The Umbrella Academy just had its explosive season 2 debut on Netflix, and we have got one of its leading stars to talk all about it! Known for playing young superpowered Number Five, Aidan Gallagher is a notable force on the rise. Before The Umbrella Academy, Gallagher got a major break in Nickelodeon’s Nicky, Ricky, Dicky & Dawn. His four-season run on that series would open the door for the now highly adored Netflix series. The best part of it all, Gallagher was already a devoted reader of the source material, Gerard Way’s comic book of the same name.
We were happy to have Aidan Gallagher for an exclusive interview. We talk his experience of joining the Netflix show, getting to meet creator Gerard Way, to now riding high on its very impressive second season. He shares what has motivated him both on and off-screen since The Umbrella Academy first took the world by storm, with the overgrowing fandom and his continued efforts in activism (he was made one of the youngest UN Environment Goodwill Ambassadors at the age of 14 in 2018).
Congratulations on another fantastic season of The Umbrella Academy! All the fans are very excited to watch it. First though, let’s go back to season one. You’re a self-professed long time fan of the comics and Gerard Way. So what was it like when you found out that you booked the role of Number Five?
AG: Well, the whole thing has been a completely surreal experience for me because way before I was even an actor, I was a fan of the comics. It was a really interesting and unique world compared to some of the other stuff that I was reading. So years later, when I got an audition only a month after my previous show ended, it was an incredible stroke of luck in timing. And also the specific part I got to play. So even to audition was extremely exciting. When I found out I got the role, I almost didn’t believe it. Then the whole process of seeing this graphic novel really come to life and getting to meet Gerard, see the scripts, see all the actors who were playing the different characters, and to work off them was exceedingly interesting for me as both a fan and an actor – to find myself surrounded in the world of The Umbrella Academy. So I got incredibly lucky in many ways.
I personally thought that there was a very positive reaction to season one. How did you feel in terms of the fan and critical reaction? Was it everything that you wanted from season one of The Umbrella Academy after being such a long time fan?
AG: I think everyone from the cast and crew were, you know, psyched to see how well the show was being received. You always hope for the best, but you can never expect that something is going to do as well as it did for us. It always felt like this little world that we were shooting up in Canada, it felt very self contained. It was interesting and very fulfilling as actors, but we were really taken aback when we actually got to share the show with fans and saw how happy that you all were.
I think the moment that we all kind of realized how big this thing was going to get was when we were doing a Comic-Con panel and saw all the people that just had endlessly, bountiful amounts of joy for just us talking a little bit about the behind the scenes of the show before it even came out. Just giving them hints, everyone was very thrilled to see a live action interpretation. I always thought, “Oh, it’s this little self-contained world which fans of The Umbrella Academy are going to really love.” But to see it get as big as it was, was a dream come true.
You had been involved in some Nickelodeon programs, but this was your first sort of huge role. What has it been like to personally see all of the fans come through for the show in person? Has it been a bit overwhelming or do you just really embrace it?
AG: I mean, I think anyone would embrace such a thing. Whenever you get positive reaction, it just gives you so much more creative stamina to dive back in, a second season for example, and really do your best to try and beat it. Going into season two, I was excited as both a fan and as an actor to try and capture what was so great about the first season while also trying to outperform my 14-year-old self who first approached this role. So to see fans embrace that just got me motivated to try and do it even better.
As already alluded to, The Umbrella Academy has provided you with such a large platform. You have used this very positively to spread awareness on issues that you have been long passionate about, such as climate activism, with all of your work with the UN as an ambassador. In this sort of current climate where there’s the pandemic, the Black Lives Matter movement, and the ongoing fight to save the planet – where do you see the role of yourself and celebrities in influencing these issues?
AG: I’ve always felt that I had a responsibility to use the platform that I’ve had the privilege to gain. I’ve always felt responsibility to use that good and to really spread messages. I mean, I’ve had this since I was on my previous show at Nickelodeon. For me, it started off with environmental activism and I felt that a lot of people didn’t realize what was happening with our climate and the overall state of our environment, especially people my age. You feel an obligation to not let that platform go to waste, not to let it go in vain. So in all aspects, whether it be environmental activism, various social issues, or BLM, I feel that it is the duty of people with a larger voice to spread and to speak for those who may have been silenced.
One of the great things about our showrunner Steve Blackman, even before all of this was highly publicized, when we were just in the writing process for the second season, he was writing in all of these different themes. If you think about it within the lives of everybody in the regular world, these are things that weave in and out of our minds and concerns. So he was very careful to thread those things throughout this second season. And with the show having as large of a voice as it did, he probably also felt the responsibility to do so, and I think he did that very well.
From what we have seen from season 2, we’re back in the 60s and obviously with Allison and the racial tensions in America, you can imagine that factoring into the plot isn’t a spoiler. Do you think it’s, not in a exploitative way obviously, but do you think it’s timely that season 2 is releasing under the current political climate?
AG: It was an interesting coincidence just how around the time that the show was planned to air, we have a huge surge in activism and encouragement to spread awareness that we might not have seen nearly in volume as it has been recently. So it was a very happy coincidence that we got to tie it into our show and make sure that we address such issues. You know, it is a show about these broken people and dysfunctional family who happens to be superheroes – those responsibilities that naturally feel like it would be with regular people, these are themes that are within each of their lives. So I think that both Steve [Blackman] and our other creative leaders probably felt a large responsibility to make sure that these issues are spoken about in such a way that is respectful, educational, and that they are just addressed in the show, because these are important topics that oftentimes don’t get the coverage that they deserve.
You mentioned the dysfunctional family, did you all sort of feel as a group more comfortable in your respective roles now that you have known each other for much longer along with the bonding experience of season one?
AG: If you think about it as actors, we really spend as much time with each other as each of the characters have with each other, because they grew up in the Academy, but as they got older, they all split off. So when they finally reunite, they have all sort of become different people. So we were all getting to know each other in the first season. Now going into a second season, with 10 episodes of history behind you, we see that family dynamic strengthened. You see all these different bonds get a lot stronger. It’s definitely reflective of the types of communication and arcs that each of us have, but yeah, we all know each other a lot better.
To end off, are there any other upcoming projects you would like to make our audience aware of besides The Umbrella Academy?
AG: In between seasons of The Umbrella Academy, I was writing, producing, and putting out a bunch of music. One of my latest releases is a song called 4th of July, which released during the pandemic. I actually started writing it during filming for season two. So that meant a lot to me and I’ll be writing and producing more music, which you can find on my Youtube channel.