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Umbrella Academy's Emmy Raver-Lampman finds power in rising to the times in Season 2
The second season of Netflix’s The Umbrella Academy was always going to be based on the second comic arc, The Umbrella Academy: Dallas, by Gerard Way and illustrator Gabriel Bá. Yet as was the case in the first season of the TV series adaptation, there’s a lot of new material that expands upon the comic book mythology. In particular, Allison Hargreeves’ experiences after being thrown into the 1960s are arguably the most resonant as she navigates an American time and culture hostile to her personhood as a Black superhero in the segregated South.
Initially alone in the timeline, Allison has to dispel her fear of being lost in the past, and turn that into a pivot point for her growth as a person. She finds a life and a cause in Dallas with her local Black community — and a new husband in Rey (Yusuf Gatewood) — that propels her far from who she was in the future.
The sophomore season of the series is landing during another moment of American social change in the wake of George Floyd’s death and the ongoing Black Lives Matter protests. While the series was written and in production during 2019, it’s always the hope, especially with genre storytelling, that stories can land in a way to augment, or at least tie into, the times, giving audiences even more of an opportunity to connect.
Actress Emmy Raver-Lampman, who plays Allison, tells SYFY WIRE that this season of The Umbrella Academy has been a profound one for her. “2020 has been a whopper of a year for so many reasons,” she says with a wistful chuckle. “But this show, coming now, and Allison’s story being part of a storyline that is resonating in a way that will be seen on millions of television screens around the world... it's something our country has been dealing with — against and for — for hundreds of years and still are.”
Readers of the comics will know that Allison’s story in Dallas is entirely new for the TV narrative, created by executive producer/showrunner Steve Blackman and his writers' room for the series. "I couldn’t tell a story in 1960 and have Allison, a woman of color, and not deal with the racial tension of that time period," Blackman explains. "Same for the story of Vanya being a queer character. It was really important to lean into that."
Because the narrative was created outside of the comic books, Blackman ended up sharing with Raver-Lampman what was coming for her character in Season 2. “I was excited, for sure, to have her reestablish herself,” she says of her initial reaction to the arc. “In some ways, this is such a new beginning for Allison. It was undeniable that she would either be confronted with, or dealing with, or in the middle of the civil rights movement because Allison is a Black woman.
"But I was also a little nervous about that, taking on a monumental moment in African American history, and in the history of America," she admits. "I wanted to make sure that was dealt with care and respect, making sure it was a safe space and did right by those who are still alive that were on the front lines of that, who had to live through that.”
Watching Allison become an unrepentant activist, standing up in the story against the micro and macro aggressions of the time against Black citizens, is a mirror to what so many are doing now in cities and countries all over the world.
“I think we are living in a moment where this season is addressing the civil rights movement and with Ellen [Page’s] storyline, the LGBTQ community in the ‘60s, which was a time where being queer was illegal and considered a mental illness. And the starters of the civil rights movement were taking on bold and difficult topics,” she continues. “The movement for social injustice, and equality, and the ending of the brutality of Black and brown bodies didn’t start with George Floyd. It started 400 years ago. And the show is tying a thicker string between the fight of the civil rights movement and the fight of the Black Lives Matter movement, and shining a brighter light on the fact that it is the same fight. It is the same struggle and the same violence playing out.”
As fans engage with the full season, Raver-Lampman hopes Allison’s story continues to inspire people to keep going with the fire that’s ignited right now, and even take up the mantle of civil rights icon Congressman John Lewis.
“We just lost John Lewis and a lot of people are watching his documentary [Good Trouble] and going through his unbelievable legacy,” she says with reverence. “He’s marching with Dr. Martin Luther King and being thrown in jail and brutalized. We’re looking at his legacy through pictures and video images. The correlation and the parallels to the violence we’re seeing on the nightly news is unreal. And the fact that we just lost him, and he was the last leader of that movement, if that doesn’t make you realize how recent that history is and how prevalent [it] is right now — it gives me goosebumps every time I think about it.
"It felt important and relevant when we were shooting it a year ago," she continues. "[Allison] finding her power without using her powers is big for her [this season]. But underneath that, Allison knows life is bigger than this family and can be rich, full, and fulfilling without being a superhero.”
The Umbrella Academy Season 2 is available now on Netflix.