The Umbrella Academy star talks joining the family for season 2
Warning: This article contains spoilers about season 2 of The Umbrella Academy.
Season 2 of Netflix’s The Umbrella Academy sends the Hargreeves superhero family backward in time to ‘60s Dallas, but they don’t all land at the exact same time. As a result, the siblings spend most of the season isolated from each other in groups of one or two, playing out their own individual storylines with a few new faces. One of those new characters is Lila (Ritu Arya), who meets Diego Hargreeves (David Castañeda) at the insane asylum where he gets sent for trying to stop the JFK assassination before anyone knows what he’s talking about.
As it turns out, though, Lila is more than just a random ‘60s woman crossing Diego’s path. As they escape the asylum and turn from friends to lovers, it’s revealed that Lila is actually the adopted daughter of The Handler (Kate Walsh) and a highly-trained assassin of the Commission in her own right. She even brings Diego to the Commission, whereupon he sees the threat posed by the FBI interrogation of Vanya (Ellen Page) and races to rescue her. Though Lila was originally assigned to manipulate Diego per her mother’s master plan, she ends up bonding with him. They certainly have a lot in common as the adopted children of two of the weirdest people in the world.
“Even though subconsciously she thinks she’s being fake, actually a lot of truth is coming out to him,” Arya tells EW. “So then he becomes this person that she gets feelings for accidentally because of that reason. It’s so much easier to lie from what you know, and she accidentally connects with him. I adored working with David, I really enjoyed the banter scenes that Lila and Diego had. He was really up for playing on set.”
Diego is a very self-serious character with a lot of discipline. So even though he’s not necessarily cracking jokes all the time, his bumping up against the other weird characters and concepts in this surreal superhero show often ends up being pretty humorous.
“It wasn't until the show came out that I saw a lot of reactions about him being funny,” Castañeda says. “So, now when we read the scripts, there is a lot of this sense of he's so determined, but he bites more than he can chew, and so that leads to a lot of comedy for Diego and especially because of the relationship that he has with Lila. They kind of banter back and forth and, at least when we were doing the scenes, it felt like they played very well as long as we played the truth of the scene.”
Aside from Diego, Lila’s main relationship is with her adopted mother, The Handler. When we first see them together, they have the markings of a classic mother-daughter relationship: Teasing each other, playfully bickering, but ultimately on the same page. But as Walsh shares, The Handler doesn’t love Lila for herself, but for what she’s molded Lila to be. When The Handler senses Lila growing too close to Diego, she tells her that Diego’s time-traveling brother Number Five (Aidan Gallagher) was responsible for the deaths of Lila’s biological parents. What she neglects to mention is that Five only carried out those assassinations on her orders, specifically so she could secure access to Lila.
“She has always trusted her mom, until it’s revealed to her that her mom has lied to her whole life,” Arya says. “Until that point, she adores her mom and aspires to be like her. She’s the only family member she’s ever had. Whether it’s because of that insecurity or because of her mom keeping her slightly at arm’s distance, she’s so in need of her mother’s approval. She really wants to make her mom proud. That’s where most of her drive comes from. Kate was wonderful, she was really busy so we had to do a lot of our scenes in just two weeks. We were getting slightly delirious, but that can make you bond.”
It all comes to a head in the season 2 finale episode, when we realize an even more important truth about Lila: Like the Hargreeves siblings, she was one of the 43 extraordinary children born around the world at the same time to mothers who hadn’t previously been pregnant. Hargreeves found seven of them, and apparently The Handler found another. Lila’s superpower is particularly impressive: She can mimic anyone else’s superpowers (think Rogue from the X-Men, or Peter Petrelli from Heroes). That means Lila can match Five blow-for-blow in a time-jumping fight, or rumor the breath out of Allison’s (Emmy Raver-Lampman) throat before she can use her own voice. Contrary to the opening scene of season 2, which finds the Umbrella Academy taking down a wave of Soviet soldiers, the finale episode features all of them getting their butts kicked by a single woman.
“It’s bizarre how much I enjoyed filming episode 10 because we were all really suffering in the cold,” Arya says. “But I think we went through the trenches together, and I don’t even think about that part because I had so much fun working with the cast. It was the first time I got to film with everyone! It’s so much fun paying Lila because she’s so free and uninhibited. She’s got so much power because she finds everything a game. That is such a relief to play that escapism. In our world, there are so many pressures to be a certain way or behave a certain way, that to play a character that is so uninhabited is just a dream come true.”
When the dust clears, The Handler lies dead, and the truth is out there. But the last we see of Lila, she’s grabbing a Commission time travel briefcase and vanishing into the wind.
“She spent her whole life training to be a highly-skilled assassin, so she has this very hard exterior. But when she finds out that it’s the Handler who is the reason her parents were murdered — you can’t really hear anything more horrific, can you?” Arya says. “That fragility that Lila has underneath the exterior, that comes out naturally and breaks her. When the family come to her and say, ‘you’re one of us,’ I think that’s hard to process."
Arya continues, "As much as she wants to be part of a family, especially knowing how her mother has betrayed her, she’s had a very lonely existence up until now. So as much as it’s wonderful to hear she’s got this family that’s welcoming her, I think it’s too much in that moment for her to take in, and that’s why she makes a run for it. I think she just wants to get away from them. Whatever time period that is, wherever in the world it is, as long as it’s not that moment it doesn’t really matter.”
The Umbrella Academy season 2 is streaming now on Netflix.
The Umbrella Academy