By Samantha Puc
Lucky attendees who won New York Comic Con’s lottery to reserve their seats at the “Netflix & Chills” panel on Friday, Oct. 5 were treated to four back-to-back panels about Netflix’s creepiest, evilest new original series.
The night began with the cast of The Umbrella Academy, based on Gerard Way and Gabriel Bá’s Eisner-winning comic series about a dysfunctional super-powered family. Next was the cast of The Haunting of Hill House, based on Shirley Jackson’s classic horror novel. Lisa Henson and Louis Leterrier followed up with a very brief look at The Dark Crystal: Age of Resistance, a 10-episode prequel to Jim Henson’s iconic film. Finally, the cast of Chilling Adventures of Sabrina swapped jokes with moderator Joshua Horowitz before offering the audience what they really wanted: the full first episode of the series, which premieres later this month.
This mega-star-studded panel block featured a number of great moments and some incredibly big announcements, so here’s a quick round-up of the best takeaways from the night.
The Umbrella Academy
When The Umbrella Academy hits Netflix on Feb. 15, 2019, viewers are in for a visual spectacle that captures the moodiness of the comic series, (hopefully) without losing any of the character dynamics that make the story so incredible.
7 super-siblings. 2 time-traveling assassins. 8 days to save the world. The Umbrella Academy arrives February 15. pic.twitter.com/GpxuKjNT99
— Umbrella Academy (@UmbrellaAcad) October 6, 2018
In addition to announcing the release date, we saw a teaser trailer and heard from the cast, including Ellen Page (Vanya), Emmy Raver-Lampman (Allison), David Castañeda (Diego), Tom Hopper (Luther), Aidan Gallagher (Number Five), Robert Sheehan (Klaus), Mary J. Blige (Cha-Cha), and Cameron Britton (Hazel).
- The trailer reveals Colm Feore as Sir Reginald Hargreeves, absolutely rocking the monocle that gives him his alter-ego name.
- After the Monacle dies, Allison remarks, “It’s been a while since we’ve all lived under the same roof” while Klaus simply declares, “He’s dead! Yeah!”
- Among the cast, only a few of them have ever attended a comic con; Britton, Blige, Gallagher, Castañeda, and Raver-Lampman were all first-timers. “I walked around in the pit today and I saw a man wearing an arcade for a costume,” Britton remarked, with Blige adding that she saw lots of people “dressed as whatever character they were dressed as.”
- Sheehan described Klaus as just “chaos” and said he is “a swirling Tasmanian devil of a character who doesn’t know which end is up most of the time.”
- Gallagher admitted that he is a huge fan of the comics by Way and Bá. “I think we did a good job of honoring the comics but we’ve got some interesting stuff for you,” he said. Sheehan added, “You have to take liberties. You have to splash a bit of your own originality into the soup.”
- For Mary J. Blige, the appeal of Cha-Cha was to fulfill a lifelong dream of playing a superhero, supervillain, or assassin-type so she could “learn to shoot a gun” or do martial arts. “This is definitely something absolutely refreshing because I’ve never played anything close to this,” she said. She added, “I picked up some skills. Yes, I really did.”
- Page remarked that “Vanya Hargreeves plays the violin. She’s very, very, very, very good at it. I am not.” She added that she has a ton of respect for violin players because “just holding the goddamn thing is hard.”
- Britton was intimidated by Blige’s casting, especially as his partner-in-crime. “First, I heard it was Lucy Liu, and I was like, ‘oh, cool, she’s a wonderful professional,’” he said. “Then I heard it was Mary J. Blige and I was like, ‘oh, shit. I’m going down.’ Then I called my sister and said, ‘Guess who you’re jealous of?’”
- The whole cast believes that Gallagher was born to play Number Five, a 58 year-old man in the body of a young boy. “The writing’s very good, so that always helps,” Gallagher said. “If you don’t have good writing then actors can’t be good actors.”
- Hopper said that no matter how much working out he did to play Luther, whose power is in his physical strength, “I couldn’t get big enough for this role.” He indicated that his body is altered on-screen for the role, though didn’t specify beyond that.
The Haunting of Hill House
The Haunting of Hill House hits Netflix on Oct. 12, just in time to scare the pants off everyone before Halloween. Before and after the cast panel, we saw clips from the series that made the entire audience scream (multiple times). When the lights came up after the second clip, the cast had left the stage and in their place stood 10 identical, corpse-like women, while an invitation (of sorts) filled the jumbo screens. After the screening, audience members who made their way to the Highline Hotel could watch the first episode of the series if they got there before seats filled up.
In addition to clips and making the audience freak out, cast members Michiel Huisman (Steven Crain), Elizabeth Reaser (Shirley Crain), Carla Gugino (Olivia Crain), Henry Thomas (young Hugh Crain), Oliver Jackson-Cohen (Luke Crain), Kate Siegel (Theodora Crain), and Victoria Pedretti (Nell Crain) talked about the series, its scares, and what viewers can expect (besides pure terror).
