left, Klaus (Robert Shee­han), Ben (Justin H. Min), Num­ber Five (Ai­dan Gal­lagher), Vanya (Ellen Page), Luther (Tom Hop­per), Diego (David Cas­taneda) and Al­li­son (Emmy Raver-Lamp­man).

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