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The Umbrella Academy is one of Netflix's most popular original series, and it's definitely also one of the weirdest, what with the time-travel mishaps, the paranormal sibling possession, alien patriarchs and that fishbowl-headed dude. And that's just grazing the surface. Season 2 upped the ante by taking things back to the 1960s for the team's longterm apocalypse-halting mission, causing Aidan Gallagher's Five to meet a decades-older version of himself, sparking a condition known as paradox psychosis. Gallagher's performance became far more erratic and frazzled as time went on, and the actor had a simple but effective way to make it look so intense.
Nickelodeon vet Aidan Gallagher spoke with CinemaBlend ahead of Season 2's debut, and I was quite interested to hear him talk about making his performance as Five that much zanier and stressful once the paradox psychosis truly began to take hold of his body. First, he talked very eloquently about Five's already fractured mental state going into the threat of the timeline-connecting anomaly. In his words:
That whole journey that he goes on with his older/younger self is really interesting, especially because of the whole paradox psychosis arc. I remember reading that in the script and thinking, 'This is gonna be fun.' Because it's a different version of insanity. If you think about it, Five is always quelling incredibly vile and vengeful impulses that he gets from all of his trauma in the apocalypse and being an assassin to the commission, and then binding his DNA with that of all these really murderous and incredibly evil people. So he's always keeping that at bay. And when that ball goes over, that's an incredibly fierce type of insanity. But the whole paradox psychosis arc, that's a different type of insanity. That's induced by the space-time continuum and the different rules that our series follows for it. So it was an opportunity as an actor to figure out, 'Okay, what does this physically look like?' Because you read it in the script, and there are these different symptoms, but how do you portray that in an accurate way? So I did that with the blinking in Season 1 to show how it might be like for him moving through and pushing through the space and time.
Hilariously enough, Aidan Gallagher's Five looked like an addict looking to score a pound of pure, to put it in Requiem for a Dream terms. (I don't know why it needs to be in Requiem terms.) With a constant itchiness and a sheen of sweat seemingly painted across his brow, Five becomes delightfully unhinged as he attempts to disrupt his older-self from being part of John F. Kennedy's assassination.
Aidan Gallagher then delved into his technique for building upon Five's already nervous energy to bring the paradox psychosis to life. Here's how he put it:
For the paradox psychosis, there's a lot more to play with. So before every take – every time you see Five where he's on screen and he's in this induced paradox psychosis – every take, I would sprint. From like about 30 feet back, I was sprinting to my mark right before they yelled action, just so that there's this incredible amount of angst and bitterness in him, and this really sort of uncontrollable craziness in his eyes. I would contort my body in all of these weird and interesting ways which, generally, within the usual context for the series, wouldn't make any sense. But with the context of the paradox psychosis, all of a sudden, it's cohesive, and you have an opportunity to do some really strange and interesting things with the character that you wouldn't in any other context.
How subtly brilliant is that move? Before each take, Aidan Gallagher would just haul ass for a few seconds to bring more visual intensity to the performance. His breathing becomes more choppy and urgent, his eyes get that much more focused on everything in Five's field of vision, and his body language is constantly in flux. All things considered, that strategy might be a good substitute for coffee anytime I'm feeling tired during the day.
Washing dishes getting too boring? Just sprint to the sink from 30 feet away before scrubbing each dish. Take a mad dash to the mailbox to get the mail. Run up and down a flight of stairs just before hopping on an important Zoom call. (Maybe not that last one.) The point is, you don't have to actually be meeting up with an older version of your past self in order to look like you're experiencing paradox psychosis. That's a thing that people do now, right?
Stay tuned to CinemaBlend for more Umbrella Academy stories, but check out what creator Steve Blackman told us about the Mother and Pogo appearances, as well as what he had to say about that bonkers ending. Remember you can stream both seasons now on Netflix. Head to our Netflix 2020 premiere schedule and our Fall 2020 TV rundown to see what else is heading to the small screen soon.