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Umbrella Academy actor shares his hardest on-set moment - Exclusive

Actor Ken Hall was a key member of the cast of the first season of Netflix's The Umbrella Academy, but you might have only caught his actual face on one episode — as middle manager Herb from the time-preserving agency known as the Commission. That's because the majority of Hall's work on the show was as the performance capture artist for the CGI rendering of the hyper-intelligent chimpanzee Pogo. Along with voice artist Adam Godley, Hall brought to life one of Gerard Way and Gabriel Bá's most interesting creations — crafting a dignified, paternal Pogo who served as an emotional anchor for the Hargreeves children.

Unfortunately, Pogo's fate at the end of the first season means we won't be seeing much of him on the impending second season, but that doesn't mean we've seen the last of Hall. He'll be back as Herb in an expanded role as the show dives further into the inner workings and power struggles that define the Commission. As The Umbrella Academy gets set to return on Netflix, Hall took a moment to reflect on his work on the series and the greatest challenges he faced in bringing Pogo to the screen. 

Ken Hall didn't see Pogo until the premiere

It's a struggle unique to the motion-capture artist that the character being portrayed won't be fully realized until all the post-production effects work is done. Still, Hall faced the unique prospect of working without a visual template for almost the entirety of filming. 

"When you're on set, and you see a playback ... I'm wearing this gray outfit with Velcro dots on it with animal gloves. It looks nothing like the end result," he said during an exclusive interview with Looper. "Near the end of it, Steve Blackman, the showrunner, showed me a little bit more of what Pogo would be looking like. It was more of the layers and more of the CGI. Still, it wasn't a finished version, but it was amazing, all the detail."

To take in the finished version, Hall had to wait all the way to the premiere of The Umbrella Academy season 1. What he saw, however, made the wait worth it. "I guess at the end, it was really the premiere where I got to see everything, and it just blew me away," Hall shared. "It was just visually so incredible, all the detail that went into it. It's fabulous."

Ken Hall braved the elements and illness while filming The Umbrella Academy

Despite dealing with the kind of high-tech issues that only modern visual effects technology brings to bear, Hall's greatest challenges were of the old-fashioned variety. CGI considerations aside, it was the weather and his health that gave Hall his most challenging day on the set of The Umbrella Academy

"I was very sick, actually," said Hall. "The week before, I was already sick with a cold. And then, it developed into really bad bronchitis to the point where I coughed and I thought I gave myself a hernia. I was in rough shape. And, of course, that's not the ideal when you want to go to the set, especially on a new production on your very first day. And this would have been mid-to-probably late January in Toronto."

He continued, "So, it's cold, it's middle of winter, and it was raining. It was raining all day, and it was an outdoor shoot, as well. It was in the first episode — there's this big funeral scene outside. Not only was it naturally raining, but they also had these giant sprinkler things to make the raindrops even bigger and better looking."

While cold and rain might not sound like insurmountable obstacles, over the course of a day-long shoot, the conditions can really pile up. "I was just in my motion-capture suit, but I was wearing three pairs of long johns," said Hall. "I had four sweaters on underneath, just trying to stay warm. By the end of the day, I could barely even say my lines because I was shivering so much."

Still, Hall soldiered through. "It was such a great deal of accomplishment within that because that's probably one of the hardest shoots," he shared. "That one really stands out to me just because you want to make a good impression, and you want to do good work. I was on antibiotics. I just felt really terrible, but I survived it. And then, I came back the next day in the game."

Catch more of Ken Hall in action when The Umbrella Academy season 2 hits Netflix on July 31.