Showrunner Steve Blackman tells EW about his approach to the show
The Umbrella Academy isn’t like other superhero shows. Sure, the new show (whose first season hits Netflix next month) is based on a comic book of the same name by Gerard Way and Gabriel Bá, but it’s quite different from the likes of DC’s Arrow or Marvel’s The Punisher. Although most of the main characters possess supernatural abilities, they’re less crusading heroes and more like…well, a dysfunctional family.
As seen in the new trailer, the family at the center of The Umbrella Academy was formed in an unusual way. One day in 1989, 43 women suddenly gave birth even though none of them had even been pregnant when the day began. Seven of the children born that day were adopted by the eccentric billionaire Sir Reginald Hargreeves (Colm Feore), who intended to mold them into superheroes capable of saving the world.
Cut to the present day, where Hargreeves’ sudden death has inspired his adopted children to reunite for the first time in years, and it’s unclear whether his plan succeeded. Even with a potential apocalypse on the horizon, these characters — from the strong and stubborn Luther (Tom Hopper) to the louche hippie Klaus (Robert Sheehan) — are still wrestling with their own alienation and resentments.
“First and foremost, I wanted to ground the characters,” showrunner Steve Blackman tells EW. “It’s a very busy landscape of superhero stories. When I first looked at the graphic novel, to me, it was a dysfunctional family show. In fact I had the logline, when I first pitched it to Netflix, that it’s ‘a dysfunctional family show with a body count.’ I was very inspired by Wes Anderson and The Royal Tenenbaums, and I wanted to give it that feel, make it very cinematic and set it to music, which was a big part of it, and really make it stand out from Marvel/DC fare. All of those shows are great but I really wanted this to feel different, make it feel like they’re very imperfect and the family’s struggling.”
Hargreeves’ plan seemed to work well enough when his children were, well, children. They all wore matching school uniforms and worked together to stop bank robberies and various other crimes, and got quite famous for it. But in the present, they’ve become passe in the culture at large. They’re like washed-up child stars who still have to contend with their strange powers and even stranger destiny.
“They were world famous at one point, and then the world totally forgot them,” Blackman says. “They did experience fame, and as kids they must have loved that, but now no one remembers who they are. That weighs heavily on them.”
Because of Way’s musical background with My Chemical Romance, The Umbrella Academy comics always had a bit of a punk aesthetic. Music is an even bigger part of the show, with several scenes soundtracked by unexpected song cues. Blackman says he wanted the music to be almost “its own character” in the show. Way’s cover of “Hazy Shade of Winter” in the trailer is just a taste of what’s to come in the show itself.
The Umbrella Academy premieres on Netflix Feb. 15. Watch the trailer above.