When it comes to The Umbrella Academy, just because you’ve stopped the apocalypse, it doesn’t mean that you’ve actually saved the world. Jumping time and finding themselves scattered in and around Dallas, Texas, over a three-year period starting in 1960, has disrupted the timeline and started a doomsday clock. As they work to reunite, figure out what caused the nuclear destruction, find a way to put a stop to it, and return to their present timeline, they must survive assassins, romantic relationships, and a number of other oddities, if they’re going to rebuild their family and make it out alive.
Tom Hopper, who plays Luther (the Hargreeves family member that possesses superhuman strength), 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 Bá. During this 1-on-1 interview, he talked about building on the first season, the inspiration for Luther’s fight scenes in the ring, spending more time in the bodysuit, the most unexpected moment during the Season 2 shoot, his reaction to learning about the shocking cliffhanger, and whether he knows anything yet about Season 3.
[Editor’s note: The following contains spoilers through the Season 2 finale of The Umbrella Academy, “The End of Something.”]
Collider: What did you enjoy most about doing the first season of this show and exploring the introduction of this world, and then really digging so much deeper into it, in the second season, and building on what you’d established?
TOM HOPPER: The coolest thing, with the second season, is that we’re in a whole new place and a whole new time period. The cool thing for Luther is that this is an opportunity for him, for the first time ever, to step outside of his comfort zone. He’s been thrown into a completely new world, where he’s got no real structure and no real purpose, and he’s not looking to save the world anymore. He’s still trying to let go of that thing of being Number One, being a leader, and thinking that he needs to be bull-headed about stuff. We find him at the bottom run of the ladder, being a work horse for this guy, and he had to get a job and find an apartment, and all of those things. Luther has done a lot of growing up, by being thrust into the real world. There are certain things that he can’t let go of, like the guilt with Vanya and what happened with her, and the whole thing with Allison. He’s still holding onto that and keeping it all inside, rather than actually dealing with it. With what’s going on, you see him dealing with them in his own weird little Luther way. He has to get back to his family, eventually, but he doesn’t want anything to do with it, to start with. It’s been great to see him evolve, through the second season, to being a team member, as opposed to just wanting to be the leader.
Aside from his family, the most important thing for him in this time period is fighting and winning. What was it like to do those fight scenes? Does staging a fight feel different?
HOPPER: Those fight scenes were cool because there was a lot of influence from things like Snatch and Sherlock Holmes, and stuff like that, and I love those movies, so it was great to do those. The biggest thing was that I had to do those fight scenes with the suit on, which can be quite taxing, but I love doing it. I love a physical challenge, so I really embraced it. There are challenges, as far as how much you can move in that suit, but I loved doing those fight scenes. I worked with a couple of really amazing action stunt guys and I had a great time doing it.
I love that we get to see more of you in the suit. Last season, Luther spent much of the time covered up, but this season, we do get to see much more of it, which I would imagine is difficult to get into, even though it’s cool for the character.
HOPPER: Yeah. A hundred percent. That was a big thing that we talked about, that Luther has become more comfortable with his body now. The reason he fights is that people are giving him the right kind of attention for that body. They actually love that he’s got that better. They say, “Wow, here’s this freak of nature, this monkey man who beats everyone up.” He’s become a bit more accepting of the body he has now. He’s not wearing his vest, and he’s shaved a lot of the hair off it, so it looks trim. When he comes back down from the moon, in Season 1, he’s a bit overweight and hefty, and he’s not the athlete he once was. And then, in Season 2, you see that he’s a bit more athletic now. He’s been on chicken and broccoli for the last six months, and he’s trimmed down. He’s accepting of his body, a little bit more. He still holds a lot of resentment towards his dead, and you see that explosion, at the end of the dinner scene in Episode 7. As hard as it was, from a prosthetics point of view, it was great to be in that suit a lot more ‘cause it really feels quite powerful, when you’re in that suit.
Last season ended on a cliffhanger, and this season ends on an even bigger and more shocking cliffhanger. What was your reaction, when you found out where things would end this season and what that could mean for the next season?
HOPPER: I was just excited, really, about what could be next season, if we get the go ahead. It’s a great cliffhanger. I think I prefer this cliffhanger to the previous one. The first one was almost just like, “Oh, where have they gone? Where could they be? Are they dead? Are they alive?” Whereas this is so clear-cut and like, oh, my god, the world they knew is gone and there’s a whole other world there. They screwed up the timeline somehow and something massive has changed. And also, Ben is there, but is he known as Ben? Is he still the Ben that we know? I was just really excited about the idea of what the possibilities could be and what we could do, if Season 3 goes ahead.
