When Casting Does It Right

When Casting Does It Right

When I first heard that an adaptation of The Umbrella Academy was in production, I felt fourteen again. At that age, I- like many others of my generation- stumbled upon the comic series by way of its writer. My copies of those graphic novels, dog eared, and coffee-stained and battered, are still to this day in the same spot on my bookshelf that they have always been, despite their multiple rereads. So the announcement that I would get to experience this world in a more visceral way, on-screen, and that it would be overseen by Gerard Way himself? It felt like putting on an old cardigan or visiting an old friend. It felt like coming home.

One of the first things that I was concerned about was casting, and in hindsight, I had no reason to be. Direct comparisons between the comic bases and their onscreen representatives are iffy, as some of the characters seem exactly picture-perfect, while others have taken on a little artistic license. One shining example is the casting of Emmy Raver-Lampman as Allison or ‘The Rumor’. This casting caused a little contention, as in the comics, Allison- along with all of the other main characters- is white. Given that artistic license was taken with other characters and, with the main characters crucially being not biologically related, there was no need to cast a white actor and Emmy herself did an excellent job in her portrayal of Allison as slick and in control while also keeping a lot locked down internally. I’m always up for seeing new and interesting adaptations of characters, and this one especially was important to me. When I was fourteen years old, I went to my first Comic-Con in a shoddily assembled cosplay of The Rumor, complete with jeans I had painted with wall emulsion and a mask that was too uncomfortable for me to actually wear. I saw something in Allison that I could cling to, and if someone else gets to see this new adaptation and see some of themselves the way I did, then that is something to be celebrated and encouraged.

Klaus’ onscreen depiction has become a fan favorite, despite being a little different visually from his original artwork. For me, whenever I imagined Klaus in my head, he was wearing sunglasses and a Hawaiian shirt, but I don’t feel like that quite fits with Robert Sheehan’s portrayal of him. And you know what? I love it. The show managed to look a little deeper into Klaus’ personality and his experiences, as tends to be the way with TV adaptations. It is much easier to explore characters more deeply and expand on them through the course of however many episodes while continuing an ongoing plot, whereas, in comics, plot focus from issue to issue or even panel to panel is often a necessity to keep people following. By giving each character a slightly more three-dimensional exploration, it allowed for them to stylize each of them to fit that particular narrative. Klaus is flamboyant and reckless and neurotic and deeply haunted by the things he has experienced, and Sheehan carries it off as easy as breathing.

As far as looking towards the second series, the trailer set up a few major plot points such as a different setting of 1960s America, the characters appearing to be split up amongst different locations, and the need to come together to prevent an apocalypse. While all this sounds excellent, and the addition of new characters and situations is exciting, there is one glaring difference between the series and the comics that I can only cross my fingers will be explored at some point: The White Violin. Without giving too much away if you’re not familiar, The Violin is such an intrinsic part of the series and the dynamic, and I really hope they find a way to include it gracefully. In the meantime, they’ve got an apocalypse to stop, and they’ve only got till Monday…