With its second season, the Netflix original series Sense8, created by Lana and Lilly Wachowski and J. Michael Straczynski, further continues its story of eight individuals from around the world who can come together, both physically and mentally, plunging themselves into the middle of each other’s tragedies and triumphs. The sensates – Capheus (Toby Onwumere), Kala (Tina Desai), Lito (Miguel Angel Silvestre), Nomi (Jamie Clayton), Riley (Tuppence Middleton), Sun (Donna Bae), Will (Brian J. Smith) and Wolfgang (Max Riemelt) – are currently on the run from the mysterious and very dangerous Whispers (Terrence Mann), and they must find a way to protect themselves and each other from a nefarious organization that wants to wipe them out.
During this phone interview with Collider, German actor Max Riemelt and Indian actress Tina Desai talked about what originally attracted them to Sense8, how shooting Season 2 compared to Season 1, collaborating with Lana Wachowski, the dynamic between Wolfgang and Kala, and what it means to them to be a part of such an extraordinary and groundbreaking TV series.
Collider: This show was a huge undertaking. No one had ever tried anything like this before, when this TV series started. Did it feel any different, returning for Season 2 and doing a second season, after having a season to find your footing, or was there a whole new set of challenges for this season?
MAX RIEMELT: For me, it was new, in the way that I’d never gone back to a project with a character. I usually do films, and you do two months and then forget about it. That was new to me. Being together, so intensely, for eight months is really challenging. You know how it’s like with family. Also, the work itself just got more. I felt like we tried to reach even higher and they tried to challenge us more, and pushed the boundaries, in every way. When we started the second season, we had to jump off of a platform on a rig, just to show our will to cross a certain line or to overcome our fears. That represents how committed we had to be, in the second season. It was tough, but also lots of fun, traveling to all of these different places. We traveled to 17 places in the world, and that was fun.
TINA DESAI: For me, it was easier to go back into the second season because you’ve played the character through a season, and then when you watch how it actually comes out in the edit, my understanding of the character improves. That’s why I always like shooting a film, after I shoot the film. There’s a deeper understanding of what your director and writer, and in this case they’re the same people, expect of you from the character, and there’s a better understanding within you, for what you want to do with the character. There’s a comfort that comes into it. And then, with this season, Lana [Wachowski] gave us more freedom to do what we wanted to do within the scenes. In the first season, she directed us more and tried different tones, in performing each scene. With this season, she gave us the liberty to use whatever tone we wanted. It was nice because you had that creative freedom, going into playing the character again.
When this project first came your way, what was it that originally appealed to you about it and ultimately intrigued you enough to sign on for the show?
DESAI: It was a variety of reasons for me. Of course, the Wachowskis are a very big name. Even the fact that we were being considered for such a project and that they were looking at relatively newer actors, at least in my case. Also, they only emailed me three episodes from the season, so I didn’t even know what the entire story was, where it was going, or what sensates are. Like the audience, I was utterly and completely clueless. So, I did the audition based on the understanding that I had of the scenes. And then, because I wasn’t able to fly to London for the second round of auditions, they went onto Skype with me to see what I was like, as a person. I very confidently told them about what I understood of the show, where it was going to go, what they meant, and what their intentions were, and they very politely nodded along. And then, the rest of the season was emailed to me, and I was so off the mark with my predictions. Also, there was the fact that it’s a Netflix show, and Netflix is known to have very unique and interesting and gritty stuff. The concept of it was really amazing, with eight people from around the world, shot in live locations. The travel was something that attracted me. And once we were actually signed on and give more details about the project, it just seemed like a dream come true.
RIEMELT: For me, it was all about the name. I was a big fan of The Matrix and I wanted to work with these people. It was beyond my imagination that, one day, I would work with these guys. I remember that I was really nervous. I went to London for that audition. I was in the middle of another project, and it was so exciting just to talk to them. I was so nervous, but somehow I could concentrate in that very moment, and Lana directed me and we tried some stuff. After that, I waited for a couple of week, and then I received a call and my agent told me that they’d like to work with me. That was so exciting! After that, I found out that Tom Tykwer was the reason why I got this job. He had wanted to work with me, for a long time. That was also a really good introduction, for me, to that world. I’m not a native speaker. For me, sometimes it was hard to think and speak that fast in English, so Tom made it possible and more accessible for me to play these English scenes. I had to find my own voice and my own English.
This season, we’re learning more about all of these characters and their connections with each other, and they also seem to be becoming more secure in who they are and what they want. How far off do you think Wolfgang and Kala are, from being who they really want to be?