The Sensates of Sense8 are about to face a more thrilling, more terrifying, and sexier season when all the episodes of season two premiere today on Netflix, and there's one thing actress Jamie Clayton, who plays trans woman hacktivist and blogger Nomi Marks, wants you to know. While the Sensates' power grows, you'll find out a whole lot more about them and the opposing forces against them in the new season, Clayton told Syfy Wire in an exclusive interview.
In Season 1 we followed the lives of eight people from around the world who suddenly developed powers as "Sensates," or human beings who become mentally and emotionally linked to each other. After Angel, aka Daryl Hannah, gave birth to a new "cluster" of Sensates, the new group began to experience strange things, like suddenly finding themselves in a places around the world with another Sensate from their group, or suddenly developing abilities from one of the other members that helped them get out of a tough situation. We also learned that the mysterious Sensate Whisper and the equally mysterious organization, the BPO, were hunting down the Sensates.
Clayton (Hung) chatted with Syfy Wire about what we have to look forward to in Season 2 of Sense8, about why she's had to begin learning to speak computer, and about what it means to her to be a trans actress playing the breakout role of a trans woman in this sci-fi series.
Congratulations on season two. What a great character you've created with Nomi. I haven't seen a character like that in a series before.
Neither have I.
I know you guys have a big season and there's a lot going on with Nomi. Tell me about this character and what she means to you.
She means the world to me. I'm so pleased that everybody watching feels represented in a way that they haven't before because of not only Nomi but the entire eight on Sense8. We're showing the world basically and people are finally seeing their homes, skin colors, their lovers reflected on the screen the way that they have never have before. And to be a part of that is a true honor.
Last season Nomi was locked up in a hospital by her own mother and nearly lobotomized, and then she was hunted by the government. But she also connected with the other Sensates and has quite a love story going on. What's it like for you as an actress to play this role?
Oh God, it's a dream come true. I get to travel all over the world and not only work with Joe Straczynski and the Wachowskis and Netflix, which is such a leader in giving creatives a platform to tell these stories. To work with the other eight and really get to know them and then get to play such a multi-faceted character who's got an amazing girlfriend, Amanita played by Freema Agyeman. I'm so so so lucky. I worked my butt off to get the part and I continued to as we were filming, but I'm so grateful for the whole experience. It has completely changed my life and it's made me a better person, learning about the world and different cultures. It has really, really opened my eyes and my heart.
You've had some crazy scenes, like being one place and then suddenly transported into a Korean prison.
It's funny that you've brought up the prison. Nomi in season one only had that one very quick scene with Sun ... But you'll see in Season 2, now because [they are] Sensates they know about visiting and sharing more. They know how to do it and so we do it a lot more. There are loads more scenes where there's more of us connecting with each other, which is special. I know it's something that fans really wanted and the eight of us really wanted.
What can we look forward to in season two from Sense8 and Nomi?
There's loads more action and Nomi and Amanita are on the run from the FBI. We're hiding for the first part of the season. So one of my favorite things that happen is we get a lot of back story via flashbacks about BPO and Daryl Hannah and Naveen Andrews who play Angel and Jonas. We see really cool flashbacks with them and the birth of her first cluster and working with BPO, and where BPO came from and why they're doing what they're doing. I love all that origin story kind of stuff. And I think it's going to answer a lot of questions that the fans have.
What was it like to have Lana write this wonderful character and get cast as Nomi? I don't know Sense8 would be on the air in this form if it was on another network, if at all.
It's a real gift again for Netflix to be such visionaries. They're honestly the leaders of the pack as far as content is concerned. They're just really willing to give these creatives a place to tell these stories, and they don't want to water them down and they don't want to put them in a box. So Lana [Wachowski] was able, with Lilly [Wachowski] and with Joe Straczynski, to come up with this idea, pitch this show. Netflix was on the board from day one and it was Joe's idea to make Nomi trans which was so cool. And then it gave Lana an opportunity to write her first trans character, and therefore just bathe her in authenticity and her wanting to make sure that an actor, who happens to be trans ... make sure that they get the part. Then it brought the other layer of authenticity to the character. And that's resonating so deeply with the audience at home. It makes it challenging for me in the respect that I haven't gone through the things that Nomi had gone through.
