When it comes to superhero stories, the saying usually goes that with great power comes great responsibility. But in the case of The Umbrella Academy, it’s more accurate to say when you have great powers all within a family, you usually end up with dysfunctional group of superheroes.
The Umbrella Academy is a comic book series created by Gerard Way (the former lead vocalist of now-disbanded rock band My Chemical Romance) and artist Gabriel Bá, who both serve as co-executive producers on the show.
On Feb 15, Netflix released a 10-episode series based on that graphic novel starring Ellen Page, Tom Hopper, Emmy Raver-Lampman, Robert Sheehan, David Castaneda, Aidan Gallagher, Cameron Britton and Mary J. Blige.
It revolves around seven children, all born under a mysterious circumstance and adopted by a famous entrepreneur – Sir Reginald Hargreeves. Each of these children showcase extraordinary gifts, and Reginald trains them to be superheroes, thus forming The Umbrella Academy.
However, his training methods aren’t very fatherly, and some of the youngsters grow up as messed up teenagers who decide to run away from their father and withdraw their membership from the Academy.
Needless to say, some of them are not keen on the reunion, especially Klaus Hargreeves (Sheehan), who has the unique ability to communicate with the dead. When he was a child, his father would lock him up in mausoleums for days to hone his skills, which understandably left him traumatised.
“Klaus has powers, but it’s more like a disability,” said actor Sheehan of his character in the show, during a press meet in Singapore last year. “Klaus is someone who consumes alcohol and drugs to dampen his powers; to quiet the demons so to speak.
“Klaus is very charming and lovely, but he’s a parasite. He is so unfit for the superhero job,” added Sheehan, who exuded Klaus’s charm throughout the 15-minute interview with his laid-back outfit (a T-shirt, loose pants and shiny pair of shoes!) and attitude (he chose to lie down on the two-seater sofa while casually answering questions).
According to the 31-year-old Irish actor, he did have a bit of say on Klaus’s personality and fashion sense. In one scene, Klaus wears his sister’s skirt, declaring it’s very airy. In the comic books, Klaus has a Goth style.
“(The production) was very accommodating in allowing us to come up with our characters (look) … Klaus has an androgynous quality, which came to form after the costuming and he’s completely uninhibited,” explained Sheehan.
Meanwhile Klaus’s sibling, Diego Hargreeves (Castaneda), is the polar opposite of Klaus. He’s embraced his powers and their father’s methods wholeheartedly; Diego has amazing fighting skills especially in throwing knives.
American actor Castaneda – who was also present at the press meet – revealed that Diego is No. 2 in the list of siblings just because he worked hard to adapt to his father’s tough love method. However, Diego is not the most stable person.
Castaneda elaborated: “His tactical ability gets meshed up with his emotional stability, which in turn gets him into a pickle with his siblings. He can’t cope with the fact that everyone has an ability which they are not using in the right way. And, he develops an animosity towards them, more so than them towards him.”
Despite the superhero factor, the actors agree that The Umbrella Academy is ultimately a story about a family – exploring both the good and the bad that come with it.
One of the good things is the humour that stems from crazy situations the siblings find themselves in, including stopping an impending apocalypse in a matter of days and figuring out how to work together as a family and as superheroes along the way.
“Who doesn’t have comedy in their family,” reasoned Castaneda. “Family is there to ground you and the comedy comes from the bashing. But underneath all of that, there is love.”
The Umbrella Academy is now streaming on Netflix.