Dysfunctional superheroes unite
The kids from Umbrella Academy return for a blast to the past in an effort to prevent the apocalypse
THE UMBRELLA ACADEMY
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).