“What would be the best way to steal one of these phones,” asked Robert Sheehan, staring at the phones we had laid out on the table so we could record the interview.
David Castañeda replied, “You know what, take your shoe off, put it on the table.”
“Yes, to blind them all,” Robert replied.
Robert and David were at Netflix’s See What’s Next: Asia event in November to promote their show “The Umbrella Academy.” But we were momentarily distracted by Robert’s sparkly shoes—Lord Cubano brogues by Christian Louboutin.
We tore our eyes away from Robert’s silver shoes long enough to talk about their adaptation of the Gerard Way comic book series, where Robert and David play adoptive brothers and superheroes Klaus and Diego.
“We are a dysfunctional family and the core of our dysfunction is we’re not very good superheroes,” said Robert, who loves working with the show’s cast.
““We all connect really well. I remember coming away from the end of series and saying, oh the people are lovely, the material was great, I’d do 50 seasons of this if I possibly could.”
How hands on was Gerard Way in creating this series?
David: He was like the godfather, he gave the blessing, he was there in the beginning of production. We had dinner with him and it was very nice to ask him questions about the comic book.
Robert: He was delightfully enthusiastic after he’d seen us do the read through. He was like, great! Really good! And it was like catnip to us, “Thank god you approve.”
How much research did you do to play a character who is perpetually high or drunk?
Robert: Lots. (laughs) No, I need the old liver to continue working so I just did the old internal research as opposed to taking lot of drugs. I did diaries, visual diaries, exercises in automatic expression, improvising… It all happens in stages. I wanted him to be very different from me because it just makes your job easier when you feel that you’re physically transforming.
If you could play another character on the show, who would it be?
Robert: Reginald Hargreeves (played by Colm Feore).
David: Hazel (Cameron Britton) and Cha-Cha (Mary J. Blige), I think those would be fun. From the comic books they’re just hilarious.
Robert: They’re so unhinged. I might play Hazel. That would be a good one.
David: Gain a few pounds.
Robert: Yeah, exactly. Launch into the donuts.
Is the show faithful to the comic books or not?
Robert: The strength of the graphic novel is in its tone. Tonally it’s really strong. It grabs you, page one, and declares itself like nothing else tonally speaking. The show is very faithful to the graphic novel in that respect. But it’s 10 hours of television, there’s vast amounts of storyline there. The show deviates a lot from the source material because it has to, it has to be its own thing. So both, David’s right there.
If you could have one superpower, what would it be?
Robert: For my feet to look like this without any shoes on. It would be pretty good to have disco ball feet… at will! Yeah, I’m gonna go with that.
David: I’d like my power to be world peace.
Robert: World peace. Boring.
David: Yeah, world peace.
Robert: Disco ball feet.
Describe the show in three words.
David: Family, dysfunction…
Robert: Pineapple. Um, yeah…
Robert: What’s the opposite of super?
That’s a really hard question. Antihero dysfunction? Sounds like one of Gerard’s failed bands before My Chemical Romance. Three words, My Chemical Romance.
Can you talk about your wardrobe on the show?
Robert: It was to Dave’s liking.
David: He called me every morning. He said, I’m thinking pants? Or no pants?
Robert: What about the knives?
David: The knives were made out of steel, real steel.
Robert: He was carrying like 13 knives at all times. I felt a bit paranoid.
David: It was tough because eventually I’d have to pass small little hallways and I would hit a cast member or a grip or something and I would stab them on the rib. I had to be very aware of that. They asked me, “Do you want the plastic knives or do you want the real knives?” And I was like, “I want the real knives.”
Robert: You were definitely the pointiest cast member.
David: I stung.
Robert: Exactly. Like a bee. I loved the costume. It wasn’t necessarily functional or comfortable but it was very very intensely the character so it made my job easier just squeezing into those extremely tight leather pants every morning and then having to put talc down there to get them off. It’s always funny because Klaus in the costume research, it was just like a game of mad dress up, crazy dress up. At one point I was wearing lederhosen… he’d just wear anything. It’s funny how that then starts to creep its way into your wardrobe. This crop top is nice. These leather pants are great, I might get myself a pair. So Klaus has come along with me since we finished in that respect.