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The Untold Truth Of The Umbrella Academy's Robert Sheehan

Irish actor Robert Sheehan is no stranger to American audiences, having brought to life numerous beloved characters in TV and movie projects, including Klaus Hargreeves in Netflix's "The Umbrella Academy." While he's been acting professionally since he was 14 in his native country, it wasn't until he landed his breakout role as Nathan Young in the British sci-fi series "Misfits" that he became a fan favorite actor, receiving a BAFTA Award nomination for his portrayal of a juvenile delinquent suddenly granted immortality. When Sheehan failed to return to the series for its third season, many viewers expressed their disappointment on Reddit, with some calling him the life and soul of the show.

Sheehan told The Irish Times it was difficult to leave the role, but other roles held more appeal for the then-23-year-old actor. After appearing on the critically-acclaimed Irish TV series "Love/Hate" for three seasons, he headed for Hollywood, landing the role of Simon in the movie adaptation of the hugely popular young-adult book series "The Mortal Instruments: City of Bones." While the movie was expected to follow the trend of becoming a blockbuster YA book-to-film franchise, it didn't gross enough at the box office to warrant a sequel. Fortunately, Sheehan had other roles waiting for him to claim. 

Robert Sheehan has appeared in many independent movies

After "The Mortal Instruments: City of Bones" failed to land a sequel, Robert Sheehan found notable success starring in critically-acclaimed movies such as "The Road Within," opposite Dev Patel and "Moonwalkers" with Ron Perlman. Along the way, he also co-starred in higher profile projects such as "Geostorm" with Gerard Butler and "Good Samaritan" with David Tennant, but in 2018, he starred as Tom Natsworthy in the steampunk flick "Mortal Engines" based on a screenplay co-written by "The Lords of The Rings" filmmaker Peter Jackson. While the movie failed to win over critics and audiences, Sheehan looked back on the movie favorably in an interview with Collider, saying, "'Mortal Engines' was a brilliant fit for me, as well, because everything in the film is in service to the story and serves that purpose, first and foremost."

Shortly after "Mortal Engines," Sheehan would debut his arguably best and most popular role to date as the tortured Klaus Hargreeves in Netflix's "The Umbrella Academy." Thanks to his ability to speak to the dead, the good-natured and hedonistic Klaus succumbed to drug abuse as a young man, only sobering after finding true love during his time travel to Vietnam during the war. Sheehan told Collider the role was exciting because of its "untethered creativity. There's nowhere that the show won't dare to go. It's just so incredibly left field. That's what's so wonderful about it. It has an essential kookiness."

Sheehan has been open about his sexuality

As Klaus on "The Umbrella Academy," Robert Sheehan has become one of the series' most popular stars, thanks largely to his honest portrayal of a bisexual character. However, Sheehan has admitted he's never been comfortable playing a gay character for the simple reason sexuality shouldn't matter. He told Digital Spy, "Like it or not, if your character is labelled as a 'gay character,' then that label becomes defining and it kind of reduces all else about the character ... [It's] Oversimplification if you just say, 'Oh, well he's the gay one.' So it doesn't matter, basically, is the point. It doesn't matter who he's attracted to."

While many fans might be curious about Sheehan's own sexuality, he's spoken about his orientation to the press, saying he identifies as straight. He told Hot Press, "I think it would be irresponsible not to question my sexuality. I had a couple of experiences when I was younger with dudes where I tried it, experimented, to see if it did anything for me. And it didn't."

He wants to make the world a better place

Robert Sheehan dated actress Sofia Boutella of "Kingsman: The Secret Service" for four years, but the actor now seems to be single. His Instagram account focuses mainly on his projects, including a podcast titled "The Earth Locker," which Sheehan co-hosts with his "The Umbrella Academy" co-star Tom Hopper and health enthusiast Byron Knight. The trio speaks with experts in all fields about nutrition, meditation, and the environment to "make us all better humans for this planet," according to its YouTube page.

