‘The Umbrella Academy’: Robert Sheehan on Klaus’ Evolution and Season 2’s “Sexy Cliffhanger”

     August 2, 2020

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[Editor’s note: The following contains spoilers for The Umbrella Academy Season 2.]

When it comes to the Umbrella Academy, just because you’ve stopped the apocalypse, it doesn’t mean you’ve actually saved the world. At the start of The Umbrella Academy Season 2, the team has jumped through time and now finds themselves scattered in and around Dallas, Texas over a three-year period starting in 1960. As they work to reunite, figure out how to stop the next apocalypse (because, of course), and find a way back to the present day, the Umbrella Academy must survive assassins, intense romantic connections, and a number of other highs and lows if they’re going to make it out of Dallas in one piece.

Robert Sheehan, who plays Klaus, summoner of the undead and the Umbrella Academy’s enfant terrible), recently got on the phone with Collider to chat all things Season 2 of the Netflix original series The Umbrella Academy, adapted from the graphic novels by Gerard Way and Gabriel . During the 1-on-1 interview, Sheehan talks about Klaus’ accidental turn towards cult leadership, this season’s wardrobe changes, getting to do another fun dance number, that shocking cliffhanger ending, and the Klaus-Ben (Justin H. Min) dynamic.

COLLIDER: Did you think that it was a very fitting progression in the journey, that Klaus would end up leading a cult?

ROBERT SHEEHAN: Yeah, I definitely thought it was fitting. When you take a narcissist, and someone who’s been a narcissist their whole adult life, and throw them into the 1960s and make them poor, there’s a high likelihood of it occurring.

Where do you think it is that Klaus’ arrogance comes from?

SHEEHAN: Probably a profound insecurity underpins it, and a profound feeling that he’s insubstantial A profound feeling of lack of substance would make him go all braggerdy and arrogant. I think all of the siblings, it could be said for, because of the way that they were raised as numbers and not people, have this lack of foundation, which means they struggle to relate to other people who who’ve been raised maybe in a slightly more healthy fashion, meaning they were loved and kept safe.

Things have evolved quite a bit, hair and wardrobe wise, between seasons. Did you get any input into any of the new looks for your character?

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Image via Netflix

SHEEHAN: With the cult stuff, I left that in the very capable hands of (costume designer) Chris Hargadon and his team because I knew that they were plotting something sexy for that. What qualification do I really have to weigh in there? As long as it fits me, I’ll be quite happy. So, that first cult look was all about Chris and Steve Blackman. There was a pair of sunglasses, that I wear in the first episode of the second season, and there was a whole selection of sunglasses. They were like, “So, whatever you like, just pick one.” And I remember Sylvain [White], who directed the first episode, was going, “There’s a little tag attached to these particular sunglasses. Steve Blackman used to wear a pair of these, as a young fella, and has a real soft spot for this particular model of sunglasses.” And it turned out that those were the best, anyway. They were big and very ‘60s, and very over the top. So, it was two birds with one pair of sunglasses. And then, the rest of it, once I got out of the cult look, was just what feels good, really. You’ve just gotta go with what feels good and looks good.

Klaus gives advice by quoting songs. How were those songs decided on? Were they always the songs that were in the script? Was there ever an evolution of songs that you would quote?

SHEEHAN: What was nice about that was that it connects very much to the first season, when Klaus wants to shut his head up and shut up the demons, as it were, and he pops on the headphones and walkman, and sticks on the tunes. On some level, Klaus is thinking, “This cult things is blossoming quite quickly. What experience and knowledge do I have, where I can get the edge on these people?” I suppose he went back to his music library and all of the songs that he used as therapy, in the present day. It connects to that.

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Image via Netflix

I love that you always get a good dance number on this show. What was it like to do the dance number in the hair salon, and was there anything particularly fun about shooting that sequence?

