‘The Umbrella Academy’ Boss Previews Life in the ’60s for the Hargreeves Siblings
“Same weird family,” the tagline for The Umbrella Academy Season 2 reads. “New weird problems.”
And how true that is, as the Hargreeves escape the 2019 apocalypse caused by the sibling they all thought was the only one without powers, Vanya (Ellen Page), only to land, separated and scattered through the early 1960s, in Dallas … where another doomsday is coming, the time-traveling Number Five (Aidan Gallagher) informs them.
Here, showrunner and executive producer Steve Blackman previews life in the ’60s for Luther (Tom Hopper), Diego (David Castañeda), Allison (Emmy Raver-Lampman), Klaus (Robert Sheehan), ghost Ben (Justin H. Min), Vanya, and Five in Season 2.
You’re adapting the comics [written by Gerard Way and illustrated by Gabriel Bá], but what makes the ’60s the right time for the siblings after what they just went through?
Steve Blackman: Volume 2 of the graphic novel is called Dallas, and a certain part of it takes place in 1963 around the assassination of Kennedy, so when I was looking at what to do in a Season 2, I really wanted to zero in on just this period of time. The graphic novel’s non-linear and it makes it hard to translate to television, but also I’ve created the conceit that it’s always 10 days in the time of these kids, so I found this period of time I thought would be really effective.
We ended on a great cliffhanger, and I knew I wanted to send them out of time. I didn’t want them to be anywhere but back in time, and I thought this was just a great starting point. It’s such a tumultuous time in the 1960s, and when I came up with the notion of [having] them land in the same place in different periods of time around the 1960s, that made it more fun to see what their lives would become in this intriguing period, from landing to when they regroup.
Who needs the break of being stuck in the past, away from the others, the most before they have to spring back into action? A case could be made for all, right?
All of them need the break. It was a very stressful Season 1. The theme of Season 1 is meet the family. We gotta remember while we’re watching Season 2 that in Season 1, they were estranged for 15 years. They grew up together, an unhappy childhood with a very dysfunctional dad. They blew apart at 16, 17, and they really hadn’t seen each other in all that time when they regroup for 10 days in Season 1. They all could use a break from each other. But definitely Klaus could use a break from everyone, or more importantly, they could use a break from Klaus.
It seems like Luther’s losing himself in the underground fighting where he’s more comfortable, but also getting a taste of normal life and dealing with people at the bar. What does he need from those experiences?
Luther’s such a sweet guy, and he’s sort of a man-boy when we meet him in Season 1. He’s the only sibling who’s never left the house, never paid rent, never had to live beyond that house, so for Luther, the challenge is — and some of this must have happened off-screen — he’d never been alone. He never had to fend for himself. That was a really hard transition. … He has quickly found a new father figure [in the bar owner] and a group of people to hang around with that all represent these parental roles to him.
Diego ends up locked up, but he does make a new friend in Lila. How does meeting her change him moving forward?
It’s going to change everything about his life. She’s a very mysterious woman who he’s going to have a keen interest in, but she’s going to be much more than he expects. He will be challenged both physically and emotionally by this woman.
Allison ends up during the height of the Civil Rights Movement. Can you talk about balancing her finding her voice again after last season, and also just fighting for justice while knowing what the future holds?
For Allison, she was striving in Season 1 to live an authentic life. Part of that was not using her power [to “rumor” people into doing something] to be able to cheat, and then we find her at the end of Season 1 with having a run-in with Vanya, who’s been overwhelmed by her power, who cuts her throat, so Allison finds herself not only out of time in 1963, without a voice, but in a time of segregation where civil rights was on the rise and a person of color couldn’t go into certain stores, so it’s symbolic of her completely losing her voice — not only just her voice, but her voice as a human being, being able to just exist and be considered an equal down there. It’s a very challenging time for Allison.
Klaus starts a cult, which should be no surprise. What is he hoping to find in doing so?
Klaus is trying to find people who — he’s obviously searching for belonging — look up to him, who will give into his every need, his every desire. He’s tired of roughing it and now that he’s sober, at least when we first meet him, he has an opportunity to give wisdom. There’s a power in knowing the future, so if anyone who’s been a swindler like Klaus can manipulate people by knowing of events that are coming, it’s Klaus, and what better way to get a cult going by being able to say, “Hey, I know what’s going to happen next month or next week,” simply because he knows the history.
Ben’s stuck going wherever Klaus does. But how long can he continue like that, especially when you have Klaus telling the others he’s not there?
It’s so sad for Ben because he’s the sweetest character, the most insightful of all the siblings. They all liked Ben, but the irony is he’s with the worst translator. Klaus couldn’t be a worse person to be your voice, because he’s the worst narrator. But Ben is still stuck when we first meet him, stuck in what I call a hostile dependency with Klaus, “where he goes, I go, and he’s my only voice,” which is extremely frustrating for Ben.
Vanya loses her memory. How much does she need that escape from the events of last season and her time with the family that takes her in to feel more comfortable about who she is?
For Vanya, it’s great that she had lost her memory. She’s responsible not only for destroying the world, but her family had to turn against her to stop her, so the fact that she’s lost her memory does a couple things. It allows her to be free from the weight of that, the gravitas of her actions, but also it allows her to forget being the wallflower she’s been her whole life. Who we are is defined a lot by memory, about how we remember who we are. If that’s gone, it’s freeing for Vanya. She can not feel constrained by the history of the Hargreeves family, her legacy as the outsider, the outlier, so that baggage is taken off her back when we start the season.
How will that help when it comes to the siblings’ relationships with her?
For them, they haven’t forgotten a thing. They’re all scared of Vanya when they first meet her, and it takes them a while to trust her memory’s really lost, especially for Luther, who first meets her, who actually thinks she’s faking it. It’s a trust thing until they realize she really has no memory of the events of Season 1.
Once again, Five brings news of an impending doomsday, and he doesn’t have a life he’s started in the ’60s. Could he have used a break like the others got or would he not have been able to take it because of what he’s been through?
Oh, no, I think Five is in desperate need of a holiday. He would love to just tell all his siblings to F off and to go about his business. But he’s also a 58-year-old man who sees himself, whether he likes it or not, as having to look out for his siblings, who he thinks are all emotionally immature, younger than their age, so he finds himself always stuck. Plus, he’s got this incredible pressure to save the world, this burden of responsibility that he just doesn’t quite trust his family to do it right, so he feels he has to be there to help them get it done. He’s frustrated because he knows all these events that are happening are because his family is messing with time, but he has to see these things through.
The trailer reveals the introduction of Carmichael. How will Season 2 open up the world of the Commission, for the audience and for the siblings?
The huge graphic novel fans will be super excited. He’s a wonderful character that exists in Volume 2, and the Commission is a great place to play in. Having him adds to the oddness and weirdness of the show, which we love, and brings a whole new character for our people to interact with.
That character is so fun.
He’s fun, and the same VFX company, Weta in New Zealand, who did Pogo, also did him, so they’re just masterful at what they do.
The Umbrella Academy, Season 2, Friday, July 31, Netflix