- Each episode is the same day or few days from a different sibling’s point of view. The show takes place across two timelines: when the siblings are kids and when they are adults.
- Pedretti admitted she didn’t start watching horror until she was cast in the show because she’s “a scaredy cat.”
- Jackson-Cohen said that, within the structure of the Crain family, his character Luke and Luke’s twin sister Nell “probably experience the most traumatic stuff inside the house.” As adults, they have a hard time functioning; Luke has an opioid addiction that he battles throughout the series.
- Reaser said, “[The Haunting of Hill House] was a terrifying thing to shoot because so much of it was psychological.”
- Jackson-Cohen said that because of the filming structure, there was a four-month period where they were attending or dealing with the emotions of attending a funeral on set. He said it caused an “emotional hangover.”
- To switch gears from gloomy to cheery, Siegel suggested, “Wine. Lots and lots of wine.”
- Gugino described filming a 10-episode horror series as having a pot of coffee percolating at all times. She added, “I felt the most like a horse at the gate, wanting to either act or escape and I couldn’t.”
- “[Creator] Mike [Flannagan] loves [horror] so much that he approaches it almost with romance,” Siegel said. She explained that Flannagan loves horror movies and he “makes horror movies for himself and people like him.” She said he tries not to reuse scares or creatures and tries not to rely on tired tropes.
- The cast received most of the scripts all at once, which is a luxury, according to Thomas, because they aren’t learning things week-to-week but rather up front.
- Siegel said episode 1×06 is “special” because “it’s done in four shots.” The cast rehearsed it like a play.
The Dark Crystal: Age of Resistance
After a year of filming all 10 episodes of The Dark Crystal: Age of Resistance, Lisa Henson and director Louis Leterrier passionately described why the show is so special. They were able to offer the panel audience a very brief clip of the series, which is nowhere near post-production or completion.
- Age of Resistance is a prequel series to the original Jim Henson film. It explores the Gelfling culture that is introduced at the beginning of the movie.
- The most “advanced” technology used in filming was green screen, something Jim did not have available during The Dark Crystal, per Henson. Leterrier said that there is absolutely no CGI; everything is done with hand-crafted puppets, who are moved by real-life puppeteers (later erased via the green screen).
- “It has been the most exciting year of my professional career, working on this show,” Henson said.
- Leterrier approached Henson as a fan about doing the series together. He said that the last time Henson had tried to do anything, it was seven years ago; there was discussion of a sequel or other project in The Dark Crystal universe for years.
- “It was Jim Henson’s biggest, hardest task and his greatest achievement,” Leterrier said. He added that the new series is “a work of love and a work of art and we can’t wait to share it with you.”
- “We have no human cast to join us up here because we have no humans in the show,” Henson explained.
- Leterrier said he wanted to serve fans of the original film while also creating new fans of the world. “This is quite different [from the puppets kids today are used to seeing] and sometimes it’s quite scary. There’s a lot of action; there’s a lot of drama; there’s a few deaths.” He said “everything you love” about the original film is in this prequel series.
Chilling Adventures of Sabrina
The CAOS panel was relatively short, compared to the three that came before it — because once star Kiernan Shipka introduced the idea of watching the pilot episode, nothing else mattered.
Shipka was joined on stage by show creator Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa and co-stars Ross Lynch (Harvey Kinkle), Lucy Davis (Hilda Spellman), Miranda Otto (Zelda Spellman), Michelle Gomez (Mary Wardell), and Chance Perdomo (Ambrose Spellman).
- Shipka said she knew people would love CAOS because of how much they love Riverdale, which Aguirre-Sacasa also created. However, she was still surprised by how passionate fans have been before the show even airs.
- “It’s fun being a controlling aunt,” Otto admitted. “I think the funnest part when I was reading the script was all the kind of violent things with Hilda that really got me in.”
- Lynch nearly spoiled the crowd for an apparently major Harvey plot detail, but refrained at the last minute.
- Gomez said Aguirre-Sacasa created a “rich and incredible world that he unleashed us into.” She added that, as Mary Wardell/Madam Satan, “the real challenge is just not to make her just evil,” because even she has reasons for how she behaves. Gomez said the goal is to “thrill and terrify.”
- “Ambrose is the Alfred to Sabrina’s Batman,” Perdomo said. He added that he appreciates the way that Netflix pushes boundaries as a global platform: since Ambrose is a pansexual person of color, “it’s personally and artistically gratifying to play.”
- Aguirre-Sacasa is “hopeful” about an eventual Riverdale and CAOS crossover. “I’m first and foremost a fan of these two towns, Riverdale and Greendale,” he said. “I love when comic book characters cross over, so it’s a dream.”
- Shipka said that in the new series, they take a slightly different approach to Salem, Sabrina’s familiar who is, of course, the real star of the show. “The ‘90s sitcom Salem is so iconic, right?” she said. “He’s a meme! He’s Sassy Salem.” She also told the audience that Salem in the new series is played by three cats who always know their lines and “always hit their marks.”
Chilling Adventures of Sabrina premieres on Netflix Oct. 26, 2018.