During lockdown for COVID-19, the co-hosts filmed the show from separate locations, but the podcast is typically filmed at Sheehan's house, according to Metro. "There was a great sense of relief and elation I think when we were the three of us back in the same room," he told the publication. He explained that the idea for the podcast evolved from a way to enter the hospitality and dining industry into a way to help listeners better themselves. "We just had so much crack and so much fun doing it," he added.

He spent lockdown writing

While many people felt isolated during the COVID-19 lockdown, Robert Sheehan admitted he loved the experience. He told The Irish Times, "London was quiet. It was botanical. It was in bloom ... I was writing, I was going for strolls. I had company here and there. And I was meditating loads. I was growing plants ... I don't want this to seem empathy-less towards people who've had a sad time of it. I was lucky not to lose people. It was lovely ... It was like being retired."

He also told the publication he began writing as a hobby in 2015 while living in West Hollywood, Calif. He called himself a "contrarian f***er" who couldn't land any of the roles he wanted, so he was spending a lot of time in his apartment. He struck up a conversation with a magazine editor at a charity event and pitched himself as a writer. His topic of choice? Shadow puppetry. "I sat down to try to write this shadow puppetry thing and it just came out like a textbook," he said. "Nothing sounded like me. It's like that thing where you can visualise a good drawing but it just cannot travel down the arm to the page."

Eventually, he began writing down thought bubbles, which evolved into additional writings his girlfriend at the time found humorous, encouraging him to write more. Now, he dabbles in fiction, which he compares to researching a character. "You start to learn things when you take a character and bump them up against things in the external world. And that's what the writing is," he said.

His parents have never seen The Umbrella Academy

While 45 million households reportedly watched the first season of "The Umbrella Academy," Robert Sheehan knows at least two people who didn't: his parents. He explained to The Irish Times that he doubts his father has ever seen an episode. His role on the series "Love/Hate" is one of his parents' favorites. "They really love that," he said. "They like the Irish homegrown stuff the best. They probably relate to it the most."

He said "The Umbrella Academy" fans are "fervid," and it means a lot when queer fans credit his character with helping them: "Teenage queer people come up to you in tears saying 'The portrayal of Klaus in the Umbrella Academy was a big part of my coming out or was a very meaningful thing for my journey.' You go 'F****** hell that's lovely.' It's a great badge of pride."

He's serious about a zero-waste lifestyle 

Robert Sheehan is an actor by trade, but his staunch commitment to environmentalism informs his daily decisions, as well as what professional projects he chooses. In 2022, he starred as a tech billionaire in the Netflix family sci-fi series "The Last Bus," a show that shared in his distinctly and urgently green philosophy. "We present human beings are more damaging, destructive, wasteful than we've ever been," Sheehan told The Big Issue. "We create islands the size of Texas of waste in the ocean. We've created a serious problem for ourselves." To that end, Sheehan has committed himself to a "zero-waste" lifestyle, aiming to generate as little trash as possible. He carries a lunchbox with him, and tries to buy low-waste clothing and food options.

In April 2021, Sheehan shared more details of his zero-waste day-to-day life on his Instagram account, including buying food in bulk, package free methods at special no-trash grocery stores. "At first it felt jarring and labour intensive, to have to bring bags and containers and fill them up at the shop, but now it feels habitual," Sheehan wrote, adding that while also decreasing his use of plastic, it forces him to eat more nutritiously.

He wrote a book

In 2021, Robert Sheehan branched out from performance and into creating entertainment, publishing his first book, "Disappearing Act." Subtitled "A Host of Other Characters in 16 Short Stories," the work is a compilation of brief, unrelated works, according to Ireland's Independent, and Sheehan leans on some experimental techniques. Most of the stories are essentially monologues, told in the first person from the point of view of characters that the author attempted to embody and write from their perspective — befitting his history as an actor. Sheehan inserts himself into the work by telling the reader where, exactly, he wrote each of the stories and was possibly inspired, such as in a gym changing room, or on a boat to Indonesia. Sheehan additionally performed the audiobook version of "Disappearing Act" himself.

"Disappearing Act" received mixed reviews. "Sheehan has plenty of ideas but lacks the skill to fully realize them," according to the Irish Times, for example.