The Wachowskis are back making headlines this week, thanks to the impending theatrical debut for Jupiter Ascending – a sci-fi epic that looks as crazy and ambitious as anything the siblings have done since they broke-out with the original Matrix more than fifteen years ago.
Next on the agenda for the pair is putting the finishing touches on Sense8, an original Netflix series that they developed alongside Babylon 5 creator J. Michael Straczynski (who also has another sci-fi series cooking in the oven). And like everything else the Wachowskis make nowadays, this show’s reach may exceed its grasp, but it’ll certainly get points for aiming to knock one far out of the ballpark.
Sense8‘s first season will be eight episodes long, with each individual episode focusing on one of eight characters from around the world – people who find themselves not just linked mentally and emotionally in the aftermath of a tragedy, but also now being hunted by a mysterious organization and its shadowy head (a figure known as Mr. Whispers). Piecing together the previous details released about the show, we’ve put together a nearly-complete picture of the show’s main cast/characters:
Sense8 Cast/Character Roster
- Miguel Ángel Silvestre (I’m So Excited) playing “a closeted Mexican telenovela hunk.”
- Bae Doona (Cloud Atlas) as “a Korean businesswoman.”
- Aml Ameen (The Maze Runner) as “an African bus driver”
- Max Riemelt (Frier Fall) as “a German safe-cracker”
- Tuppence Middleton (Jupiter Ascending), as “an Icelandic party girl.”
- Indian actress Tena Desae (The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel).
- American actor Brian J. Smith (Stargate Universe) – possibly playing “a transgender American blogger” – and actress Jamie Clayton (Hung).
Straczynski and the Wachowski’s Netflix project boasts quite the diverse acting lineup – more so than that for the Wachowskis’ globe-trotting, genre-blending, movie adaptation Cloud Atlas. In that film, the various characters – spanning different races across time/space – were portrayed by the same core cast members – in that case, for storytelling/thematic purposes.
Hence, although there are clearly qualities that Sense8 shares in comment with the previous Wachowski ventures, this new project will also see the filmmakers exploring different creative territory than they have in the past.
Working for a company like Netflix allows for more creative freedom in certain respect (read: being able to cast no-name stars), compared to the process of making a big studio movie. However, as Andy Wachowski pointed out to io9, producing something like Sense8 for Netflix presents challenges than are different than those the project would’ve faced being made within the movie studio system:
Well, it’s really hard work, the TV gig, we’re finding. The density of your work day it’s manifold from what we’re used to. Right now we’re in the editing process. We finished the first four episodes and we’re cutting them basically an episode a week. By the end of two weeks that’s two hours. That’s basically a feature film. And basically on a feature film you get ten weeks. That’s DGA minimum.
We shot the show all over the world [including in San Francisco, Chicago, Mexico City, Reykjavík, London, Berlin, Nairobi, Seoul, and Mumbai]. One of the ideas of the show was to juxtapose location and culture. Putting these 8 disparate lives up against one another so that you can feel the differences and the similarities between all of us. And in doing so, we ended up having 100,000 miles of flight time for all of last year. That’s four times around the globe.
Lana Wachowski was keen to emphasize during that same interview that Sense8 is meant to provide high-concept sci-fi entertainment while also exploring intriguing philosophical subject matter – much like most of her and Andy Wachowski’s previous work, in fact.
But it’s trying to get at the human question of how are we the same, and how are we different. Is there a universalness to the human condition or is it all culturally formed. Well that’s sort of an intellectual idea, we began to actually experience it as we were going through the journey. I was really enlightening and beautiful.
And how crazy will this Wachowski trip around the world – to explore human culture and beliefs in all their various forms – get, compared to what they’ve done before? Well, the pair teased that Sense8 will include such elements as “crazy psychic orgies with all sorts of different bodies,” in addition to footage of live human births.
How much graphic detail with the show include, when it comes to these aspects? “Tune in and see,” is basically what the Wachowskis had to say.
Sense8 is due to premiere on Netflix this May.