In the second season of Netflix’s The Umbrella Academy, debuting on Netflix on the 31st of July, the Hargreeves family find themselves in *checks notes* Dallas, Texas in the, uhh, 1960s.
After jumping into a time portal at the end of season one, the crew travel back at different periods of time over the Cold War era. Thinking that they’re the last of their family, they each try to move on and start a new life.
Klaus’s “borderline sorrow” (Robert Sheehan’s words, not ours) leads him (and unfortunately by proxy, the ghost of his dead brother Ben, played by Justin Min) to *accidentally* form his own cult. Diego (David Castañeda) makes it his mission to stop U.S. President John F. Kennedy from being assassinated, before people think he’s crazy and put him in an asylum. And Allison (Emmy Raver-Lampman), the only Black member of the Umbrella Academy, is met with the violent hatred and finds herself involved with the city’s own Black Civil Rights movement.
That last point is why this season of the super-powered drama series feels so grounded in the now. In one scene, Allison and a group of Black activists make a stand at a “whites only” diner, sitting down at the venue in a powerfully poetic act against racial segregation. The strictly white attendees are horrified, the owner calls the police and assaults Allison with a cup of scalding hot coffee, before things quickly escalate into a brutal police riot. Then, she witnesses an officer beat up her new husband.
This scene of police brutality towards Black Americans feels profoundly difficult to digest in 2020. Racial segregation may have legally been abolished in the United States with the Civil Rights Act 1964, but systemic racism towards Black people is deeply rooted in the foundations of the country (and our own). The latest season of The Umbrella Academy is set fifty years ago and filmed a year before the death of George Floyd and the subsequent Black Lives Matter protests, which has seen thousands demand justice for Floyd and countless others.
In a surreal turn of events, as Raver-Lampman told Syrup, the show’s timely release has added further social commentary, reminding us all that sadly, fifty years on from the U.S. Black Civil Rights movement, more work still needs to be done.
“I think it’s really surreal walking into a second season knowing that Allison was going to be having to take on the civil rights movement and be a part of it,” Raver-Lampman confessed. “I was humbled and honoured and also a little nervous and anxious because I wanted to get it right.”
“And I wanted to do it justice and make sure it was depicted correctly and properly researched and understood by everybody involved. I, as a Black woman, as a person of colour, have been a victim of racism, micro-aggressions, all of those things throughout my life like a lot of marginalised people have experienced and suffered through and still do.”
“But, walking in, there’s not much different from what’s happening in the world and especially in America, between now and the civil rights [movement],” she continued. “I know that that fight is still very much alive and still very much present. [The police riot sequence] in episode three is… we’re watching a very similar thing happen on our television screens at night and on Instagram and on the Internet and through Twitter, those acts of violence and that fight in our struggle is the same.”
Looking back on the season, Raver-Lampman says that filming that police riot sequence in episode three was a challenging day for everyone.
“The scene that I was really, really nervous about was the riots,” she said. “You’re asking people to deal with smoke bombs and white background actors having to yell obscene things at a lunch counter full of black actors.”
“The emotions are high and the stakes are high and everybody wants to get it right and not offend anybody or get emotional. There’s 350 people in that tiny little diner and in the street in the middle of the night and [it was] just a huge thing to kind of take on.”
“Those scenes we shot in the riot were very emotional scenes,” added showrunner Steve Blackman, “very emotional days we spent together for both Emmy, for me and for the crew and cast.”
“Yeah, I’m really proud of the outcome of that,” Raver-Lampman said. “I think it turned out really brilliantly. And, you know, it’s kind of a window into just a little bit of that struggle in that fight and what was at stake in those moments.”
In the end, the thing she hopes people take away from her character’s story and fight for justice this season is that, ultimately, “yes, it is the past but is a very recent past.”
“You know, this is the ’60s, that was our grandparents’ and our parents’ lifetime. The first Black children to integrate white schools in the segregated South are only in their 60s and 70s right now.”
The second season of Netflix’s The Umbrella Academy releases on Netflix on the 31st of July.