Cameron Britton Interview: Umbrella Academy

Cameron Britton got an Emmy Award nomination for his portrayal of serial killer Ed Kemper in the Netflix crime-drama Mindhunter. In 2018, he played the hacker Plague in the theatrical thriller The Girl in the Spider’s Web. His most recent project is the Netflix series The Umbrella Academy, where he plays the assassin Hazel.

Screen Rant: Oh man, the show is phenomenal.

Cameron Britton: Did you see all of it?

Screen Rant: I didn't see all of it. I got up to episode five, but I'm going to finish it today, because I am hooked and I didn't have enough time to watch all of it.

Cameron Britton: I actually read a lot. I actually skipped a lot of scenes.

Screen Rant: Just the ones-- you just watched your scenes [LAUGHS]?

Cameron Britton: I mean, when I read the script.

Screen Rant: Oh, I see, I see.

Cameron Britton: So, I watch it like a fan. I heard Seth Green does that Family Guy. And so, I'm so hooked. All the Leonard and Vanya scenes, I know nothing about. I am hooked.

Screen Rant: That's really fascinating. So, time out. When you got the script, you only read the scenes that you knew that your character was going to be in?

Cameron Britton: Yeah. And I made sure that I wasn't missing any important dynamics or anything. But if it didn't pertain to me, you know, Luther and Allison and stuff, that's stuff I'm watching like the fans.

The Umbrella Academy - Hazel and Cha-Cha

Screen Rant: That's amazing. That's the coolest thing. I've never heard that, anybody do that before.

Cameron Britton: Oh, really?

Screen Rant: Yeah.

Cameron Britton: Oh? It’s fun. I did that on another show too. I had many less, much less lines on that, so it was a little trickier in this. You don't want to screw the show up and not know something.

Screen Rant: That's hilarious. So I'm assuming that you didn't read the comic then?

Cameron Britton: Well, I did actually.

Screen Rant: So you do have a familiarity with all the other characters as well?

Cameron Britton: Yeah, I know all that. The show's a little different from the comic as you can see. I've never understood why someone does a cover of a song just exactly the same. If you do something, do it a little different so people have a new experience. So, that's that funny line of, I’ve always been a little confused when people say, ‘Oh, you've changed the book and stuff.’ If it's for the better, if it makes sense for the new medium.

Screen Rant: No, I completely agree with that. Can you talk about the differences between your character in the book and your character in the show?

Cameron Britton: In the book, he's a lot simpler. I think all the characters in the graphic novels were structured to be a little bare bones. So when we put it in the medium, we're actually able to take all the elements and then just expand on them. In Hazel and Cha-Cha’s case, since we're making a more human version of a comic book, we couldn't have them be all fluff and bubbles and cutesy and murder. They’re sort of this adorable, ironic, vicious little cutie pies in the graphic novel. So we had to expand on that. We kept them loving sweets, particularly Hazel, but we just put it in this way that he actually needs sweets to battle his work related depression.

Screen Rant: You play a time traveling assassin. How do you prepare for a role like that?

Cameron Britton: Well, actually, I used a lot of Rick and Morty. You ever watch Rick and Morty?

Screen Rant: I've seen a little bit of Rick and Morty.

Cameron Britton: The idea that if you went to enough parallel universes over time, your respect for human life would just continue to drop significantly. If you went to a parallel universe where all your friends were terrible people and then one where they were good people, you no longer see really any way or point to who you know. So all he does is travel through time killing people and he does it with a sociopath, Cha-Cha has absolutely no care for human life. So I think what led to his work related depression was a lack of connection to anyone or anything. So when you meet Hazel, he's just sort of nothing. He has no identity. And in the show, he gains one and he also finds out that he's the bad guy. He didn't know that until it sort of dawns on him. And watching a comic book show, but you're watching someone struggle with these very human dynamics and the idea of having a time traveling assassin who's disenfranchised with his own work. The magic and uniqueness of that, are gone to him after eight years. It's such an insightful look at what that would actually be like. You'd get some people who really hate their lives.

Screen Rant: What's motivating Hazel?

Cameron Britton: Nothing in the beginning. He's at the point where that's exactly his problem. He doesn't even know he's unhappy in a way. He's just never thought about these things. So as the show continues, he finds illumination through Agnes. So that starts being what motivates him, his happiness, quite simply. John Lennon talked about that when he was in second grade. His teachers made a project, ‘What do you want to be when you grow up?’ Everyone said you know doctor, astronaut, he said happy. And they said, you don't understand the project. And he said you don’t understand life.

