Netflix’s compelling and intense new series Sense8 premieres on June 5, 2015 with all 12 episodes immediately available for binge-watching. The sci-fi drama marks the first TV series from Matrix filmmakers Lana and Andy Wachowski who co-created and wrote Sense8 with J. Michael Straczynski (Babylon 5). The series follows a diverse group who are mysteriously connected, with Daryl Hannah and Naveen Andrews (Lost) playing two characters integral in helping those included in this bizarre new world come to terms with what’s happening.
The Plot: “Sense8 is centered around eight characters that live in different cities around the world who experience a violent vision, and soon find themselves mentally connected by this experience. They are suddenly able to see and talk to each other as though they were in the same place, and have access to each other’s deepest secrets. Not only must these eight adapt to this new ability and to each other, they must figure out what happened and why and what it means for the future of humanity, while being hunted by an organization out to capture, kill or vivisect them.”
Teaming up to discuss the series during a conference call, Andrews and Hannah both said the fact that Sense8 was from the Wachowskis was the reason they initially wanted to be involved. They also talked about how they approached their characters and the show’s overall themes.
What was the initial appeal of Sense8?
Daryl Hannah: “Well, I didn’t really know that much about the role – there’s a lot of us that don’t really know – but I wanted to do it because I am a big fan of the Wachowskis. I think that they take incredible creative risks. They always deal with humanity and more complex issues in an incredibly, wildly entertaining, innovative way and so much passion, and so much humanity and compassion and empathy. And so when I met them and heard about what they were intending to do, this project that had to do with interconnectedness and in a sort of a strange sense, I guess, sci-fi, but not really, it’s more like a mental sci-fi, I just was very excited. It absolutely super exceeded my expectations. We just saw it all last night, all of the cast together, and it was absolutely mind-blowing and exciting.”
Can you talk about how you tackle a role when so little is even made available to you about the character? What kind of guidance did you get from the Wachowskis and how were you able to make the character your own?
Daryl Hannah: “Yes, that’s a great question. It was really challenging because there are a lot unknowns about our characters to a certain extent. But, I mean, that is what we do as actors, we have to use our imagination to fill in the blanks with who our characters were, what got them to that point in life in this particular time. It added exceptional challenges in these parts because not only was there a lot of unknowns, sometimes we were doing scenes with characters who aren’t even there. There’s all kinds of mysteries. And when you have such brilliant filmmakers as Lana and Andy Wachowski, it’s really a great luxury to be able to place your total trust in them. I think all of us really felt that complete and utter trust that we had to because not only were there a lot of still mysteries and unknowns and things that we we’re grasping as we we’re shooting, we started to understand who these characters are and what their realities [were in] their world as we were shooting. But it was also resolving as we were shooting. It was also becoming more clear. Lana and Andy were still drawing inspiration from the moment and bringing it into the story as we were shooting. So it was quite an incredible creative process.”
Naveen Andrews: “Yes, I would agree with Daryl completely on that because we were both sort of in the same boat. When we arrived in San Francisco I think – correct me if I’m wrong, Daryl – but we did have a lot of questions about our characters and we even wrote them down on a piece of paper. But no answer actually came back on the piece of paper or otherwise. What we found – at least for me – was that I found where my character was coming from, where it was going, who this person was in the piece from actually watching Lana at work on set. So it wasn’t an intellectual understanding, it was emotional and visceral way in. And what was on the page didn’t necessarily end up on screen. What you got on screen was often something very different.”
Was there one thing in particular that you latched on to, one characteristic or something that allowed you entry into this character?
Daryl Hannah: “I guess, for me, there’s a sort of pivotal scene at the beginning that I’m in that is really my character making sort of this, I guess, the ultimate sacrifice for those that she loves. And that’s something that was pretty easy for me to latch on to because that’s the kind of thing that I do in my advocacy and activism work. You do what you must or need to, to protect what you love, and that’s sort of a key to that. So that was this one thing that I was able to hang on to.”
Naveen Andrews: “I think that the one thing that I hung on to, for me, was the fact that our journey seems to be carrying the weight of some unbearable knowledge. You could feel the weight of it all the way through the scenes in the (piece). In the way he interacts with the various Sensates in so much as if that knowledge is too much bad.”
Did you watch all of the episodes back-to-back and is that how you would suggest viewers watch it?
Naveen Andrews: “That’s up to the individual. It’s like, ‘Handle with care.’ It’s very powerful and to have it all at once, I mean, it kind of depends on who you are. If it was a novel, would you read the novel all the way through? Would you take it chapter by chapter or maybe two or three chapters at a time? The intensity of it is…well, what would you say, Daryl?”
Daryl Hannah: “Well, I’d say it’s a particularly gratifying experience to be able to watch it all together because [it] was so dense. It’s so dense, it’s so complicated. I will be watching it again. I would have preferred, personally, to watch it and take it slower and maybe do an episode or maybe two at a time and let it absorb.”
Naveen Andrews: “That’s right.”
Daryl Hannah: “There’s so many things going on, and they all kind of eventually weave together and it takes a while to even process what you just experienced because it’s intense. […]But for us it was glorious to be able to watch it together because we had such a cathartic experience shooting it. And then to be able to sit in the same room since we are a global cast, we are an international cast, for us all to be together and having traveled the world and work together and all these places for long and had such a wonderful experience on the production, to be able to share that with each other was a really, really wonderful completed circle.”
Are you’re prepared for the instant feedback that comes with being released on a platform such as Netflix and all of the episodes being available all at once versus the more traditional format where things change from week to week?
Naveen Andrews: “Well, it’s having all the tools available as options to an audience with the power of choice. I mean, 10 years ago, I guess, when Lost was released, you had that sense of anticipation after each week, before each episode. But now you can watch like 12 [episodes] all at once, or break it up, and therefore the audience’s perception, how they will see the material, is going to be different.”
Daryl Hannah: “I can’t really weigh in on that because I’ve never participated in a week by week series before. But at the same time I just think that this gives the viewer the option. That’s just great. And in terms of feedback, to each his own. I hope people love it. I think it’s one of the most amazing things I’ve ever seen on film, whether it’s a movie or TV, it’s fantastic. Freaking loved it.”
Naveen, as Jonas the guide how much did you get to travel and interact with the rest of the cast?
Naveen Andrews: “Not as much as I would have liked, but a great deal. I was in San Francisco, Chicago, London, Reykjavik, and Berlin, so I didn’t get to go to the East. But it felt that you were on this train that was traveling, and you’d get off a stop and maybe have maybe two weeks off, three weeks off, maybe a little bit longer, then going straight back into again. And every time that you did, you’d be back on that as it were and pick up almost where you left off in the sense of how you felt about the people that you’ve been with.”
-By Rebecca Murray
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