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Sense8 Roundtable: Daryl Hannah and Naveen Andrews

The Wachowskis’ new TV series Sense8 is now available on Netflix Instant. It will take you a good 12 hours to watch the entire first season, but don’t worry, the stars of the show aren’t giving any spoilers here. Daryl Hannah and Naveen Andrews open the show, which includes a sprawling cast in nine different cities around the world. We joined a roundtable with Andrews and Hannah to find out more about Sense8 and their roles in the mythology.  

Nuke the Fridge: How does it feel to be in sci-fi again so many years after Blade Runner and not as many years after Lost?

Daryl Hannah: It’s not exactly sci-fi.

Naveen Andrews: No, it’s not sci-fi. I’m not sure if Lost was sci-fi to be honest.

Daryl Hannah: It’s more mind bendy. It doesn’t really fit a genre.

Naveen Andrews: It doesn’t fit any labels that I can think of.

Daryl Hannah in Sense8. Credit: Murray Close/Netflix
Daryl Hannah in Sense8. Credit: Murray Close/Netflix

Daryl Hannah: It kind of crosses into a lot of different genres. It’s not people flying through the air and a lot of green screen stuff. In fact, we shot the show in eight different countries and nine different cities and were really there. There’s no fake backgrounds. It’s all real stuff. But even though it’s set in the real world in present day, it also is very surreal simultaneously. It’s hard to explain.

Naveen Andrews: Because of what’s happening, it is fantastical to an extent. But then it involves sexuality on a level that I’ve not seen on screen.

Daryl Hannah: And sharing senses and being able to communicate through all of your senses with people who are in other parts of the world and different languages and different everything. It’s about these eight characters who all of a sudden, through this dramatic event, suddenly find that they’re linked in these ways. So it goes deeply into that interconnection and what they can ultimately do with it and the people that are trying to get them to keep that from coming out.

Q: Did it ever feel unwieldy, as sprawling as it is?

Naveen Andrews in Sense8 Credit: Murray Close/Netflix
Naveen Andrews in Sense8 Credit: Murray Close/Netflix

Naveen Andrews: Technically, we had to get some stunts shot in Chicago by a certain date because we were flying out to Europe the very next day. Yeah, of course it was a concern. Thank Christ we managed to do it. That scene with Brian in the car, but we had to shoot that twice because something didn’t happen technically the first night. We only had one night to shoot it but somehow if there’s a kind of chaos going on that’s creative, somehow you just manage to make it by the skin of your teeth. It’s exciting sometimes.

Daryl Hannah: But also, Lana and Andy have this incredible vision. They see it in their mind’s eye so clearly the way a director should, and quite often they need to collaborate so much more with other people in order to figure that out but they have that vision so clearly in their head. They don’t even need to talk to each other. They really are like Sense8s. They just communicate. “Uh, huh, yeah. Now move on.” What? What just happened?

Naveen Andrews: And there’s never any disagreement. If there’s a difference in notes, like sometimes Lana will come in and say something and then Andy will come in and I’ll go, “That was the opposite of what your sister said.” He goes, “Oh, did she say that? Then just do that.”

Nuke: Did you audition for Lana and Andy?

Daryl Hannah: No, I actually met with them on the Mr. Whispers role. They were thinking about maybe casting it more androgynously. They were kind of playing with it and I went in to meet with them. I remember I wore a wig because I wanted to look more androgynous instead of long hair. Then they were like, “Take off your wig. We have another part in mind for you.” Okay, cool. At that point I hadn’t read the script but I was really excited because I have so much respect for them. I just think they’re so beautifully creative. It’s just so inspiring.

Q: What do you connect with with your characters?

Naveen Andrews: The fact that you can’t define them easily, especially both our parts.

Daryl Hannah: They’re somewhat mysterious still.

Naveen Andrews: Technically I guess you could say we’re parents but that’s meaningless in the context of this show. What does that really mean? A sense of menace and mystery that I think both our characters have. At this stage, in the first season, to occupy that space, allowing enough space for what might come in the future. You have to judge it I think.

Daryl Hannah: I also like the element of my character, her willingness to make the ultimate sacrifice to protect what she loves. I think that’s really such a powerful theme and something I resonate with a lot.

Nuke: Do all the characters come together by the end?

Daryl Hannah: We can’t tell you that.

Naveen Andrews: For Christ’s sake, come on.

Daryl Hannah in Sense8 Credit: Murray Close/Netflix
Daryl Hannah in Sense8 Credit: Murray Close/Netflix

Q: What can you tease about the show and your characters’ storylines?

Daryl Hannah: In some metaphorical terms, we kind of give birth to this new cluster of sense8s. We are from a former group of sense8s and we take some actions that allow this group of sense8s to become aware of themselves. Then whether or not we protect them or hinder them from the forces of darkness that are trying to squash them…

Naveen Andrews: Is open to question.

Q: How does the theme of identity play out in the series?

Daryl Hannah: I don’t think that it looks to present answers to these questions. It actually just sort of proposes these questions. The series seems to me at least, one of the things I really love about it, is it’s about our differences and our interconnectedness on a deeper level, and how that interconnectedness is not only the key to our salvation but also a threat to others. Our realizing of that interconnectedness and taking advantage of it.

Naveen Andrews: But also the question that if we are all connected, if we are genuinely all connected, what does that mean? What are we going to do about it?

Q: What do you think it means?

Naveen Andrews: Watch the show.

Q: On a personal level?

Naveen Andrews: Oh God, to be really honest with you, life changing.

Daryl Hannah: I think it holds the key to addressing all the crises that we face. If we really recognize, which I believe interconnectedness is a profound truth, that we all somehow know. If we could acknowledge it on a conscious level and be aware of it, then we would make different choices, wiser choices that wouldn’t affect each other and all living things so negatively.

Q: But you say that poses a threat as well?

Daryl Hannah: Well, not necessarily to individuals but certainly in our modern world, it definitely poses a threat to organizations who are beholden legally or have fiduciary responsibility to the bottom line. So yeah, absolutely. When you value profits over life, then of course the understanding that we are interconnected with each other and all other living things, then our desire to protect life is not going to be welcomed by those who are beholden to the bottom line.

Naveen Andrews: It’s going to be very dangerous.