‘The Umbrella Academy’: Aidan Gallagher on Playing a 58-Year-Old Teenager

     February 22, 2019

the-umbrella-academy-aidan-gallagherBased on the popular and award-winning Dark Horse Comics graphic novels created and written by Gerard Way (My Chemical Romance) and illustrated by Gabriel Bá, the Netflix series The Umbrella Academy follows the “children” of Sir Reginald Hargreeves (Colm Feore), a billionaire industrialist who adopts seven of the 43 infants inexplicably born on the same day in 1989 to random women who showed no signs of pregnancy the day before. While they’ve been prepared to save the world, things are never that easy, and now that the impending apocalypse is very real, Luther (Tom Hopper), Diego (David Castañeda), Allison (Emmy Raver-Lampman), Klaus (Robert Sheehan), Vanya (Ellen Page) and Number Five (Aidan Gallagher) must get over their own family drama, if they have any chance of stopping global destruction.

During this 1-on-1 phone interview with Collider, actor Aidan Gallagher talked about having already been a fan of The Umbrella Academy graphic novels before auditioning, playing a character who’s essentially a 58-year-old man in the body of a 13-year-old teenager, how traumatic it is for Number Five to know about the impending apocalypse, the unique relationship between Five and Dolores, how much he loves this cast, as a fan and as a co-star, and how he feels about the big cliffhanger at the end of the season. Be aware that some spoilers are discussed.

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Image via Netflix

Collider:  This seems like a very fun character to get to play, and I would imagine he’s also a character very much unlike most characters that you come across, as a younger actor. Is that something that stood out to you, when you read this?

AIDAN GALLAGHER:  I had been a fan of the graphic novels, previous to the audition for the show, so I was a fan, going in. For me, I would be interested in the project, regardless of knowing it prior to the show, as it’s a very unique character and world that Gerard [Way] and Gabriel [Bá] have created. That was a big selling point for the cast.

How did you first become aware of the comic? Was it something that you just came across and read, or did someone recommend it to you?

GALLAGHER:  I grew up a fan of comics and hanging out in local comic book stores, talking to the store manager and seeing what their favorites are. I got turned onto these two graphic novels, and it was unlike anything that I had read before, so I was instantly hooked. You can imagine how excited I was, when I realized I would get to audition.

What was that audition process like? Did you read scenes from the actual script, or did they give you something entirely different to do?

GALLAGHER:  Similar to any audition, I did get a scene from the actual script, but it was slightly different than how it ended up in the final product. I auditioned with a scene in the series, where Number Five and Luther are in a car and we’re having a very serious conversation. It was this really dramatic scene that changed, as the series progressed and the writing started to develop. I think Klaus was added to that scene, and it also had a comedic element to it, which was very fun to play, on the day. It was a nice contrast between what I had done for the audition because your take on the character, although it remains the same from audition to screen portrayal, does get more fleshed out. Oftentimes, when you’re acting out the scene that you auditioned with, you have some preference for how you would do it that you may not want to do with your further developed adaptation of the character, so it was nice to see the scene in a different way.

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Image via Netflix

When you’re playing a character who’s essentially a 58-year-old man in the body of a 13-year-old teenager, how do you prepare for that? Was there anything that you did, specifically, to figure out how to get into this character’s head?

GALLAGHER:  I wanted to do justice to the graphic novels, so one of the first things that I looked at was his posture. Gabriel’s drawings are very immersive, as far as the characters and the world goes, so I wanted to make sure that I got his posture right, the way he interacted with different elements. His mentality developed with the writing, as I acted in later episodes in the series. As an actor, it’s very important to have good writing, so that I can help build the series, and lucky for us, this show has incredible writing. So, as far as getting the vocabulary of Number Five correct, that was a big help. One of the things that interested me about Five was the trauma that was contributed via the apocalypse. I wanted to make sure that I got his PTSD correct. There’s a lot of interesting stuff that happens in the apocalypse. too. The 58-year-old thing was always an interesting dynamic to play with the siblings. But he’s still a person, so although you have the experience that comes with a few more decades of life, the writing took care of a lot of that. I took care of more of the human aspect of Five.

It seems like it would be a rather difficult thing to live with, knowing that the apocalypse is coming, no matter what your age is.

GALLAGHER:  I’m sure, in a more peaceful reality, where he didn’t have this threat of the apocalypse coming, in a few days, he would get along a lot better with his siblings. But in the state that we see him arrive in the show, he’s in his late 50s and his siblings are in their 30s, so to him, they’re essentially kids. They’re also unaware of the apocalypse that is coming, in a few days. He doesn’t let anything or anyone get in his way because of the gravity of the situation.

One of the scenes that I really enjoyed the most was the fight scene between Hazel and Diego, where your character is just sitting there, watching it all happen. What was it like to shoot that scene?

GALLAGHER:  That particular fight scene was more reaction for me because I wasn’t involved in it. But the scene prior to it was this really sweet moment between Number Five and Hazel, and that particular scene was one of the hardest scenes to figure out the chemistry and dynamic for because Five isn’t in this stressed mind-set that he’s been in, for pretty much the entirety of the show, up until that point. It left me in a place of uncertainty for how Five would react to that, and I don’t think Five knew how to react to it, either. That was a very interesting scene for me to take part in.

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