'Sense8': Inside the Wachowskis' New Globe-Hopping Netflix Series

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·Senior Writer, Yahoo Entertainment
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You don’t have to head to the multiplex to experience the next mindtrip from the makers of The Matrix. Lana and Andy Wachowski have teamed up with Netflix for their latest production, Sense8, a sprawling 10-episode saga about eight different people around the world who are connected through one mysterious occurrence. Created in collaboration with Babylon 5’s J. Michael Straczynski, the show promises the same mixture of heady science-fiction and visceral action sequences that the directors are known for. Yahoo TV spoke separately with producer Grant Hill and star Brian J. Smith to provide viewers with a sense of what they’re in for with Sense8.  

How did the Wachowskis decide to get into the television game?
Grant Hill: About four or five years ago, Lana walked into my office and said, with no preamble, “Television — what do you know about it?” Then, I didn’t hear about it again for a little while, until Lana, Andy, and J. Michael Straczynski came up with the idea. We went to Netflix with a treatment for the season and a script for the first episode, and while it wasn’t a lot of information, they loved it and supported it from the first reading. It was a difficult show to make logistically, but with wonderful scripts and directors and actors. So who cares about logistics?

Brian J. Smith: The basic idea is so crazy that no other network would touch this thing except for Netflix. You have eight different people in nine cities around the world who find themselves seeing the same violent vision at the same time, and subsequently are able to see and sense and smell and feel each other at very random times. You’ve also got a group of people who are trying to bring them all together, and another group trying to kill them off one by one.

Brian, what can you tell us about your character, Will Gorski?
Smith: Will comes from a legacy of cops in Chicago, and his particular beat is a really rough neighborhood in the South Side, which is notorious for tensions between the police and the community. Since childhood, he’s been suffering from this really traumatic experience involving an unsolved murder his father was working on. That’s manifesting itself at the same time this Sense8 phenomenon is beginning. He basically thinks he’s losing his mind. Lana and Andy flew me out to Chicago to do a ride-along with a couple of police officers, and Andy and I spent a good day in the back of a police cruiser patrolling the neighborhood. It was nice for me to be able to talk to these guys and see what they do and what they’re up against.

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The Wachowskis are obviously renowned for their elaborate action sequences. Will there be any Matrix-like set-pieces in Sense8?
Smith: We had these fights that went along with the concept of these guys being in each other’s consciousness while they’re going through something. We would shoot two different versions from different angles with two or three people doing the exact same fight, and then they’d go back in and edit it together later. You’ll see a fight where one person initiates a punch or kick and someone else finishes it. The effect is awesomely bizarre.

The series was shot on location in cities all over the world, from Chicago and Mexico City to London and Mumbai. How did that inform the experience of making the show?
Hill: The cities are secondary characters in the show. By setting the story in such diverse places, it gave us a way to examine connectivity from a personal perspective. The central premise is a drama, so it worked for the project to feel that realism. It’s not what you’d call a traditional, visual effects-driven sci-fi movie.  

Smith: I had a blast in Berlin. I grew up in Texas, and it was really awesome to find myself in a city that has a whole different relationship with music and going out at night. I fell in love with hardcore Berlin techno, which is something I never thought I would. After Berlin, I found myself on SoundCloud just looking up music. My co-star Max Riemelt is from Berlin and took us out. And [actress] Tina Desai from Mumbai took us out and showed us places in that city we never would have gotten to see if we were tourists. We were working with people who were really proud of these cities and wanted to show them off. It was a real adventure.

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Will binge-watchers be left with a cliffhanger ending, or is there an actual resolution?
Smith: A lot of people are going to want to know if we’re going to leave them with a lot of unanswered questions. We don’t do that; everything that’s brought up in the show has an answer. Like the physics of being a Sense8 are very clearly explained in the middle episodes. The season has its own arc and ends with an exclamation mark with three dots after it. There’s always another level, and the finale sets up a whole bunch of questions that would be really fun to explore in a subsequent season.

Hill: When we first conceived it, we thought of it as a self-contained story. But when we really mapped it out, the narrative expanded because it takes a lot of time to tell the stories of eight people. I personally think that there’s a question mark at the end. They get a sense of what they’re embroiled in, but are still standing. Making the series was a hard thing to do, but it was a spectacularly good experience. I think Lana and Andy would entertain doing another series. When we started showing episodes [to Netflix], everyone was like, “Give me the next one!” You just want more — it’s great storytelling.

Sense8 premieres June 5 on Netflix.