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Netflix's The Umbrella Academy – the decidedly weird and quirky new superhero series adapted from Gerard Way and Gabriel Bá's Eisner-winning graphic novels – can get pretty heavy at times. For starters, the show kicks off with the death of family patriarch Sir Reginald Hargreeves (Colm Feore), a billionaire philanthropist so emotionally distant he didn't even bother giving any of his seven adopted, superpowered children names, leaving them to name themselves.
Or in other words, not exactly a top contender for Father of the Year honors. "He was a monster," eulogizes David Castañeda's Diego (aka Number Two) at the funeral.
Then you've got the whole impending apocalypse thing. Not to mention ten episodes' worth of dysfunctional family drama. Thankfully though, The Umbrella Academy's not all doom and gloom; showrunner Steve Blackman (Altered Carbon, Fargo) and his cast make sure to lighten the mood via a healthy dose of gallows humor and musical numbers that function almost like mini music videos.
Including one early standout moment about halfway through the show's first episode: the estranged siblings are finally back under one roof again, sulking in their respective rooms, before Tom Hopper's Luther, the de facto leader of the group, pops on a quintessential '80s bop, Tiffany's "I Think We're Alone Now," and kicks off a Hargreaves family dance party – with everyone dancing by themselves, of course.
"The kids are acting like they're so dissimilar to each other. Yet when they go to their childhood rooms and they think they're alone, they let loose and you see the innocence come out," Blackman told SYFY WIRE in advance of the show's Toronto premiere (where the series was filmed). "It's just a sweet tableau for that one second."
Blackman says he had a few dance moves in mind for each actor, but mostly just left it up to the cast to feel the music and the moment. "I gave them some moves, and half of them ignored me, which is okay," he laughs. "I was off set screaming, 'Do the Watusi!' They'd scream back, 'I don't know the Watusi!'"
"Steve gave us a lot of leeway with what we wanted to do," confirms Hopper. "I think that's what's great about that sequence. We got given the basics and then he was like after that, you can go nuts. Do your thing."
"And there was a cattle prod on set. So if ever you slowed down, you got jabbed with that," jokes Robert Sheehan, whose Klaus, the family's resident black sheep, dances a waltz with dear old dad's ashes.
"There are certain dance moves in there which I never thought would make the cut – i.e. my crab," laughs Hopper. "Which is so funny, because the dance move that Steve gave me didn't make it," says Raver-Lampman, who plays Allison, now a famous movie star. "I think once I took the boa and was on the bed, they were like, 'Oh. Yeah. That.'"
For Blackman, the most important element sequence was that each of the siblings dance in a way that's in keeping with their personality. "Everyone is dancing in character," says Castañeda. "Which is one of the dopest things." For Hopper's giant-sized Luther, that means earnest, but awkward. For Ellen Page's Vanya, her moves are smaller, more self-conscious.
"I did this big Van Halen kick. My leg stretched further than I think it's ever stretched before. But it didn't make the cut," laments Hopper. "Maybe because they thought, 'No, Luther can't do that. That's too much.'"
"They should've done the other leg. He tried to do it on the other one and it barely got above 30 degrees," Raver-Lampman laughs.
"I kind of like Ellen Page's moves. They're pretty fun," says Cameron Britton. (While he wasn't part of the montage, his time-traveling assassin character gets his own mini dance sequence alongside Mary J. Blige later in the season.) "They're a bit like she's high at a rave," jokes Sheehan.
That was all Page, according to Blackman: "Ellen just did Ellen. She did this great little dance and said, 'It has to be understated, because I'm a wallflower and I'm just letting loose a little bit.'"
Ultimately though, everyone agreed that while Luther may be "Number One," the number one dancer in the family has to be Castañeda. "Easily," nods Britton.
"They did a screening for the whole cast and crew while we were here in Toronto before we wrapped, of the pilot. Just a rough, rough, rough cut," explains Raver-Lampman. "David's moment came up, and the whole room was like, 'What?!' We all were so shocked."
"I just did not see that coming. At all. His whole body roll, the moonwalking. The popping and locking. It was so good. I was so impressed." She wasn't the only one either, with Sheehan agreeing that Diego "had some serious body pops."
"Yeah, but you guys never want to dance with me when we go out," Castañeda replies.
Once people get a look at The Umbrella Academy's first episode, we have a feeling he'll have no problem finding a dance partner.