When Steve Blackman, screenwriter of series like Fargo, promised to adapt for Netflix The Umbrella Academy, the comic books signed by Gerard Way and Gabriel Bá, about a family of deeply traumatized superheroes, was clear about the problem: the genre is more than light. "They are Marvel and DC, and they do it very well. But when I read the original material what I saw was a wonderful story about a dysfunctional family, and that was my way of doing it differently: their powers or abilities are important, but the series is mostly about brothers who are struggling to rebuild their lives after the death of his father. And, apart, they also have to save the world, "explains Blackman to EL PAÍS during a meeting in London.
He had to hit the right key. Just two weeks after its premiere, The Umbrella Academy has found its place in popular culture, in the absence of Netflix audience data, based on the conversations that the networks are generating and on Reddit. One of the great strengths of the series is its cast, which includes Ellen Page, Mary J. Blige, Tom Hopper (Game of Thrones), Cameron Britton (Mindhunter) or Kate Walsh (Grey's Anatomy). "The best thing is that they love each other", congratulates Blackman. "They were in Toronto, away from their families, and they connected: they went out together, they left brunch… Sometimes I even had to tell them, 'Okay, now stop gossiping and we're rolling the scene.' "It was a deliberate choice showrunner choose a spectrum of actors more diverse and representative than that of graphic novels. "I think Gerard, looking back, regrets not having made them more diverse," he says.
Page, says Blackman, was always his bet for Vanya Hargreeves, a character whose emotional arc evolves radically throughout the ten chapters that make up this first season: "The story of Vanya is, however cliché it is, that of a metamorphosis. At first she is apart, but then she discovers something special about herself that ends up surpassing her. It takes a lot of talent to show that transformation slowly, with all the nuances, and Ellen did it with mastery. " To Mary J. Blige, who plays Cha-Cha, a hitman who travels back in time, Blackman asked her what she would like to obtain from the experience: "She told me that she wanted to do the action scenes herself, shoot guns, and all kinds of things 'hard aunt' … "
Another piece of Blackman's puzzle was the music, which The Umbrella Academy It is much more than a mere background sound: "I wanted to make it a character more. It was not about putting a few seconds of a song to evoke an emotion, but that the music was really part of the scene leaving the whole song, almost like in a music video ".
The truth is that the playlist of the series is pure gold. Did Gerard Way – who in his previous life was the vocalist of My Chemical Romance – have something to do? "Yes, he covered the song A Hazy Shade of Winter for the trailer and we talked about the music, but not as much as we would have liked, because he was very busy writing the next volume of the comics. Next time he will be more involved, "says Blackman, pointing to a second season that, according to just published media such as NME, it would already be confirmed. Something that was also inferred from the monumental script with which culminates the last episode: "In the graphic novel was different, but I wanted an ending that made you get off the couch saying: 'And now what?'".
The touches of humor, at times light and at times very dark, that distill the dialogues, and the ability to integrate naturally into the plot such delirious elements as the fact that the Hargreeves steward is a talking chimpanzee (created by those responsible for the effects of Planet of the Apes) also make the difference in the tone of a series that fears neither the strange nor the absurd. Here Blackman admits the footprint of Wes Anderson's cinema: "Yes, 100%. In particular, The Tenenbaums. A family of geniuses, which is about another dysfunctional family. But I have also been influenced by other filmmakers, such as the Coen brothers or Brian De Palma. " He concludes: "I wanted to make a very cinematic series; a 10-hour movie. "