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Robert Sheehan reveals how ‘Umbrella Academy’s Number 4 was re-written as queer

"It's just about connection and love. That’s all it should be about."

By Will Stroude

A runaway smash, The Umbrella Academy is one of – if not the – biggest series on Netflix right now.

Based on Gerard Way’s (of My Chemical Romance) hit Dark Horse comic book of the same name, it’s the story of seven super-powered adopted siblings who come together to solve the mystery of their father’s death.

Former Misfits actor Robert Sheehan, 32, plays Number Four, aka The Séance, who can converse with the dead. With substance abuse problems, daddy issues and having unexpectedly fallen in love with another man in in the show’s first season, Four – or Klaus – has never been so vulnerable as the show returns for a second season.

Robert Sheehan for the Attitude September issue (Photography: Joseph Sinclair)

Had the show stuck to the original comic book, things would’ve gone very differently for the character. But a discussion between the programme’s creators and Sheehan took Klaus on a new journey, the actor explains in the Attitude September issue, out now to download and to order globally.

“Here’s an interesting thing for you, I suppose it doesn’t matter now…”, Sheehan begins.

“In truth, at the time [working on season one], [the story] was that Klaus had had a relationship with a Vietnamese woman, who has a child in the 1960s, and then he goes to find a daughter who’d be quite old and make contact.

Robert Sheehan as Number Four in Netflix’s ‘The Umbrella Academy’

“Then it became, ‘Well, what if he had a gay relationship in Vietnam?’ I was like, ‘Yeah, definitely.’

“You have to follow your nose to find the most interesting road to take. And I found that really, really interesting and quite subversive of the Vietnam that’s been depicted before.”

Feedback – if indeed there was any – from fans on the change in ‘established’ comic book history has gone over Sheehan’s head because he doesn’t read online comments. But at events, he’s found the LGBTQ fanbase to be positively vocal.

Robert wears jeans by Louis Vuitton, necklace Robert’s own (Photography: Joseph Sinclair)

“Certainly at the [comic] cons, you get a lot of younger people who identify in the LGBTQ bracket. Lovely, young, queer people coming up and saying lovely, meaningful things. People who are at the formative part of their lives. That’s very nice.”

Sheehan, who identifies as straight but has previously revealed he has had same-sex experiences in the past, adds: “One thing I really do love about Umbrella Academy is that there aren’t any kind of finer points put on love and things like that.

“The show is delightfully and wonderfully and aspirationally non-prejudicial in that sense; it’s just about connection and love. That’s all it should be about.”

Read the full interview in the Attitude September issue, out now to download and to order globally.

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