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Umbrella Academy Stunt Coordinator Rick Forsayeth On Upping The Action In Season 2 - Exclusive Interview

The Umbrella Academy's second season takes things up a notch from the first in a number of ways. The superpowers are more super, the family dynamics are more complicated, and the plot twists are practically cyclone-sized. Oh, and then there's the action, which starts off in slam-bang fashion by featuring the Hargreeves siblings taking on the entire Soviet army and just gets more bonkers from there.

The man in charge of making sure all those fight scenes and super-powered struggles come off correctly is Rick Forsayeth, the show's stunt coordinator. A Hollywood veteran with a long list of credits in both film and TV, Forsayeth brings a steady hand to his work on The Umbrella Academy, but also the kind of creativity required to fit physical action to the show's mind-bending narrative.

With season 2 of The Umbrella Academy now streaming on Netflix, Forsayeth chatted with Looper about what it took to craft the craziness that is the Hargreeves' adventures — and where he hopes to take things in season 3.

The Umbrella Academy season 2's action gets bigger and bolder

So, The Umbrella Academy season 2 has arrived. Going into the season, what was, in terms of stunts, the direction that you were told things were going?

Bigger than last season, and better.

In what way?

Just as far as with the success of season 1, we sort of set a bar, and in season 2, our objective is to at least meet that and beat it with the amount of action and what we're planning on putting into the show.

What would you say was your favorite stunt or a set of stunts to craft for season 2?

There was a big fight between Tom Hopper, who is Luther, and a big giant of a stunt guy. Then there was another sequence with Diego (David Castañeda). I'm not sure where in the season it plays, but it's a long hallway fight between Diego and one of the Swedes, I think played by Chris Holden, and it's something that Steve had always wanted to do. We talked about doing it in season 1, but couldn't find a place for it, but season 2, we found a place for it. It was pretty much a oner dollying on the outside of a hallway, sort of a one-shot fight as we dolly across the exterior of the set, and the fight just continues in one shot from one end to the other.

There were some really great fights this season. I feel like the ante was up in terms of fighting and the Hargreeves siblings kind of showing off their powers this season. Is that accurate?

Yes, the ante was raised just because they were all growing into their newfound powers... well, not newfound. They always had them. It's just they were sort of on the learning curve, and then we just had to adapt those powers into the characters as they went. When did Luther become bulletproof, and when did Diego learn to bend things the way he did in the opening scene? It was challenging, but it was fun to get into it and actually prove it out.

With these fights, a lot of times you're incorporating a lot of martial arts, you're incorporating teleportation and superpowers. Do you find that exciting, or does it make it harder?

It's harder, but in the same sense, it can make it easier because you can use it to get out of a jam. What is Five gonna do now? Wait a minute; he could blink out and go behind this giant guy. It's also his size, but it's the skillset we had to adapt. He is a 58-year-old assassin. He has the skillset. It's a matter of putting them to use in the new body he's got

Rick Forsayeth on blending super powers and stunts with the cast of The Umbrella Academy

How much of the stunt work did the cast actually do? I'm guessing they're pretty game, but I'm just curious as to how that tends to break down.

If I can get them trained in the fight, which we usually do — last year was a bit of a crunch time-wise, and because we're on so many different locations, it can pose quite a challenge — but usually, they got into it quite well. Tom and David are superb. They pick up things really easy, but of course there are some things they just can't actually do, and I can't let them do, but for the most part, the fighting skills, David and Tom are all as good as their doubles. If I can use the cast as much as possible, it's much better for the show and it keeps our cast happier because it gives them a break from dialogue.

Is that something that the cast tends to relish, the chance to get into this physical side of things?

Absolutely. In the case of David, when we first got him, his skillset increased 150% over the two seasons. Ritu Arya, the same thing — she came into season 2 and she's a petite girl, but she was real keen to get into it, but it was back to really the basics of screen fighting to get her going. Then, of course from my side, it takes a village to put this together. I've got great people, like Master Tommy Chang, who looks after a lot of their training and just getting them up to a physical level and a skill level where all of a sudden they can do a lot of their own stuff. Then we put them in the scenario, I work out the fight scenes, we get their input into it, get their approval with what I get to do with them, and they add their two cents. I have my two cents. Steve adds his dollar.

