Perhaps it isn’t so surprising that the character that show creator Steve Blackman had the hardest time casting for his new Netflix series, ‘The Umbrella Academy’ was Number Five. On the show, in 1989, 43 women unexpectedly gave birth, even though none of them were pregnant that morning. Eccentric millionaire Sir Reginald Hargreeves manages to “adopt” (buy) seven of them, knowing that they would develop superpowers as they grew older and would be the world’s only hope against a coming apocalypse.
But one of the kids, Number Five misuses his time travel abilities and winds up separated from the other, stuck in the future after the world’s near destruction, all alone. He winds up spending decades there, growing to the age of 58, before he manages to return to the present, but in doing so he retains his 58 years worth of life experience, but is stuck in the body he had when he was 13 years old.
How do you cast a real teenager that can convey the personality of a 58-year-old man? It wasn’t easy.
As Blackman revealed to Entertainment Weekly:
“When it came to Number Five, I started to panic at one point, because I’d literally seen hundreds of kids with Peter Hoare, the director. Then I got a tape from Aidan Gallagher, who looked at the camera and said, ‘I would kill to have this part,’ and then launched into his audition. I just instantly knew, that’s Five. He had a little bit of this brooding sullenness which he needed to do, but he also could bring the complexity of being a 58-year-old man in a 13-year-old’s body. Aidan was such a professional on set. You don’t often see younger actors who can be around five 30-year-olds and not flinch, but Aidan could. He’d come to set every day, sit in the room with these other actors, hit his mark, hit his lines, and never screw up. He just brought that brooding anger and gruffness that had to be Five. I felt very blessed that we found Aidan because at one point we worried, ‘Oh my God, we’re not gonna find this kid.’”
Upon his return, Number Five is focused on stopping the apocalypse, while his siblings seem only too eager to embrace whatever distraction comes their way. It appears that his youthful appearance isn’t the only thing that isolates Number Five from his brothers and sisters.
As Gallagher said:
“When I key into the character of Five, I’m generally drawing upon a mental state — not so much thinking about the 58-year-old side of him, just the way he reacts to things. For me, that’s really the key to how he interacts with other characters. Five has sort of had his own little life aside from everyone. He spent 45 years in the apocalypse, and that took a toll on him and was a big part of his overall trauma. That was one of the most interesting things about Five that I got to play. That’s one of the things that separates him and the family apart, because of how much he knows, and how much they’re oblivious to. He definitely has a different relationship with the pacing of the series than the others do. They’re more relaxed, they’re dealing with the death of Hargreeves, and Five isn’t really concerned with any of that. He’s more worried about the incoming apocalypse, and he has no clue as to what caused it.”
‘The Umbrella Academy’ certainly doesn’t shy away from weirdness and whimsey and one story element that fits that bill is Number Five’s “marriage” to Dolores, who turns out to be a mannequin. Number Five lugs Dolores around the apocalypse, and then when he returns to the present, he makes it a mission to locate her. In both timelines, Five has in-depth conversations with Dolores, and as Gallagher explains, these weren’t one-sided.
“It was definitely one of the things I looked forward to because I had a feeling they might expand on it, and I wanted to play around with how his trauma would affect the relationship between the two of them. If I were to do a scene with her, I would make dialogue for her. He would be having a real interaction with her, a real conversation, and for that he needs a real character. So Five is playing the part of Dolores. That is a fun dynamic that I was definitely looking forward to shooting.”
The first 10-episode season of ‘The Umbrella Academy’ was released on Netflix last Friday, and is currently the #1 most streamed series in the US. Have you seen all of Season One yet?