'The Umbrella Academy': Actors Robert Sheehan and David Castañeda tease Netflix's superhero comic adaptation for 2019
Did you read the comics before you offered the role and did you wish you were offered another role?
Robert Sheehan: During the whole "getting-the-job" process, I had done a bit of research and read some of the first edition before I got the job. I wanted Pogo's role (played by Adam Godley) but sadly you can't have everything you wish for.
David Castañeda: I didn't read anything until after I knew I was going to play the role. My character was the role that I really wanted. To me, it was the most interesting one, from the standpoint of actually not having supernatural powers. I like Batman so there's a correlation to it.
Robert Sheehan: I got sent two characters actually, but the other one was not a sibling. I cannot say any more.
A lot of people who aren't familiar with the comics, are calling it the new X-Men. How do you feel about that reference?
Robert Sheehan: In X-Men, the academy serves as a sanctuary for people who are outcasts in the real world. Whereas, in the Umbrella Academy, they had no choice to be a part of the academy. They were bought as infants, raised in a very neglectful fashion and then turned into world-famous crime fighters at a very young age when they didn't have the mental sophistication to deal with crime, justice and fame. This is where the characters' emotional stuntedness roots from as they age and wilt. The family fractures off and then they don't encounter each other for 17 years because of that upbringing. It is kind of like a dysfunctional X-Men I would say, to put it simply. The show also embraces a sense of humanistic failure much more. The characters are human beings first and foremost before their abilities define them. In X-Men, they always save the day. In the Umbrella Academy, they rarely save the day.
What did you do to get in shape for the role, David?
David Castañeda: I got to talk with Rick Forsayeth who was the stunt coordinator of Umbrella Academy months before we rehearsed. He was very specific about the kind of fighting he wanted to achieve. He talked about the different kinds of fighting styles. Before I had flown to Toronto to start filming, they had set me up with a few of the best martial art instructors in Los Angeles. In Toronto, I met Grand Master Tommy Chang. He took me under his wing and would train me as much as I wanted. Even when I wasn't working, if I had half a day off, I would go to his dōjō. He would have very talented athletes that do taekwondo in the Olympics spar with me. I got my ass whooped. There was once, while I was fighting Tom Hopper (plays Luther) during a rehearsal, I did a high kick and accidentally hit my nose with my knee. I was pretty flexible at that point. I dropped and started bleeding from the nose. There was also a lot of knife training.
Robert Sheehan: I feel like I got the longer end of that stick because I had no training. It was great. I was sat at home, smoking a bubble pipe and watching old re-runs of Scooby Doo and Seinfeld.
Robert, your character essentially is going through a mental health crisis. How did you deal with that?
Robert Sheehan: I suppose how I dealt with it was I didn't think of it in those terms. When someone is having a crisis of their mental health, whether it's drug addiction or depression, they don't see it like that. If they did see it in those terms, they would be on the way to recovery. My character Klaus is certainly not on the way to recovery. I just delved deep and left no stone unturned. I tried to figure out how to be the most effective drug addict, what kinds of tools one might use and how one might use or manipulate people. Klaus is incredibly endearing and loveable, but he is extremely untrustworthy.
Who are the flawed superheroes in your life?
Robert Sheehan: Because he is an example of someone who is a little bit super, I have a dear friend called Sam Brown in Belfast, who makes this adventure television series in the remotest part of the world. He does these incredible expeditions. He and ten others recreated the expedition in the Mutiny on the Bounty (1962). They set off on a wooden board in the South Pacific Ocean with 10 days' water and no food. He puts his life at risk to the show. He is in Papa New Guinea at the moment, climbing some sacred mountain that no white man has ever been allowed to climb. He has this weird Indiana Jones type of life.