SHEEHAN: It was funny because it was that song “Tell Him” that was given to me, Ellen [Page] and Emmy [Raver-Lampman] in advance. But then, just to accentuate our drunkenness, they changed the song. Now, we’re just slapping around. That was quite good. That was quite funny. It was nice. It’s nice to play drunk. It almost gets you drunk..

It seems as though whatever this group did in the past has changed their present, leading to there being no more Umbrella Academy. Now, it’s the Sparrow Academy and we see this unfamiliar group in the shadows. Have you thought about who that group in the shadows are? Do you have your own theories about where all that could go next?

SHEEHAN: To be honest, I haven’t thought too closely about the Sparrow [Academy]. I haven’t thought hugely about them because I don’t wanna spoil my own surprise. Klaus doesn’t know. For those things, often the less you know, the better. Ignorance can be great bliss, and if you can catch that on camera, it’s gold dust. But in terms of theories for where it could go, it could go a million ways. In terms of the Sparrows, I would imagine there’s gonna be some fighting. Knowing our show as we do, I would imagine there’s gonna be some property destruction.

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Image via Netflix

Ultimately, for Klaus, it’s gonna concern Ben. It’s gonna concern this new leader Ben quite a lot. It’s also gonna concern the fact that dad met us, when he was a younger man, and then chose not to keep us together, not to adopt us, and basically avoided us like the plague. I don’t know how disappearing up its own ass the time travel can get, but it does make you wonder: If we were in the 1960s, and then we time leapfrogged back to 2019, did those women still have us in 1987? And then, you’re opening up a whole different can of worms because then there are mirrors of us, walking around. But that’s too much folding in on itself. But I think the Sparrows are the new version of us. Who knows what could happen? Love could happen. Hatred could happen. Perhaps there could be a new realignment of the family’s dynamic. Who knows? It could be a million things. Part of the joy of doing the show is discovering that.

The stuff that I’m concerned with, between seasons, and hopefully we get another season, is all Klaus’ personal stuff. That’s what I tend to think about, right now. With all of the press that we’re currently doing, when you start thinking something’s true and start thinking about ideas, and talking to journalists about them, it starts to fire the brain, in all sorts of ways, especially if you haven’t been thinking about something for months. At the moment, I’m just firing lots of outlandish emails at poor Steve Blackman. And he’s firing a few back at me, as well. It’s a nice relationship we have because those ideas might make it into the show, or some version of them.

What was your reaction to learning where things would end up this season, and that it would end on such a big cliffhanger?

SHEEHAN: Would you want to end a season of television any other way? There’s this tradition of TV now, that there’s some real estate that has to be considered, to get them on the hook and keep them watching. It’s not true of all series television. I think some other series television percolates and doesn’t subscribe to the cliffhanger as much. But The Umbrella Academy is all about them sexy cliffhangers. That’s why there’s so many nice twists and turns, throughout the second season.

I love the dynamic between Klaus and Ghost Ben, and we get to see so much more of it, this season. That’s why it makes the end and seeing where Ben ends up something that’s so interesting.

SHEEHAN: Yeah. I tell ya, there are some clever lads writing those stories in Los Angeles. It’s not an easy thing to do, to map out one, let alone a few seasons of TV, and then track all of those stories and all those arcs. To the average brain, like my own, it’s quite head-spinning that they can do that. In my position, you just wanna let things flow. Life is much easier that way. It’s much more fluid. You can imagine yourself, on the day, and figure out what you’re working with, and then focus on that stuff. And then, all of the other stuff, like what might happen with the Sparrows and who might do this or that, is someone else’s job, the fruits of which I’m going to enjoy, thoroughly, hopefully when we go back.

The Umbrella Academy Season 2 is available to stream at Netflix. For more, check out our Season 2 ending explainer and our explainer on what happens to Ben.

Christina Radish is a Senior Reporter of Film, TV, and Theme Parks for Collider. You can follow her on Twitter @ChristinaRadish.

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