In an exclusive interview with Villain Media, actor Justin H. Min talks about playing Ben Hargreeves, aka Number 6, in Netflix’s The Umbrella Academy. Based on the popular Dark Horse Comics title by Gerard Way and Gabriel Bá, the Umbrella Academy actor reveals some behind-the-scenes tidbits from the live-action adaptation.
On the same day in 1989, forty-three infants are inexplicably born to random, unconnected women who showed no signs of pregnancy the day before. Seven are adopted by Sir Reginald Hargreeves, a billionaire industrialist, who creates The Umbrella Academy and prepares his “children” to save the world. But not everything went according to plan. In their teenage years, the family fractured and the team disbanded. Now, the six surviving thirty-something members reunite upon the news of Hargreeves’ passing. Luther (Tom Hopper), Diego (David Castañeda), Allison (Emmy Raver-Lampman), Klaus (Robert Sheehan), Vanya (Ellen Page) and Number Five (Aidan Gallagher) work together to solve a mystery surrounding their father’s death. But the estranged family once again begins to come apart due to their divergent personalities and abilities, not to mention the imminent threat of a global apocalypse.
[SPOILERS!!! We’ll be diving into the episodes from here on out!!!]
Ben Hargreeves [Min], aka the number 6 sibling, has the uncanny ability to unleash monsters living inside him. Introduced in the pilot, “We Only See Each Other at Weddings and Funerals,” Ben is mentioned to have died during one of the Umbrella Academy missions. In the garden of the mansion, the remaining family members have left a statue in his honor.
Min reveals his character’s backstory, “I thought it was ironic. Here’s this character, who calls himself The Horror, who has monsters under his skin. He’s the most shy and the sweetest of the family. He doesn’t want to be a superhero. He doesn’t want all of his attention. He doesn’t want to do all these things. I wanted to create a character that would memorable enough. The audience has to believe his death is the reason why the family split up.”
During the episode, we watch as the Academy stop a bank robbery by using their powers. In the flashback, Young Ben (Ethan Hwang) reluctantly lets loose his flesh-eating monsters on one of the bank robbers. In front of reporters and cameras, Young Ben is uncomfortable being seen, especially since he’s caked in blood.
Min mentions how he teamed up with his younger counterpart, “I can only speak for myself. Personally, I knew early on Ethan [Hwang] was going to play my younger self. I called him up and visited him as soon as I landed in Toronto. We certainly got along. He’s like a second family to me. We had a lot of discussions about the character. We wanted a similar essence. It made sense I would playing an older version of him. I think Ethan does an incredible job as Young Ben!”
At the end of the first episode, viewers discover Klaus (Robert Sheehan) has the ability to speak with and hear his dead brother. Unfortunately, none of his other family members believe him. In the car with them, Diego (David Castañeda) thinks Klaus is just talking to himself in his drug-induced state.
Min recalls, “That first scene in the car, we shot that a month and a half later. It kept snowing. We couldn’t shoot outside. We shot that scene a couple of months into the season.”
As the episodes continue, Ben and Klaus bicker back and forth, as if their sibling rivalry never ended. The Umbrella Academy actor explains, “Ben is functioning like a ghost. In a lot of ways, he’s functioning like his brother. Ben has had a strong connection with Klaus while growing up. I think they’ve always looked out for each other. In many ways, they carry the same dynamic. They joke around. Sass each other up. At the end of the day, they’re family.”
Not only does Ben haunt Klaus as a ghost, he also serves as his brother’s conscious. Min remembers how he and Robert Sheehan created their onscreen chemistry, “That was something we discussed. We thought it would be interesting to see if Ben was actually a ghost, or he was functioning as a conscience. I had so much fun playing that. When Robbie [Sheehan] would do something crazy or says something hilarious, I would roll my eyes and laugh at him. That was our dynamic on set.”
Throughout the episodes, thanks to Klaus, Ben participates in important family meetings. At one point, Ben even votes for Luther (Tom Hopper)’s decision, siding against Klaus.
What was that like, filming with and reacting to the ensemble cast, but they all have to ignore you? Min responds to the challenges of shooting those group scenes, “The technical aspects were unique for me. To be in scenes, where no one could see me except Klaus, was an interesting thing to play. It’s funny, there were multiple times, we had to reshoot a scene because one of the other cast members was making eye contact and seeing me, when they weren’t supposed to.”
During the tenth episode, ”The White Violin,” the clock is ticking to save the world. With the the rest of the family under siege, Klaus conjures up Ben and uses his brother’s powers. The estranged family is finally reunited after seeing Ben brought back, saving them from the masked gunmen.
Min reveals, “What happens with Ben at the end, I had no idea! I was discovering it as I was reading it. When I read the script for the final episode, I was shocked and happy! I had no idea that was where they were going to take the character. I don’t even think they did! It happened organically as we were shooting the series. They realized the relationship between Ben and Klaus was really special.”
In an epic wide shot, in the final seconds, we see Luther (Hopper), Diego (Castañeda), Ben (Min), Allison (Lampman), Klaus (Sheehan), Vanya (Page) and Number Five (Gallagher) finally together. They have to make a drastic decision in order to save the world. During the vote, Klaus nods and repeats what his brother said, “Ben’s in too.”
Min talks about being part of the ensemble, “There was instant chemistry with all of us from the first day we all met. It should feel like a family. I think that our characters are an extension of who we are as people. When the cameras stop rolling, we still play our parts; have fun and joke around.”
In the closing moments, the audience is left wondering, Did Number Five’s plan work? Did their consciousness travel back to their younger selves? Did the Umbrella Academy time-travel to the past and save the future?
As fans eagerly await for news of the show being renewed, Min opens up on his thoughts for a second season, “If we do get picked up, I hope we do! When you’re in a scene with Robbie Sheehan, nothing can really go wrong. He’s the best scene partner; the best guy. Half the things we did, he provides. We were just having a blast!”
[Writer’s Note: This interview has been edited for clarity. Links are highlighted in bold.]
The Umbrella Academy is now available to watch on Netflix.