Fortunately you haven't been chased by the FBI or nearly lobotomized with your mother's permission … Nobody would want that.
Whenever they hear sirens I get a little bit nervous (laughs) ... I am able to bring a level of vulnerability to the part that only someone who is trans can understand. I'm not that super cool.
What has been your biggest challenge with this role?
The jet lag (laughs).
I can imagine. You are traveling all of the time I would think.
Yes, we're literally hopping from city to city. There are 16 cities in Season 2. We did nine in season one so it was a big jump up in cities. The jet lag is definitely the biggest hurdle. All the challenges of filming and being on set and all that, those are great. We can put them into the work. But definitely it's the jet lag. And then another funny thing about traveling is that all of these places have very different climates and so you can never pack enough clothes. We're always dressed inappropriately. Wherever we are, we're trying to pile on a lot of our light clothes if it's too cold. All of the sudden everyone's got all their winter clothes and we end up in Positano. It's like, "Where are we going?"
What surprised you the most about playing Nomi? The thing you weren't expecting.
I think the thing that surprised the audience the most is her love, Amanita, the relationship that they have together. I think it's really special to see a character like Nomi, someone who is trans, to be loved for who she is. I think it's another level of her humanity. That's for me one of the coolest things.
I love the fact that Amanita's so accepting pretty much from the beginning of what's going on with Nomi. It's a crazy thing. The love of her life is talking to the air and telling Amanita she's communicating with a bunch of people around the world that Amanita can't see.
The cool thing about it that's super interesting is that I think that Amenita understands that Nomi has gone through some pretty incredible things in her life including her transition. At the point that she is now, she's living her best life. She's an authentic, fully rounded human being. When this Sense8 thing pops up, Amenita doesn't doubt in her even for one second because she's never known Nomi to lie, so why would she now. There's something to be said for honesty and authenticity. No one's going to be proud of you if you're not proud of yourself.
Nomi has a lot of depth and she feels like a real person, not a caricature. When you're reading the scripts and find out what's coming up for her, how, as an actress, do you ready herself for some of the really deep material?
That's a really good question. I'm always up for the challenge. As an actor I want to be able to play range and deepness, and I think what you just said was really smart in that she's not a caricature, she's a character. I think that one of the reasons that happens is because the story isn't focused on her transition. We've moved past that and you're able to see her life, her love, her work and she's a fully rounded human being. And then also there's this really cool sci-fi aspect to it where now she's connected to all of these other people and it doesn't get watered down in a transition story. So that part of it is really cool and I'm always up for the challenge of the different types of emotions whether it's family stuff, sex stuff or running from the FBI. All that stuff brings all of the fun and depth to Nomi.
Nomi is an expert with computers. Has that been like a new language for you to learn?
I don't know anything about computers, so... That's exactly what it is. It's a new language. I love a challenge. Knowledge is power. Our prop people that we work with in every city, Nomi's home city is San Francisco. So the bulk of Nomi shooting ends up there and Chris who is our prop woman there, I'm always asking tons of questions and there are loads of people. She was our local in San Francisco and then there are prop people. Alex is the one who travels with us all over. He's done loads of stuff with us. But I'm always asking questions about every bit of equipment, like every headset, every phone, every computer... I want to know what she's doing so I can bring some authenticity to it.
Why should people who didn't watch season one catch up with the show? Why should they watch Sense8 at this point?
I think anybody who is interested in learning about the world and interested in seeing the world in a way that they've never seen it before, whether they've traveled or not ... Anybody who wants to learn about other cultures, anybody that's interested in humanity, I think that they should watch because we're going to show you not only these eight amazing individuals, but we're going to show you the cities where they're from. The cities become characters themselves.
For me, that's one of the coolest things about filming and getting to know these places where they eat food, the way they love, the way they grieve, the way they celebrate… I think that anybody who's interested in the world would really really love our show... Plus, there's lots of sex and violence (laughs).
There is. You've got some racy stuff going on.
I sure do. Tune in May 5.
Is there more racy stuff to come?
Loads more, babe.
Here's a look at Season 2 of Sense8: