Ellen Page on becoming The White Violin in 'The Umbrella Academy'
Netflix's dysfunctional family superhero show "The Umbrella Academy" premiered on Friday and has already received high praise from critics and viewers.
Ahead of the show's release, IOL Entertainment was invited to London to meet the cast of the graphic-novel inspired show, and had the opportunity to chat to Ellen Page about her character arc for Vanya Hargreeves aka The White Violin.
In the show, Page plays the most estranged member in the family, who originally showcases no particular powers. Years later she discovers that she's capable of releasing destructive waves of force using her violin that can be strong enough to cut someone's throat or destroy an entire building with a single note.
Page, who had been on a TV acting hiatus for some time, made her Netflix debut after showrunner Steve Blackman propositioned her for the role of Vanya.
Blackman revealed that while creating the show he only ever envisioned Page for the role. Describing her reaction to his call, Page said: "When I first spoke to Steve after reading the pilot and he explained to me how he saw it visually and tonally and how he was approaching it and how his focus was going to be the arc of Vanya and to me it just sounded so exciting and I just wanted to be a part of it."
Page added that Blackman's offer was just the challenge she'd been looking for.
"Vanya is one of my favourite characters I've ever played for sure... I guess it was a new challenge for me... and actually why I was so interested in doing it ... to play a character, particularly this character, that has the dramatic arc that she has," she said.
Comparing her TV character to working on a Hollywood blockbuster, Page said that what she enjoyed most was being able to grow her character.
"You get to be so more patient in contrast to a movie as it allows more planning for the 'tiny things,' like changes in the voice and the quiet little ways that she expresses herself so that it builds, hopefully, in a way that feels gradual ... that at for me was very fun to navigate, and this is where Steve would be very helpful."
Sharing her journey of playing Vanya, the 31-year-old actress said: "Oddly enough, I don't think I've ever exploded into rage quite like Vanya but I just sort of relate to the impact of certain things in your life. I think each character is dealing with trauma from their childhood and how it has manifested in each of their lives in its own way and how their powers are almost an extension of that.
"I liked going on the journey because, in the beginning, she's just in so much pain, and then just digging deeper to find the truth of who you really are, and that was incredibly painful. I think a lot of us can relate to that on different levels. It was also fun to go from quiet and subtle to emotional shattering ... it was cathartic in a lot of ways."
When asked if she played her violin herself in the show, Page said: "Oops, I mean yes," before bursting out in laughter and explaining her response.
"I don't know why just said oops. For some reason, it's just an automatic response to how to hard it was to learn having not played it but I had an amazing teacher who was patient and lovely, and an awesome double who's like 16-year-old - a prodigy. It's quite a gift to hear her play every day... anyone who plays the violin is like a literal superhero in my eyes.
Page, who is also a queer activist and co-host of the popular TV show "Gaycation," also revealed that one of the things that drew her to the show was its inclusivity, adding that "Hollywood really needs to pick up the pace".
"This is something we talk about ... and hopefully, if there's a season 2, we'll continue to be mindful of that because the story should be a representation of the world and that's exactly what we need, more stories and Hollywood really needs to pick up the pace on that one.
Page then revealed that while Hollywood is still playing catch up, she praised Blackman for allowing her she had complete creative input in terms of our her character was portrayed which is evident in one of the most pivotal scenes of the show.
When asked if she found her character relatable, the 31-year-old actress said: "In the beginning Vanya is engulfed in a sense of worthlessness and pain, and not knowing how to cope emotionally because she was never actually taught to, and instead had to deal with a constant inundation of negativity ... it was relatable for me."
"The Umbrella Academy" is currently streaming on Netflix.