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Robert Sheehan, Portlaoise's acting superhero back in the Umbrella Academy

Robert Sheehan, Portlaoise's acting superhero back in the Umbrella Academy

It’s the Sixties in Dallas, America, and the Hargreeves siblings are scattered in time, over a three-year period.

That’s the setting for series two of The Umbrella Academy, the quirky Netflix superhero show based on the comic book series of the same name.

And we can expect some interesting developments when it comes to the character of Klaus Hargreeves, played by Irishman Robert Sheehan.

“He essentially replaces the anaesthetics of drugs with adulation, thousands and thousands of adoring followers, to try and anaesthetise that same pain that he’s always had going on,” explains the 32-year-old, also known for E4 series Misfits, and film Mortal Engines.

The charming star says it is a “blessing” to work with showrunner Steve Blackman, because he’s “very collaborative”.

“He’s not precious, he’s not rigid, he’s very creatively flexible which suggests to me he’s a man who has dominion over his ego.

“It’s a great relief to work with someone like that.”

The premise of the show is this: on one day in 1989, 43 infants were mysteriously born to women who showed no signs they were pregnant the day before.

Seven of these babies were adopted by a billionaire named Sir Reginald Hargreeves, who trains them as children at the Umbrella Academy in the hope that, one day, they will save the world.

For anyone not in the know, the Hargreeves siblings and their superpowers are: Klaus (can see and talk to the dead); Luther (super-strength and durability); Diego (can throw any object with deadly accuracy); Allison (mind control); Five (can jump through space and time); and Vanya (telekinetic abilities). There was also Ben, however, he was killed before the events of series one.

“They’ve been raised and nurtured at such a remove from normality,” Sheehan notes of the characters. “They just have each other in this little abnormal pool.

“The challenge for them is to have some semblance of normal life. They’re human beings first, who fall in love, get angry, get sad, declare missions for themselves.”

When their father died, his clan reunited and tried to work together to solve the mystery behind their father’s death. Then came the threat of a global apocalypse, which Five managed to help his family escape, using his powers.

Now, in series two, we see the impact of that; Five warned it was risky, and indeed, that’s how they’ve ended up in different periods of time (starting in 1960).

Some of the siblings have been stuck in the past for years, and have built lives for themselves, while the last to land is Five – bang in the middle of a nuclear doomsday.

Over the 10 new episodes, we will see the Umbrella Academy attempting to reunite with each other, stop a doomsday from happening, and get back to the present day, all while facing other dangers along the way.

One word used to describe this show a lot is “weird”, something Tom Hopper, who plays Luther, is happy to be part of.

“Weird stands out, doesn’t it?” enthuses the Leicestershire-born star, 35, who’s also appeared in TV shows Black Sails and Merlin.

“If it’s not been done 100 times before, then it’s something that people could relate to in a different way.”

“Weird is just a new normal that hasn’t arrived yet,” points out kooky Sheehan.

“You could say that about anything really… electricity. There was a bunch of cavemen sat round on one side of the cave and there were a few lads with fire on the other side, the lads over in the dark were like, ‘That’s weird, mate’.”

The cast has started attending Comic-Con since The Umbrella Academy aired, and Hopper says witnessing the fans’ reactions to their characters is awesome.

“I tell you what, there have been some amazing costumes,” he continues, before saying to his co-star (over our Zoom call): “Rob, there are ones that look identical to you, it’s quite bizarre.”

“It’s so lovely and dedicated,” follows Sheehan.

“Two weeks before lockdown, me and my agent went to Chicago for one of these events, and I mean if we didn’t get coronavirus there… it’s a pure lottery, because I hugged like two or three thousand people in two days.”

He adds avidly: “The costumes are impressive, yeah. It’s all part of their community, isn’t it? They get together and try to one-up each other, it’s great.”

The last few months have been a dramatic and turbulent time, not only with the catastrophic impact of coronavirus in various countries, but also the Black Lives Matter movement, and political unrest.

Were the pair aware of parallels between themes and events explored in The Umbrella Academy and real life?

“Yeah, you did see it happening,” says Hopper.

“What it brought to life for me, especially looking at it now and looking at what’s about to come out in the show, it’s like we knew those problems are all there; they’re all underlying problems in the world.

“They’re just waiting to come out of the woodwork, and it takes a big moment, like we’ve experienced this year, for it to see the light of day, and these moments are always bubbling under the surface.”

“I think lockdown was one of the environmental conditions that perhaps led to this uprising and civil rights movements and stuff,” suggests Sheehan.

“And, of course, 1963, where we are in the second series [of The Umbrella Academy] is a very contentious time for civil rights, loads of change going on, loads of violence going on. The timing is quite timely.”

Not only are Hopper and Sheehan co-stars, but the chatty, fun pair also seem like good friends and, while shooting season two, birthed the idea of making a podcast together, called The Earth Locker.

“It was great, it gave us a brilliant avenue to focus on in between shooting,” recalls Hopper.

“There are so many hours in the day that can just be wasted, or you can make them productive.

“Me and Rob started this project that eventually has now become The Earth Locker which is, ultimately, to bring light to a lot of the problems that are on this earth that we don’t recognise as problems, and actually are, and they’re all something we can do something about.

“There are experts in the world that are doing things about these problems, and that’s who we’re interviewing in The Earth Locker podcast.”

The Umbrella Academy season two launches on Netflix on Friday, July 31

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