ENTERTAINMENT

Umbrella Academy’s Emmy Raver-Lampman breaks down that police riot scene

Why season two's '60s setting feels so grounded in the now.
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Netflix’s The Umbrella Academy is a belovedly bonkers show about a dysfunctional family of adopted children with superpowers and father issues. But, in season two, the show gets even weirder: dialling things back to the 1960s.

WATCH: Netflix’s The Umbrella Academy Season 2 Trailer

After jumping into a time portal at the end of season one, the Hargreeves family – Vanya (Elliot Page), Diego (David Castañeda), Five (Aidan Gallagher), Luther (Tom Hopper), Allison (Emmy Raver-Lampman), Klaus (Robert Sheehan) and Ben (Justin Min) – travel back to Dallas, Texas during the Cold War era. Sent to the same shady alley but at different points in time over a handful of years, each of the crew suspect that they’re the last of their family – or the only one who survived – and try to move on and start a new life in the old.

Klaus’s “borderline sorrow” – Robert Sheehan’s words, not ours – leads him, and by unfortunate proxy, the ghost of his dead brother Ben, to forming his own cult. Diego, hellbent on stopping the assassination of U.S. President John F. Kennedy before it happens, is put in an asylum for his crazy conspiracies about the future. And Allison, the only Black member of the Umbrella Academy, is forced to face the violent racism and systemic injustice against people of colour, and gravitates towards the town’s own Black Civil Rights group and movement. 

Umbrella Academy
Allison (Emmy Raver-Lampman) faces off against the owners of a racially segregated “white” cafe in Dallas, Texas. (Credit: Netflix.)

That last arc 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. In a powerfully poetic move against racial segregation, Allison walks in and sits down at the venue.

The strictly white attendees are horrified, and as more activists join here to take a stand, the owner calls the police and assaults Allison with a cup of scalding hot coffee. Much like what we’ve seen in the last year overseas and here, things  quickly escalate for the worse and turn into a brutal police riot. Then, she witnesses an officer beat up her husband. 

This scene of police brutality towards Black Americans feels profoundly difficult to digest in 2021. 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.

As Emmy Raver-Lampman told us, 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.

Emmy Raver-Lampman
Allison first meets the local Black civil rights activists. (Credit: Netflix.)

“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, microaggressions, 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.”

Emmy Raver-Lampman
Allison and her husband Raymond are confronted by the police and white customers for sitting in a “whites only” diner. (Credit: Netflix.)

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 show-runner Steve Blackman, “very emotional days we spent together for both Emmy, for me and for the crew and cast.”

Umbrella Academy
Klaus (Sheehan), Allison and Vanya (Elliot) dancing in the salon where Allison works in season two. (Credit: Netflix.)

“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 Umbrella Academy is available to binge exclusively on Netflix.

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