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‘Sense8’ cast swoops into Chicago for second season filming

Freema Agyeman (left) and Jamie Clayton in a Season 1 episode of "Sense8." | Netflix

The Netflix sci-fi drama “Sense8” returned to Chicago to shoot its second season earlier this summer, with cast members eager to explore the city midway through a global tour of filming locations.

“This was my first time in Chicago. It is such a cool city,” said Max Riemelt, who plays Berlin safe-cracker Wolfgang Bogdanow. “This city has everything. You have the suburbs, and the city here is so clean and so nice to look at. You have the beaches here, and Whole Foods!”

“Sense8” depicts eight young adults from different cities and cultures around the world who become “sensates” — emotionally and mentally connected beings who can enter one another’s mind. Created by Chicago sisters Lana and Lilly Wachowski, the show debuted in 2015 with a generally positive reception.

“Lana is this whirl of imagination and creativity that just never stops,” said another Chicago native, Daryl Hannah, who plays Angelica Turing in the show. “She’s just always evolving and coming up with things and expanding and deepening and developing as we shoot.”

While filming its second season, the show visited 16 countries in seven months, including such cities as Mexico City; Seoul, South Korea; Mumbai, India, and Reykjavik, Iceland. Prior to arriving in Chicago June 4, the cast members were filming in San Francisco, where Jamie Clayton’s character, a transgender woman named Nomi Marks, lives with her girlfriend Amanita, played by Freema Agyeman.

<em>From left, Brian Smith, Freema Agyeman and Jamie Clayton at the University of Chicago, where they filmed a scene for the second season of “Sense8.” | Talia Beechick/For the Sun-Times</em>
From left, Brian Smith, Freema Agyeman and Jamie Clayton at the University of Chicago, where they filmed a scene for the second season of “Sense8.” | Talia Beechick/For the Sun-Times

“A lot of Nomi’s story is based on things that happened to Lana,” said Clayton, who, like Lana, is a transgender woman. “That was interesting for me. It’s such a huge responsibility, first of all, to play this amazing character and to represent my community in a way that has never been represented before. But then to also be playing parts of the director, creator and writer — there’s a huge responsibility there.”

The cast and crew of “Sense8” were filming a scene in the season’s second episode at the University of Chicago’s campus, where Nomi and Amanita were meeting with a professor to “get some information” they needed.

“It’s fast, it’s mad, it’s amazing, it’s sexy, it’s raw,” Clayton said of the show’s second season. “Oh my god, it’s so many things. There’s so much action.”

While the cast could not reveal details from the upcoming season, they alluded that the sensates not only travel between one another mentally, but also between the past and the present through sensates of earlier eras. Cast members also agreed that the audience will receive more backstory regarding the characters’ backgrounds and motivations.

Toby Onwumere will replace Aml Ameen as Capheus in the second season after an audition process that began and ended in all of seven days.

“It was kind of like ‘Are you up for the task? OK, great, because we gotta go!’” Onwumere said, laughing. “I have the benefit of a season of information. It’s a great research packet to have the whole first season there. I’m going to do my version of Capheus in season two.”

Despite a rigorous filming schedule, the actors were able to briefly explore the many cities they visited. Hannah enjoyed working in her home city, with her mother and aunt visiting her on set.

“I was really upset the other night because I was working really late and Freema got to go to Kingston Mines where I used to sneak in as a kid all the time with my brother,” Hannah said, laughing. “The city is so vibrant right now. I know that there’s a lot of violence and there’s a lot of issues going on, but this city has so much to offer.”

<em>Terrence Mann and Daryl Hannah were in Chicago for the filming of the second season of “Sense8.” | Talia Beechick/For the Sun-Times</em>
Terrence Mann and Daryl Hannah were in Chicago for the filming of the second season of “Sense8.” | Talia Beechick/For the Sun-Times

Hannah found the international travel “tiring, but amazing.”

“That’s one of the great things about traveling — you get to find such beauty in all these different people and ways of life,” Hannah said. “Kenya is so rich; the people are so alive and so vibrant. And Korea is one of those places where, if you get lost, you’re lost! No one there speaks English. And I love that, I love a culture that doesn’t try to integrate itself too much into the Western world. I found it fascinating.”

The core cast members agreed that outside of its beautiful sets, witty dialogue and romantic and action-packed plot line, the second “Sense8” season is, perhaps primarily, a direct commentary on current affairs and issues facing individuals, groups and cultures across the globe.

“It’s about difference, and how difference terrifies some people,” said Terrence Mann, who plays the show’s antagonist, Whispers. “Terrifies them to the point of acting and reacting in the most heinous and pernicious ways — and we’re living in it right now.”

“Sense8” is set to release the first episode of its second season near Christmas, with subsequent episodes released in 2017.