Sense8 EP looks back on 'chaotic' experience of shooting series finale
WARNING: The following contains spoilers for the Sense8 series finale. Read at your own risk!
Of course Sense8 went out with a bang, a literal bang. The series, for two seasons, had been about a group of eight people connected emotionally mind-blowing ways, capable of “visiting” each other wherever they were around the world, sharing feelings and sensations, and even being able to know each other’s thoughts. By the end of the two-and-a-half hour finale special, the sensates had survived every threat against them — including BPO, of course — and they finally get a chance to relax at Nomi (Jamie Clayton) and Amanita’s (Freema Agyeman) wedding.
The series finale was ultimately a “celebration,” executive producer Grant Hill says. Below, Hill breaks down what it was like to put together a feature-length finale.
ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY: You knew this was going to be the last episode, the last time you’d be able to put these characters together. What were your goals going in?
GRANT HILL: The aim of this finale episode was promoted by a couple of things. We and Netflix felt that leaving the series’ followers with an ending that didn’t finish out the show left a vacuum. We had, obviously, a lot of support from very vocal fans, and they felt it. So we just decided that, all right, if we’re going to do it, we have to do it really well, and the feeling of it has to mirror the feeling that the series had had. And we had to shine a light back in some ways to some of the characters that we haven’t seen for a while, and basically end up with something that was really positive, that was high energy, and that would feel fitting for the end of the series.
Since this hadn’t been contemplated [before the series finale order], by the time we got around to talking with Netflix about it, we were really only eight or nine weeks from the date that we had to start it. We had a locked finish date, and we didn’t have a script. Therefore we couldn’t do a schedule and a budget, so it was all very sort of chaotic, but very high energy, you know? Lana had very quickly sketched out what she felt would need to be in there, and [the finale] was just described that it would reflect the series, give it an ending, a high spirited ending, and answer some of the overall dramatic questions, and go out with a big punch.
The finale special is about two hours and 30 minutes long. Did you approach it like a feature film, or did you think of it as a series of episodes packed into one? How did you break down something so massive?
It was was a 10- or ultimately a 12-hour movie [before editing]. It’s sort of the only way you can do it because that’s really what it is, they continuously interlock stories. You’re traveling, your production values are high; it’s a big long film. And once you realize that then it becomes easier. Because these big complex expensive series, unless they’re set in sort of a singular location or a lot of work on stage, you have to really approach them as a movie.
Speaking of locations, how did you decide that Paris would be the final location of this global story? It is the City of Love.
Given the time restraints and the schedule restraints [of making the finale], it had to be done wholly in Europe. Berlin has always been our base and this time, our schedule was the same. We went to Berlin first, we shot for six days and we ended up back in Berlin at the end. But Paris was a city that we always wanted to do, and there are various story lines where Paris was mentioned, but we never quite got there in the series. So it was a natural progression to say, “All right, well let’s go.”
So as we set out to do it we were hesitant because it, like any big European city, takes time to get things done. It particularly takes time to get permission for certain places such as the Eiffel Tower which had never been shut down before for anything other than state events. But we had a fantastic French crew and they pulled some strings. We were helped in all of these cities — everywhere we’ve gone, we’ve been helped along the way in that regard. They gave us provisional permission to use the city, and we just went with it.
It really was a real pleasure to just watch the entire cast have fun in that last half hour on the Eiffel Tower. What was it like pulling that together?
We only had it for six hours. On the day [we shot], it was raining when we got there, and that [shooting time] was reduced down to about two hours, so that whole sequence was shot on the Eiffel Tower in two hours. The weather just broke for two hours and then it started to rain again. As we were shooting it, there was so much energy in that that it felt like the last thing [we worked together on].
We went back to Berlin [for the end] because one of the things we learned was that no matter how well everything goes and how much material we get, there’s always little bits and pieces that, when you’re moving from city to city, either needs an added shot or a piece of this and a piece of that. So that last five days in Berlin was really probably some of the nuts and bolts [of reshooting] five or six little pieces every day.
Having said that, you could feel on the last day of filming a high, emotional feeling and energy that just kind of crept into the studio. It was a lot of tears at the end. It was a finale, and that’s in itself emotional. We knew where we were going, we knew how long we had. When you put it together, it was just sort of one long celebration.
That said, the plot did tie up some loose ends. For example, the Kala-Wolfgang-Rajan love triangle gets solved in a very Sense8 plan, with the men accepting each other as partners as well. Was that always the plan?
So, Lana locked herself basically away for a couple of days to just get a skeleton [after the finale was announced]. We needed a skeleton to start putting the tracks down, and yeah, we talked a lot about it… Some of the elements of the ending that we wanted to have were easy, some were quite difficult to do. And one of the things that came out of it was that ending. It worked out spectacularly well. It’s a really nice, uplifting sequence I think.
What would you say was the most satisfying scene for you to work on, to capture? There are so many moments in the finale that I’m sure satisfied fans, from Wolfgang making it back to his cluster, to him shooting the bazooka, to the Trojan horse tourist gag, and more. What types of scenes out of themes were your favorite to play?
I would have to choose the Eiffel Tower sequence, the wedding sequence, because it is the essence of [the show having] a heightened, emotional content. You’re seeing characters that you’ve seen before — or you mightn’t have seen for a while — and they’re just so beautifully tied into this episode that it was always going to be high emotion.
That very final montage is a montage of sex scenes that’s all about love. What do you hope people take away from the very final scene, and what do you hope the legacy of the show will be?
We’ve always put great value on including people, including other people. We try and make it positive, we try and make and have people understand that acceptance is powerful and much more uplifting than anything else. We want it to feel hopeful. You don’t know where it’s all going but you know it’s too bleak out there at the moment, so we wanted to push it in a hopeful joyous way. There’s nothing more complicated than that.
I do love that it all ends with a non-sensate, Rajan, in awe of what’s going on in front of him.
It does symbolize everything. It’s really been hanging over them for a while, this sort of love triangle thing, and how it’s going to be resolved. Often those things don’t work out very well for some or all of the participants, but I thought Lana did a very eloquent job of presenting just a specific approach to a specific part of the story. And I think you know, again, it has a very positive message.
Is there at all any chance of pursuing more Sense8 down the line or bringing this cast together again?
No there hasn’t been. And I think we all feel that it’s, you know it was, although it wasn’t unexpected it was, we were sad when it was closed down at the end of the second season. But the main thing that we’re left with was just this desire to really put an ending in there that actually kept the spirit of the series. And I think that this worked out so wonderfully well. I think this is it’s natural arc, you know?
It really did feel like a celebration. Anything else you’d like to add?
I’m just looking forward to seeing people’s reactions. I think in a way the finale and the power of the finale is introducing people that didn’t have an opportunity to see the series in its entirety to go back and watch it. For us, it’s fantastic that in a way the finale is drawing a new number of people into the whole experience.