When you have such a big moment like that, did you immediately start thinking about the possibilities of who these members of the Sparrow Academy are and what that could mean for the future of the story and for these characters?
HOPPER: Yeah, it’s natural to speculate, as a cast. You’re always thinking, “Oh, I wonder what they’ll do. I wonder if there will be a romance between them, or will it just be a straight out conflict between everyone.” Keep in mind, none of us have got anywhere to go, other than the Academy. We don’t have other places that we live, in this world. We’re all in the deep end, wondering about where it could go.
How do you, personally, feel about cliffhangers in storytelling?
HOPPER: They’re always both frustrating and exciting, as a viewer, but the brilliance of good storytelling is leaving an audience member asking the questions that drive them to want to watch the next season, to get those answers. The more questions you ask your audience, at the end of the season, as long as you deliver and answer those questions and explain it, in some way, and you don’t leave the audience in the dark, then it’s great. As long as you get the pay off, at the end of the day, I’m all there for cliffhangers. When it doesn’t work is when you get a cliffhanger, and then you watch the entirety of the next season and are like, “Hang on, that cliffhanger never really got explained?” With those moments, it’s very important to service your audience, if you’re gonna do them.
Have you gotten any actual concrete details from Steve Blackman about anything? Has he given you any hints, or are you waiting to find out about what Season 3 could look like?
HOPPER: We we’re completely in the dark, at the moment, and that rides on how Season 2 does. I’m sure had ideas flowing, and him and Netflix will be chatting. I’m just excited to see what will happen, if Season 3 gets the go-ahead.
Because you get to do so many wild things on this show, and there are all of the stunts and fights and special effects, has there been a most memorable mishap, that’s either happened to you, or that you’ve witnessed with someone else in a scene that you’ve been in?
HOPPER: The funniest thing that happened during Season 2 was that we got hit with a massive snowstorm, during the filming of Episode 10, and we all have these outfits on that were not built for snow, at all, and everyone had footwear on that are the last thing you’d wear in the snow. So, people were stuck in it and falling on the floor. We ended up having to be shoot from the knees up, a lot of the time, because we had to wear footwear that was right for the Toronto snowstorm that we were hit with. There were so many shots where we were going to be in our normal footwear, but instead we had to wear some kind of snow boot, so they had to shoot from the knees up.
Were there any big changes to the story or characters, during the filming of the season, or did everything stay pretty close to what was in the scripts?
HOPPER: It always has a nice flow to it, with Steve and the writers. They’re very open to being very collaborative, so if there was something that would come up, in an early draft of the script, we’d have a chat with Steve, who’s always open to our input, and it might be adapted, a little bit. But generally, they serve us with such amazing stories in the scripts that they find their way to being pretty similar to the original drafts. What’s so brilliant about Steve and the writers is that they’re not precious about us playing around with dialogue and stuff. We always do a few takes of what’s on the page, and then we’re encouraged to be very loose with our acting and to be as relaxed as possible. If we wanna try something, we can just try it. There’s no harm in that. And it’s amazing, Steve uses a lot of that stuff that we do ourselves, in the final cuts, which is amazing because we feel like we’re really part of it. We’re not just perfectly saying the lines. We’re actually bringing ourselves to the roles, and Steve encourages us to do that, which is amazing.
Because of who Luther is, your character has a number of special effects sequences and fight sequences. Was there a most technical scene to shoot, this season?
HOPPER: I suppose the opening scene, at the beginning, when Five goes back before the disaster with the nuclear bomb. That was all shot in segments, and was this massive green screen thing. I would say that, because it had to look like one shot, there were so many segments to that, that it was quite tricky. To make it flow as one scene, that was the most challenging. Also, the snowstorm definitely comprised a lot of challenges for us, trying to match things and running in the snow, which was a tough element. I actually ended up loving Episode 10. That’s a really cool episode, so it was a blessing in disguise, in the end.
Why do you think, no matter how hard the Umbrella Academy siblings try and no matter how good their intentions are, they just keep repeating the same mistakes?
HOPPER: That’s the brilliance of it. They all have their qualities, but there are certain flaws to each of them, that they’ll never quite be able to get over. They’re all quite bull-headed and stubborn, and they can also be quite blasé about things that they don’t thing will make a difference, but actually make a big difference. Every little thing is a factor. They don’t think they will be a consequence, but they all are. With the time travel, the tiniest little thing you do can make a huge difference, and those guys have done so many things in that timeline that they don’t even realize.
The Umbrella Academy Season 2 is available to stream at Netflix.
Christina Radish is a Senior Reporter of Film, TV, and Theme Parks for Collider. You can follow her on Twitter @ChristinaRadish.