Screen Rant: And this is the second grade?

Cameron Britton: Yeah. His mom told him, no matter what, in life, you want to be happy.

Screen Rant: I love that. Talk to me about the relationship with the Handler.

Cameron Britton: Hazel and the Handler? Well, they don't meet too much until, really, the end of the show. He's obviously, understandably, scared of his boss, but he just despises the commission. He's out there risking his life every day and they're cutting his paychecks more and more. So there's a lot of animosity built up. But, you know, working for a super-secret corporation, they don't exactly follow the HIPAA rules of business regulations.

Screen Rant: I love that Hazel wants to be happy, and he seems to find this in this donut lady. Talk to me about this relationship. Because it just seems like he just wants to run off and just be with this donut lady.

Cameron Britton: Yes, exactly. I love-- and it really might be my favorite part of this project, is the Hazel and Agnes dynamic.

Screen Rant: I actually think it's my favorite thing too actually.

Cameron Britton: Really?

Screen Rant: Yeah.

Cameron Britton: Oh, wonderful. Yeah, there's an ease to it. It's like rolling off a log. You see that they should be together in the end. And they see it. And as awkward as he is, he can tell it's just heading in that direction. And, you know, I never needed to bring it up. The creator, Steve Blackman, knew intuitively that we're never going to bring up their age difference, in the whole show. Watch the entire show, they never talk about the 30-year age gap, because love is love, you know? And what a weird thing to put in the middle of a comic book show. It's really the lighthearted part of the show. This weird little happy fifties, you know, gentleman, courtship thing.

Screen Rant: It's great.

Cameron Britton: I know [LAUGHS].

Screen Rant: You also get to partner with Mary J. Blige, who’s coming off of an Oscar nomination. Talk to me about the chemistry between you two.

Cameron Britton: That was probably the luckier thing in the project. We didn't audition together. We never worked together. We never really even knew what the other person was going to bring to the character. We shook hands briefly, and then a week later we were on set shooting. In that first day of shooting, a circumstance happened that ended us both standing up, cracking up, holding our bellies. So we really quickly knew that we were going to get along. The sense of humor thing always makes fast friends, if you have a similar one. And we just can't help but laugh with each other. And then, when it came to on camera, as soon as they said action, we looked over and felt like, ‘Oh, this has been my partner for eight years. It just has been. That's the way it is.’ And that was, you know, we'd like to take credit for that, but that was pure luck. They just put us in a room together and nobody knew what would happen.

Umbrella Academy Cast Characters Powers

Screen Rant: That's amazing.

Cameron Britton: I know, it's so bizarre.

Screen Rant: What is it that you've learned from her that you can take on to any future project?

Cameron Britton: No matter what, you can be a big kid in life. I think the Mary J. Blige persona wouldn't lend itself to the big kid persona, but that's exactly who she is. She has such a serious life and childhood and then such a dramatic one, a successful R&B singer. But she's just stayed this kid for life and stuff. So as I become a big boy and start going through my career, I can take that with me.

Screen Rant: Where would you like to see the character go personally for you? Forget about the comic. Like, just where would you like to see Hazel go personally?

Cameron Britton: Oh, I would like Hazel to get exactly what he wants, a simple life out in the country with Agnes. Where they can just enjoy sitting on a bench watching nature. Folks who just want that-- isn't that, we all want to just want that. We all want to just want to live a simple life, but nobody really knows how to do that. They typically go insane. So I think Hazel and Agnes are cutout to do that. Just park bench and bird seed.

Screen Rant: This'll be the last question. Is there any other characters that you looked for inspiration when you were creating Hazel from what you thought it should be?

Cameron Britton: There's actually a few. I think there's a little James Gandolfini in there, a little Sopranos in there. In fact, I wished from the beginning I had made him a little more Italian, a little more goomba. You see it in a scene or two, there's some mannerisms. Outside of that… That's probably the best one, to be honest with you. When I watched it, I thought John Goodman. And I never thought of myself as a John Goodman. I've heard some people tweeted it. But, yeah, for this, I thought that man is violent but doesn't know how to express the feelings he’s having. That’s pretty good Gandolfini.

Screen Rant: Amazing job, man. I think you might be my favorite person I've ever interviewed, ever, seriously.

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