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Umbrella Academy showrunner on fan theories and what viewers don't know - Exclusive

The Umbrella Academy's twisty, time-tripping plot kept viewers guessing throughout its season 1 run on Netflix, offering up plenty of surprises along the way. This, coupled with a charismatic cast and a stylish visual presentation, made the show a hit — engendering the kind of passionate online discussion and word of mouth that can prove rocket fuel to a franchise's ongoing prospects.

All of this must have been music to the ears of Steve Blackman, showrunner on the series and steward of Gerard Way and Gabriel Bá's vision as it emerges from the pages of the Umbrella Academy comics and into its live-action incarnation. Rather than resting on his laurels, however, it appears Blackman will be pushing the envelope even further in the upcoming second season — sending the Hargreeves siblings careening through time to 1960s Dallas in a story centered around every time-traveler's "we ought to change that" event: the assassination of John F. Kennedy.

Just ahead of The Umbrella Academy season 2's arrival, Blackman sat down with Looper to discuss how fan expectations have lined up with what actually happens on the show, and what he wishes the audience knew about what it takes to bring this family of dysfunctional superheroes to TV life.

Theory versus reality on The Umbrella Academy

Thanks to season 1's totally bonkers ending and the year-long wait from that point until the arrival of season 2, fans of The Umbrella Academy have had plenty of opportunity to concoct wild theories as to where the show will go when it returns. According to Blackman, this speculation doesn't go unnoticed by the creative team. He admits to Looper that he and the writing crew check out fan theories as often as possible, and they dig what people have to say.

"You know, we have a year off between seasons. That's a long time for fans to sit with something they love and try to figure out what's coming next and how we might get there," he says. "I love the theories. I try to read as much as I can. I'm very busy, so I can't deep dive as much as I want to, but the writers do [...] report back to me and they say, 'There's this theory, and there's that theory.'"

Of course, as close as some fans have gotten to predicting what's in store for the Hargreeves siblings moving forward, Blackman says that he relishes the ability to keep his audience guessing. 

"I love how close they get to where we're going at times. Other times, they're way out there — and I think that's great," he says. "But part of the fun of the show is that we don't answer all the questions for the audience, and that's done purposefully. I love, as a TV fanatic, to be able to watch shows and try to fill in the blanks. The shows that allow me to think through those things are great."

The Umbrella Academy puts the Hargreeves to work

As connected as viewers are to what's happening with The Umbrella Academy, there are goings-on behind the scenes to which no one who's not on the set can be privy. So, what's one thing that Blackman wants fans know about what goes into making the series? How hard-working the ensemble cast is. 

"Yeah, I think it's just how hard the actors work," Blackman says when asked to reveal a behind-the-scenes secret. "I mean, I know this sounds a bit cliche — a showrunner saying their actors work hard — but you know, we're a very big show. We're a huge ensemble."

Still, the actors took the production gauntlet in stride, and the hard work that The Umbrella Academy required even helped foster a sense of family on the set. 

"The great thing is they never complained," says Blackman. "They really care about each other. None of us are from Toronto [where the show shoots], so we're all sort of stuck there ourselves. It's a great city, but we're away from our families, so all we have is each other. It's great to see that we all come together to support each other."

We'll get to see the fruits of this behind-the-scenes bonding when The Umbrella Academy drops its second season on Netflix on July 31, 2020.