When Daryl Hannah first heard the team behind "The Matrix" and "Cloud Atlas" were doing a Netflix series, she was already sold. The fact that the Wachowskis' mind-bending "Sense8" also deals with how humans can be more connected and compassionate was just the icing on the cake. "This was the ideal fit for me to do my first series," she says. "My advocacy and activism, which is my real work, is really all about the same themes."
So how was this project first explained to you?
It wasn't. I heard from the casting director that Lana and Andy Wachowski were doing an original series and they were looking for a character called Mr. Whispers, and did I have any ideas about that character — and maybe I could even come in because they were thinking about casting that character in a more transgender or androgynous way. So I went in to read for Mr. Whisper's role, and then they said, "We'd like you for another role, Angel" — which there wasn't even a description of at that point. I just wanted to do it because of the Wachowskis, and then when I found out the themes they discuss about interconnectedness and the similarities that we share, the boundaries that they push, I was really just over the moon.
They have a knack for marrying big ideas with entertainment.
Yeah, it's an amazing combination. To actually be creating art that doesn't only entertain you — which, I mean, it does — but also has something to say is incredible. That's the dream. That, to me, is what it's all about.
How is it to get back into what you might call the science fiction realm?
I wouldn't really call it the science fiction realm. I mean, it's fantastical, for sure, but it's set in a very real world and present day, and there are no spaceships flying around or anything like that. But I do think incorporating a supernatural or fantastical element allows us to be taken places that we might not be as comfortable going in just a very real setting alone.
How many of the nine different filming locations did you get to go to?
Nine cities in eight countries. I went to all of them. When I'm standing in Nairobi, I'm standing in Nairobi. And it feels that way when you see it. Even though it's physically hard to see CGI and green screen stuff, you can feel it. It doesn't resonate in the same way as when something is really shot on film and one in camera. It really has a much stronger impact.
It seems like a scale of production that Netflix is uniquely suited to support.
I think this only could happen on something like Netflix. It couldn't exist anywhere else. It couldn't exist with the advertisers, sponsors and the censorship of television. It couldn't happen in movies because they're too expensive these days. So it really is the only place that something like this could evolve.
Some actors have had a harder time wrapping their heads around exactly what a Netflix or streaming series is or how it fits in the industry.
Well, I don't have a TV. I go to movies or I watch Netflix, so for me it makes a lot of sense. I don't have a schedule that can fit into television, I don't really want to have advertisers screaming at me and making me feel inadequate or wanting to buy stuff I don't need. It's too much of a time-suck for me. And TV tries to polarize us. The news gets its viewers by being titillating and polarizing us, and that's just not helpful. I don't think that is how we evolve as a species.
Follow Ned Ehrbar on Twitter:@nedrick