Jamie Clayton and the cast of Netflix's returning sci-fi series preview what's to come with THR.
The story of eight strangers who are inexplicably connected is back, and with its return will come answers.
Sense8 launches its second season Friday on Netflix. For the uninitiated, the high-concept sci-fi series — created by Lana and Lilly Wachowski (The Matrix, Cloud Atlas) with J. Michael Straczynsk (Thor, World War Z) — follows eight "sensates" who come to discover they are emotionally and mentally linked, forming a "cluster." Scattered across the globe, a DJ in Iceland, imprisoned martial arts maven in Seoul, Chicago cop, San Franciscan hacktivist, Nairobi bus driver, Mexico City movie star, Berlin safe-cracker and Hindu pharmacist in Mumbai spent the first season sharing and visiting each other in their minds. After a two-hour Christmas special — which released in December and is a must-watch ahead of the full second season — the next 10 episodes raise the stakes, with more sex and more action, to dive deeper into this interconnected, universal love story and thriller chase — all filmed to the backdrops of 16 cities and 11 countries.
Here, The Hollywood Reporter helps to refresh viewers' memories and look ahead at what's to come, with some help from the cast.
Capheus has a new face in season two. The role of the Jean-Claude Van Damme-loving bus driver from Kenya was recast after Aml Ameen exited the series due to creative differences after the first season. The Christmas special introduced the new actor, Toby Onwumere (above, center), when, in a wink to the audience, his pal commented on his new look as he shifted into focus. "Everybody was so gracious welcoming me in," Onwumere told THR of meeting the already close-knit cast in Mexico to begin filming. "Everybody embraced me in their own way. Miguel [Angel Silvestre, who plays Lito; above, left] was very, 'Brother! It is good to see you!' And Doona [Bae, who plays Sun; above, right] would come and just give me a little nudge. It was the same welcome with different energies."
Onwumere says Lana Wachowski — who took over as head writer-director this season while sister Lilly takes a break after completing her gender transition — wrote him an "amazing" introductory scene that helped to win over Capheus fans who were initially skeptical about the swap.
"The first season was a research packet for me. I got to see everybody and their backstories and, knowing I was coming into season two, got to be a bit more of an analytical audience member," he said. "I was really struck by Capheus' relationship with his mom and how he worked solely to provide for her, especially with her condition. This season, we see his range of influence increase and the legend of Van Damme blossoms."
And its Capheus' instincts as a caretaker that lend to a few happenstance moments, pushing him on a larger and more romantic path this season. "I meet a little lady and she kind of thrusts me into a political arena," he says. "He becomes the hometown hero and it gets bigger and bigger and bigger."
While the first season served as an origin story of sorts to explain who the characters are and detail how they are linked, the second season takes off running with the concept. "Now that they understand that they’re interconnected, they need to be able to figure out from who and why they’re being pursued," Daryl Hannah, who "birthed" the cluster as sensate mother Angelica, told THR. "The tension gets more heightened."
With the sensates now understanding how to share and visit with each other, their pop-ins are much more frequent and collaborative as they begin to control their power. The concept was memorably demonstrated in last season's much talked-about pansexual orgy scene, but this season the sensates will have more heightened moments of love, as well as pain when one is in trouble. "For all the characters and actors of the show, we had to face a moment that was a bit uncomfortable and we needed to push our boundaries," Silvestre, who plays Lito, told THR, alluding to the finale. "In my case, I jumped into the pool even though I didn’t see water, because I believe in the message Lana is trying to convey. We did things this year that made you think twice, where maybe you wouldn’t do it."
After coming out of the closet at the end of last season, Lito, a big-budget action star, struggles with the backlash in his professional life while finally finding happiness in his personal one. A breakthrough moment comes when Lito, boyfriend Hernando (Alfonso Herrera; above, left) and roommate Daniela (Erendira Ibarra) travel to Sao Paulo's pride festival (pictured above) and are joined by the rest of the sensates. "You can be judged in certain cultures about certain things, but in others that can become a gift," he said of the message.
After escaping Whispers (Terrence Mann, above) by the skin of their synapses in the first-season finale, the second season continues on a dark trajectory for Chicago cop Will (Brian J. Smith), who is injecting heroin in a bid to cloud his consciousness from Whisper's unwelcome visits. Will being in a constant haze shifts his DJ girlfriend Riley (Tuppence Middleton) into the caretaker's shoes, while Kala's (Tina Desai) skills as a pharmacist become essential to his survival.
" BPO [the Biologic Preservation Organization] is hunting us and we're trying to avoid them, so the fact that I can now contribute scientifically comes much more into play," Desai told THR of her late season-one reveal. "Constantly everyone is getting into these situations where they’re bruised or maimed, and I can help with that."
Angelica (Hannah), cluster mentor Jonas (Naveen Andrews) and Whispers are all pieces to the larger BPO puzzle that gets filled in piece-by-piece as Sense8 attempts to repeat real history by hunting, with the hopes of exterminating, a species because they are different. "The writers are making a comment about the world we're living in and it's a gift if the viewer is able to see that," Jamie Clayton, who plays American hacker Nomi, told THR. "You get to see this origin story with BPO and why we’re fighting against them, and how all of that unfolds is one of the most exciting parts about the season."
Sense8 broke ground with its inclusive message when it launched nearly two years ago, also featuring the first transgender character whose storyline didn't revolve around transitioning with Nomi. "The fans of season one already know, and viewers who watch season two will see, how we are all the same," the actress said of the diverse cast and characters. "Everybody does the same stuff. We all eat. We put on clothes, we fall in love. We go to weddings and funerals. It just looks different all over the world and for some reason, that scares a lot of people. But our fans, it doesn’t scare them. And that inspires me."
Kala (above, left) and German thief Wolfgang (Max Riemelt; above, right) were and continue to be the tortured love story of Sense8. Though Kala is now married to the successful and sweet Rajan Rasal (Purab Kohli), her connection with Wolfgang runs too deep to ignore. "Jonah explains that the love between our cluster is not something we can fight and is something we’re born into," said Desai of her ambivalent Kala and Wolfgang. "I’m trying to balance both worlds where I’m this conscientious, loyal Indian girl and suddenly I’m having this affair." Whether that affair gets more physical remains to be seen in the second season, but as Riemelt puts it, "Wolfgang is not the type of person to give up."
Wolfgang also serves as an important vehicle this season (see below). "He's not as isolated as he was when it started out," adds Riemelt of his character's arc. "He was quiet and holding back his feelings more last season, and he also left such a mess behind that he has to refind himself in Berlin. Now, he has to deal with other gangsters, but he also has to help his cluster out and follow this love interest."
Wolfgang will be tested by a curious new character, Lila (Valeria Bilello), who joins the list of a handful of new sensates from other clusters that are introduced this season. In essence, viewers will come to discover that the Sense8 world stretches far beyond these eight characters.
"Valeria is such an incredible addition to the cast," said Clayton. "Meeting new sensates and other clusters has this season moving in a direction I couldn't even imagine, and I'm interested to see all of the universe-like ideas the fans come up with in response."
One ballsy move by Riley (above, right, with Will) will bring out and connect her with many co-existing sensates, and each one shines a new and different light on the seemingly impossible journey that lies ahead for the "Aug. 8 cluster" at the heart of the show — sending them on a season-two mission that gradually evolves around Sun (Bae). "She’s truly a genius," said Onwumere of Lana Wachowski and the story she created. Hannah added, "Everything you’re seeing this season really pushes the message of inclusiveness, compassion, empathy. That's really the theme of the show."