In the Season 1 finale of Netflix original series The Umbrella Academy, Vanya Hargreeves (Ellen Page), a superhero-turned-villain whose power is the ability to convert sound into energy, plays a concert that results in an apocalypse. When her brother Five (Aidan Gallagher) manages to gather all of their siblings in an attempt to evade the apocalypse, he launches himself and all of the other six children of the titular academy into a different time period.
In the trailer for Season 2, which premiered earlier this month, it is revealed that Five launched himself and his siblings across three different years in 1960s Dallas, all in the midst of a nuclear doomsday, the result of the Umbrella Academy’s rift of the timeline. It is now up to Five to gather his siblings, travel across time to prevent them from causing more of this doomsday, and undoing the apocalypse that took place in the present day.
While Season 2, which premieres July 31, takes place in Dallas, it was filmed and produced in a Canadian town called Hamilton (with the exception of a few exterior shots and scenes filmed on the grassy knoll by Dealey Plaza). The show sticks fairly close to the source material, a graphic series by Dark Horse Comics, and creator Steve Blackman was thrilled to be able to explore this era for the second season.
“I think it was such a tumultuous time,” Blackman says. “There was so much going on with race relations and communism. It was such an interesting time period.”
Before creating The Umbrella Academy, Blackman says that he had never heard of the comic series. Upon reading the comic books, Blackman fell in love with the characters and their dynamics.
“I like the superhero aspect, but that's not what drew me to it,” Blackman says. “I loved the characters in the dysfunctional family. I had a lot of Wes Anderson in my head at the time, like The Royal Tenenbaums, and I just fell in love with it.”
The second season takes place over the course of 10 days, and Five has made it his responsibility to gather his siblings and come up with a plan to prevent the events leading up to the nuclear doomsday. While Five seems to have a grasp on what would happen if his plans weren’t carried out effectively, Blackman believes that the Umbrella Academy wouldn’t be able to handle the events that have taken place over the course of 2020.
“I think they’d screw it up no matter what,” Blackman says. “I think they would argue about how they should handle it. I think some may want to face it head on. Others would want to quarantine themselves. Inevitably, the outcome would be dysfunctional.”
While Five’s fight in The Umbrella Academy takes place over the course of 10 days, Gallagher, 16, says his personal fight for the planet will take place over the course of the next 10 years. When he's not filming The Umbrella Academy, Gallagher is an ardent environmental activist.
Gallagher has served as a youth advocate for several environmental organizations, including the Oceanic Preservation Society. In 2018, he was named UN environment goodwill ambassador for North America.
“I've always looked at the world of Umbrella Academy with the world that I live in,” Gallagher says. “There’s an interesting tie with the apocalypse that Five faces and the apocalypse I face. The United Nations is calling this the decade of action, from 2020 to 2030, because if we don’t take immense action, there will be irreversible damage. If we don’t, we are looking at an increasingly difficult world to survive in.”
Gallagher was a fan of the comic book series long before he had the opportunity to audition for the TV adaptation. Fans of both the show and the comic series have already come up with theories about Season 2, based on the promotional poster.
In the poster, the seven siblings are seen wearing sunglasses. In Five’s sunglasses, there is a reflection of a building that looks similar to the book depository from where Lee Harvey Oswald fired shots at President John F. Kennedy. This has led fans to theorize that Five plays a role in the assassination of JFK.
While Gallagher won't give away any details, he enjoys seeing fans piece together small Easter eggs and come up with theories.
“It’s very fun to see how fans react and theorize and get excited about what might happen in future seasons,” Gallagher says.
Another one of the siblings, Diego (David Castañeda), has the power to manipulate thrown objects while in flight. In Season 2, he's locked in a mental institution, where he meets Lila (Ritu Arya).
“He’s very by the book,” Castañeda says of his character, “but in the last episode of the first season, you see that he has a change of heart. That’s one thing that carries on to the second season. ... But, the connection he has with Lila is pretty unprecedented, because he’s not looking for anything, but through time, he realizes that this person is more similar to him than he would have thought.”
In the current poster and trailer, Diego is seen sporting a longer hairdo. Castañeda chose to grow out his hair and beard after Blackman brought up the idea of being in an insane asylum. Castañeda believes that his choice to grow out his hair falls in line with his character’s carefree personality.
Prior to landing the role of Diego, Castañeda had minor roles in other Hispanic-led projects like El Chicano and Jane the Virgin. He hopes that his portrayal of Diego will tell different Hispanic stories from those mainstream film and television have exhausted over time.
“I have a lot of respect for those who came before me,” Castañeda says. “I remember getting into the film industry and not being aware of [the lack of representation] because it was just very normal. Yeah, I auditioned to play cholos and gangsters, and just people who didn’t come from the best backgrounds. And it was kind of normal, because I’ve seen it in my life and I didn’t make too much of a big deal about it."
Castañeda says he now has a different perspective.
"But then, as you grow older, you start seeing these other facets of Hispanics and start realizing how sometimes storylines don’t really cater to everyone," he says. "Because of these people who played the groundwork before me, I’m able to sit here with you talking on the phone about a superhero show that has about five people or six people from different places of the world. And it's not about race; it’s about siblings dealing with trauma.”
Castañeda’s castmate Tom Hopper also made a few physical changes before filming to better channel his character, Luther Hargreeves. Luther’s superpower is super strength, and to prepare for the role, Hopper took martial arts training. While Hopper is dressed in prosthesis to appear more muscular, he says it's still important to be in good physical shape to film action scenes.
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Wearing the prosthesis sometimes poses a bit of a challenge.
“The way I describe it is, you know how to drive a car,” Hopper says, “and then someone hands you a massive truck. You’re like, ‘I know the fundamentals, but it’s going to be trickier.’ I actually find it even more important to be in as good of shape as I can possibly be. Those fight scenes, we’re doing them for hours and I’m in prosthesis for 12 hours at a time. It’s important for me to be in good shape, so I won’t be tired.”
While the superpowers may play an important role in The Umbrella Academy, Hopper holds the same sentiment as his cast and crew: The character dynamics are what make the story.
“It’s a superhero role,” Hopper says, “but the superhero element is the smallest part. It’s more about the humans underneath the superheroes.”