What's something in the stunt work, in season 2 in particular, that looks simple, but it was actually really complicated to do?

There are a few. We had fantastic directors, and sometimes me having to try to match their vision is the most complicated. One of them would be when Aidan, or Number Five, goes into the board room and chops everybody up. We're under time constraints with Aidan and what he can and can't do. The director of that episode put it together so cohesively, and I just sort of had to adapt, which I'm happy to do, and give them their vision and keep everybody alive.

We had a couple of big super power battle moments in season 2. You've got the opening, which is the war in the streets of Dallas and then the big farm scene at the end. What are those sequences like to work on?

The opening sequence was good. It was a lot of physicality on my players just running around and getting shot, but I believe Sylvain White directed that, and with the help of Everett Burrell our VFX producer, who is amazing, he put it together really well. The characters and everybody, they were thrilled, and the wire aspects, my associate-in-crime, David Harcourt, makes sure everything is done safely and efficiently, to the point at which we can get actors in wires to show the beginning and the end of a shot, and then Everett may take over the middle of it because it's something they physically just can't do.

Is there a lot of training that goes into how the characters express their powers? We spoke with Aidan Gallagher, and at one point he was talking about developing the physicality for blinking in and out. Do you put a lot of work into developing the physicality around the powers that the Hargreeves have?

Yes, it's something. Aidan pretty much created a style of blinking in and blinking out, and it looks super. David, Tom, Emmy Raver-Lampman, even Vanya — she didn't get to do a lot in season 1, but she got more into it in season 2. Everybody has their own idea of how things should look, of course, and I adapt with what the actors feel their characters would do. That gets cleared by the people in the tower, like Mr. Blackman, Mr. King, Netflix, and we sort of put something together and then we showcase it and send it for review, but I think season 2 accomplished a lot with the increase in their powers in that it's really showcased what each of them are capable of doing. Then, God willing Season 3, who knows?

Where does The Umbrella Academy's action go from here?

So, you have a long résumé. You've worked in feature films, a lot of sci-fi, a lot of action stuff. How did anything from your past career influence how you approach The Umbrella Academy specifically?

What it gives me, or what it gave us, because a lot of that work was done with David Harcourt, who is my wire coordinator ... we can pick out scenarios as we read them and then reflect back and go, oh, well, we did this on Resident Evil, or this on X-Men, or this on that show. We have such a vast library of examples of things to go back and reference so as to get something going, and as an example to give producers and actors, and then we expand on that.

Assuming there is a season 3, what frontiers from a stunt standpoint would you like to push? Things were kind of bigger this year, a lot more action. Where would you like to see things go in season 3, action-wise?

I'd like to see it continue. I'm sure Steve has got stuff written and I've heard rough storylines. I haven't seen anything, but it's something where it's an environment where the people like Blackman and Netflix give me sort of a blank slate, because it's so off the wall, and they create such scenarios. Everybody sits around — well, used to sit around — at a table, and then I'd reflect back on something and say, "Well, let's begin with this." It's not going to be exactly the same because of our characters, and we'll adapt that type of move into this scenario. At least it gets us moving, but having that freedom to at least put that idea forward at a boardroom is fantastic, and usually they let me run with it.

How collaborative is that? Is it a situation where you can bounce back and say, "Well, what if we did this thing in this super power battle," and is there a reception there for that?

Absolutely. Totally open ears, Steve and the writers have set up the opportunity where they're saying, "I know I wrote that, but if you have a better idea, let's hear it." If I could make it better, I will always suggest it, but I get shot down a lot of times. I'm not that shy that I'm going to be holding stuff back when I can make something, or take their idea, and expand it to a better thing for the show.