“Sense8,” the science-fiction drama series created and written by transgender filmmakers Lana and Lilly Wachowski, along with writer and director J. Michael Straczynski, is returning for its hotly anticipated second season, which will be available May 5 on Netflix.
The highly stylized series features a multi-national cast portraying eight strangers from different countries and cultures who suddenly become “sensates,” human beings who are mentally and emotionally linked to each other. As a result, they can experience each other’s lives and draw upon one another’s talents and abilities.
Aside from going through their own personal struggles, the group as a whole is being pursued by a shadowy organization led by another mysterious sensate, Whispers, who is hunting them and tapping into their psychic link.
Two of the main characters are queer. Nomi (played by trans actor Jamie Clayton) is a trans woman and hacker activist living in San Francisco with her girlfriend Freema. Lito (played by Miguel Ángel Silvestre) is a closeted gay actor and action-film star living in Mexico City with his boyfriend Hernando.
Season one found Nomi narrowly escaping her parents, who had her involuntarily hospitalized where she was almost subjected to a lobotomy as part of some horrific conversion therapy. Meanwhile, Lito’s secret was found out by his movie co-star, Daniela, who immediately became fast friends with Lito and Hernando and moved in with them to escape her abusive, possessive boyfriend. The latter then threated to out Lito with pictures he found on Daniela’s phone, forcing a confrontation between the two in which Lito bested him in a fistfight.
Season two kicked off with a holiday-themed episode released late last year that caught us up with the main characters.
Nomi is on the run from the law while using her hacker skills to find out more about Whispers. Daniela’s ex makes good on his threat to out Lito, leaking photos of him and Hernando having sex to the tabloids. His agents and handlers want him to deny the leaked pictures and stay in the closet but he refuses, which in the short term costs him his place to live and results in an intense public and media backlash. Amid all their personal battles, the group is also trying to figure out how to go on the offensive against Whispers and his associates while also evading them.
Silvestre, who is straight, said he is excited to see how season two turns out.
“It was a long shoot, almost nine months in 19 different cities,” he said about the new season. “I can’t wait to see the results, even though I know more or less what I’m going to get to see. In the first season, it caught me by surprise when I saw the first episode for the first time. The editing is very alive so there are many changes. So I’m wondering how it’s going to be and where it’s going to land.”
Silvestre said that Lito’s struggle with trying to figure out what to do with his life while his career is unraveling is going to be a significant part of the new season.
“It’s part of a story that Lana wanted to tell,” he said. “She wanted to be fair with reality. She told me, ‘Sometimes I’m going to ask you, Miguel, not to portray reality and I’m going to ask you to portray it in a precise way because I’m not portraying LGBT people as tormented people; I don’t want to give that to the audience. So sometimes I’m going to ask you for precise things because that is what I want to show to people.’ It’s her way to change the way our generation looks about something.”
Wachowski pointed Silvestre to Kerry James Marshall, a black painter from Chicago.
“He portrays black people in an only positive atmosphere,” Silvestre said. “[Wachowski] wanted to be real in that Lito is living through incredible things because he is honest with who he is. But at the same time, in reality, he is going to struggle work-wise and he’s going to be judged. But [Wachowski] is also going to have some surprises for him by the end of the season because she wanted to say that some cultures will judge you for that but other cultures will not. That’s her way to speak about diversity, how some cultures are different but when we gather together we become better. She wanted to be fair and say, ‘OK, not everything is going to be a path of roses for Lito right now.’”
Silvestre said the fan reactions he has encountered regarding his character have been enthusiastic.
“When they talk to me, it’s all positive. When I go to the supermarket or I’m in the street, some LGBT people will come [up to me] and I get to see that they are very thankful of Lana’s commitment through our characters. They are thankful for the show. They can see that it speaks about themselves. And some of the people that are not LGBT, they get way more empathetic about a cause that maybe isn’t theirs. They get to see how close they are to their cause. I love the way Lana puts it: these eight characters, who may not get along in real life, when they are vulnerable they are closer than they thought. That’s what the audience gets to see and feel. Many people feel thankful because of Lana and what she is writing and how committed she is.”
One of the great things about Lito’s character is what he brings to the table for the other sensates. While almost all of them have physical or technical talents that the others can draw upon, Lito often find himself using his acting chops to help the others charm their way around the obstacles they encounter in a social setting.
Silvestre said he likes exploring his character’s situational bravado.
“It’s something that I enjoy a lot as an actor because I can laugh about myself a bit,” he said. “When I get to see me performing, I get to see all my tricks and habits that you get with years. With Lito, I can exaggerate that a bit more and laugh a bit about myself. And Lito is not a good actor; when he does these social things and overacts, those are the scenes that I have the most fun with. Everyone has a gift and Lito knows how to deal with people and reality. I think the way Latin culture is portrayed sometimes is too passionate. So I have so much fun doing those scenes.”
However, Lito often struggles with his own social confrontations. Silvestre said the character is going to be more assured of himself and his own life by the end of the season.
“He’s going to surrender to who he is and he’s going to accept it for real,” he said. “There was so much struggling because of his environment. He didn’t want to be who he really is, which is such a pity. Nomi says to Lito, ‘The violence is the one that you do to yourself.’ I guess I think that it’s nice to see that in reality. He’s a beautiful human being when he’s really who he is.”
The second season of “Sense8” premieres May 5 on Netflix. For more information, visit https://www.netflix.com/title/80025744.