Cookies help us deliver our Services. By using our Services, you agree to our use of cookies. Learn More.

Why Klaus From Umbrella Academy Looks So Familiar

Since it premiered on Netflix in March of 2019, The Umbrella Academy has become a sensation for the streaming powerhouse — earning raves for its originality, narrative ambition, and breathtaking visuals. The show is based on an award-winning series of graphic novels by Gerard Way and Gabriel Bá, and its story follows a super-powered group of adoptees who have been assembled and trained to become an elite crime-fighting force. The Hargreeves kids' powers are every bit as unique and eccentric as their personalities, and the actors bringing those personalities to life have done so with just as much individuality.

That being said, no single character on The Umbrella Academy is quite as unique as the flamboyant, tragically addicted, perpetually tormented ghost-whisperer Klaus – and it's a safe bet that many among you have seen the actor's face somewhere before. It belongs to a young thespian by the name of Robert Sheehan, and yes, he's been popping up in productions big and small for the past decade. Here's why Klaus from The Umbrella Academy looks so familiar.

Robert Sheehan hung out with the Misfits

Sheehan will likely look a bit more familiar to fans in the U.K. than anywhere else in the world. That's because the Irish-born actor got his first big break on the beloved Channel 4 series Misfits. As it happens, the series also helped prepare Sheehan for his future role in the superhero real, since his Misfits character was also "gifted." 

Misfits followed a group of teen miscreants who found themselves powered up after getting caught in a freak electrical storm while performing community service. Over Misfits' first two seasons, Sheehan played the role of Nathan Young, a hilariously quippy kid with a tragic background who was initially gifted the power of immortality; since Sheehan's casting on The Umbrella Academy, observers have pointed out the similarities between Nathan and Klaus early and often.

Equal parts social drama and X-Men-styled superhero saga, Misfits ran for five full seasons in the U.K., and even won a BAFTA for Best Drama Series in 2010. It eventually found a small but devoted following stateside, too, and there's little doubt that many Misfits fans were quick to discover the similarly-themed Umbrella Academy when it made its premiere — most likely recognizing Sheehan immediately when they did.

Robert Sheehan's memorable turn in The Mortal Instruments: City of Bones

If you don't know Sheehan as Nathan from Misfits, you'll likely know him as Simon Lewis from The Mortal Instruments: City of Bones. The Irish actor starred in the film, an adaptation of the first novel in Cassandra Clare's Mortal Instruments book series, opposite Lily Collins as Clarissa "Clary" Fray, a teenager who discovers she's a Shadowhunter — humans who possess the blood of angels and who are able to defeat demons who roam the planet. Sheehan portrayed Clary's close friend Simon, an average human who gets mixed up in Clary's Shadowhunting antics. 

The Mortal Instruments: City of Bones was intended to be the first in a trilogy of films based on Clare's novels, but a few factors — like the movie's soft box office opening and some issues with a sequel's screenplay – put those plans on hold. Things were up in the air as of May 2014, with director Harald Zwart leaving the planned sequel City of Ashes. That film never did get made, but Freeform did create a series based on the books: Shadowhunters, which ran for three seasons from January 2016 to May 2019.

Though Simon's love for Clary went unrequited and critics and audiences clearly didn't adore City of Bones as a whole, there was a lot of love sent from fans to Simon and Sheehan. To many, Sheehan's charm remains the best part of The Mortal Instruments: City of Bones.

Robert Sheehan shared the screen with U.K. greats in the Red Riding trilogy

Misfits was hardly Sheehan's first taste of small-screen success in the U.K. In fact, 2009 was sort of a banner year for the young star. It was then that Sheehan also received rave reviews for his work on another Channel 4 venture, the Red Riding trilogy, which are among the best films to come out of the U.K. in the past decade-plus (they even received a very limited theatrical release in the U.S. in 2010). The movies — subtitled 19741980, and 1983 – followed interconnected narratives unfolding in each year, and were set against the backdrop of serial murders that loosely resembled real-life crimes.

Given that synopsis, you'd be correct in assuming that the tone of the Red Riding movies is on the bleak side. In fact, "bleak" would be an understatement, as the flicks could easily rival Seven in terms of mood and menace. That has a lot to do with the trilogy's cast, comprised of a veritable who's who of rising U.K. talent of the time — including Andrew Garfield, Sean Harris, Mark Addy, Rebecca Hall, Paddy Considine, David Morrissey, Eddie Marsan, and more. Among that elite company, it's all the more remarkable that Sheehan frequently stole the show with his heartbreaking turn as an enigmatic, victimized male hustler named BJ.

Robert Sheehan more than dressed the part in Netflix's Mute

Sheehan spent the next few years picking his way through several movie and television projects, and along the way shared the screen with the likes of Nicolas Cage in 2011's Season of the Witch and Ron Perlman and Rupert Grint in 2015's Moonwalkers. Sheehan also found himself perpetually on the edge of a Hollywood breakthrough, even as he continued to book challenging roles in films helmed by intriguing directors. 

That strategy led him to the 2018 Netflix original Mute. The film was directed by Duncan Jones, the son of the great David Bowie and the gifted auteur behind the modern sci-fi classics Moon and Source Code. Like Sheehan's role on The Umbrella Academy, his gig on Mute also offered him the chance to step into the skin of an intensely flawed character who, like Klaus, had a penchant for outlandish attire.

Mute divided the heck out of critics and audiences, but it is nowhere near as great or as lousy as you might've heard over the past couple of years. Sheehan's work as the duplicitous Luba is the very definition of scene-stealing — and his wardrobe should be the stuff of cinematic legend.   

Robert Sheehan went really big with The Mortal Engines

Looking back, 2018 should have been the year that the cinematic world came to see Sheehan as a big-time screen talent. Not only did he have Mute hitting Netflix in the spring, he also had a potential tentpole franchise in the making arriving in theaters a few months later: the Peter Jackson-produced adaption of the YA novel Mortal Engines. Unfortunately, Mute was poorly received by critics, and Mortal Engines turned out to be a flop of the first order.

Given Jackson's involvement alone, the movie (produced on a $100 million budget) was initially pegged not just as one of 2018's must-see movies, but also one with a built-in audience of both Jackson devotees and fans of Philip Reeves' YA series of novels. Mortal Engines even scored a prime holiday release — December 14, 2018 — but it was wholly overshadowed by competitors Bumblebee and Aquaman when it hit theatersThe sound drubbing it received from critics didn't exactly help, and Mortal Engines was lambasted for serving up steampunk spectacle over substance. 

In spite of its undercooked nature (and paltry $83.6 million box office take), Sheehan showed some serious leading man chops as the film's second lead Tom Natsworthy. We submit that both he and star Helma Hilmar genuinely deserved better material to work with.