With its second season, the Netflix original series Sense8, created by Lana & 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 1-on-1 phone interview with Collider, actor Naveen Andrews (who plays the mysterious Jonas) talked about how you have to be able to adapt to the unpredictability of working with Lana Wachowski, wanting to have a hand in making a good piece of art, being attracted to the mystery of the character, getting a sense for who Jonas is while on set, the unusual shooting schedule, and why he likes the show’s depiction of sexuality. He also talked about the fact that he doesn’t like to watch his own projects, why he would have been okay, if Lost were only ever one season, and what got him to sign on for the upcoming CBS TV series Instinct.
Collider: This show has been a huge undertaking. No one had ever tried anything like it before, and I’m sure the cast didn’t fully know what they were signing up for. Did it feel any different, returning for Season 2 and doing a second season, after having a season to find your footing in, or was there a whole new set of challenges, this season?
NAVEEN ANDREWS: There was a whole new set of challenges, but at the same time, it was tempered by the fact that we were used to the schedule, in terms of its unpredictability. You have to memorize dialogue very, very quickly sometimes because Lana [Wachowski] is constantly rewriting. We had that in the first season, but it continued in Season 2. You just have to be ready for it, be malleable, and be able to adapt. And we’re all involved. We bonded in San Francisco, before we started the first season, and that’s still all there.
You couldn’t have known what the full journey was going to be for your character, so what was it that originally appealed to you about Sense8 and ultimately intrigued you enough to sign on for the show?
ANDREWS: First of all, this is the Wachowskis, and they were genuinely, sincerely trying to do a good piece of art. They’re both artists, and that’s what drew me to it, initially. And then, the fact that it was reflective of what’s been happening around the world. When we started, it was starting to happen in Eastern Europe, and then, of course, recent developments in this country and in England with Brexit got even worse. It’s very, very frightening. What Lana is trying to do is intrigue an audience to imagine what it would be like to really feel empathy.
What has it been like to work with Lana Wachowski? Is she open to contribution and collaboration, or do you just put yourself in her hands and trust that she knows where it’s all going?
ANDREWS: With Lana, in terms of the whole process, there has to be trust involved, and I give that, unequivocally. With that said, I know that Lana has drawn elements from our personal lives. I think it’s inevitable that that should happen, in terms of how they work. I remember having my first meeting with the Wachowskis and we didn’t talk about the work, at all. We talked about my life, and they wanted to talk about that for over two hours. The main reason they do that is because they really want to know who they’re working with. It’s hard to speak about, in the sense that it’s about souls. People have souls, and we all accept that cities have souls, too. It’s why the locations are so important.
Was the role of Jonas the only one you’d ever thought about or discussed playing, or had you ever considered any of the other characters?
ANDREWS: Oh, yes, absolutely! It was Jonas, from the beginning, yeah.
Because he is such a mysterious character, what is it about Jonas that you find most compelling? Is that mystery part of the intrigue for you?
ANDREWS: Absolutely! He seems to be burdened with a terrible kind of knowledge. At the same time, there’s a purity and an innocence to him, which you can see in the flashbacks. And yet, he’s also compromised. That’s the way Lana writes. What’s important with a character like Jonas is what’s not actually said.
Do you feel like you had a true sense of who Jonas was and how he fit into the bigger picture, from the beginning, or did you have a moment where all of that clicked for you?
ANDREWS: It’s a little bit more complex than that. For me, I began to get a sense of the character from actually working with Lana on set and how she chooses to work with actors. In this case, she literally will be talking to you, as you’re shooting the scene, right behind the cameraman. As the camera moves, she’ll ask you to say lines, as a different character or in a different voice, all of which might be disconcerting, if you had a very set or fixed idea of how you wanted to render a character. With Lana, you have to be open because then you can discover things that are deeply buried and that people don’t really show, in everyday life. I think that’s what she’s trying to do. That’s when I started to have a sense of the character, actually working on set.
You had an unusual shooting location during the first season. What was your shooting schedule like, this season?
ANDREWS: We go from location to location, all the time. While it may not be as arduous, you have to drop in, at any given moment, and there’s no easy way of doing that. You just do it. In terms of locations, I remember being in Amsterdam and we ended up shooting in The Hague, in a very modern station because Lana wanted to have a contrast between the modern station and an older location, and to cut between the two. I had no idea that was going to happen because it wasn’t in the script, so you have to be ready for just about anything.
This is truly an extraordinary show, exploring so many important issues among such diverse characters. It also breaks many taboos and goes a long way towards changing people’s view on the world and other people. What does being a part of this show mean to you?
ANDREWS: It’s always been very important to me to try to do projects which are breaking new ground. I thought that with Lost, especially with the first season, and this is similar, in that sense. The work is dense and it requires thought and for people to actually use their brains. It’s watchable and entertaining, but the themes are really quite complex and profound.