One of the best things about The Umbrella Academy, apart from a set of intriguing anti-heroes spawned by My Chemical Romance lead singer Gerard Way, a talking chimp, and a surprise dance sequence strutted five different ways to Tiffany’s “I Think We’re Alone Now,” is pill-popping, booze-swilling, wild-haired Klaus (played to manic perfection by Robert Sheehan). As “Number four” in a family of misfits raised by an eccentric billionaire, Sheehan’s Klaus can levitate and communicate with the dead. He can also wear a skirt to hide his jiggly bits, a faux fur coat to a funeral, and a hot pink feather boa while taking a long swig from a bottle of whisky (hard alcohol being as much a part of the wardrobe). Don’t get us started on those leather pants. As the fourth weird spawn among seven (number one is super strong, number two is a vigilante with a strong knife game, number three can change the status quo by spreading rumors, number five can time travel, number six could possess monsters before he died, and number seven is ordinary—which makes her relatable to the rest of us until she turns devilishly truant later). All seven have been raised as superheroes, no one wants to be one, and all have been psychologically damaged by their adoptive father who treats them more as experiments than children (they f**k you up, your mum and dad, as Larkin used to say).
But back to Sheehan and Klaus, each the other’s spirit animal, at least in terms of apparel. “There were no restrictions as to what Klaus wouldn’t wear,” Sheehan says, “so the kind of philosophy behind Klaus’ style is that he wanted to exude that there is no style. He will wear anything like a scuba suit, some lederhosen, or a scuba suit and lederhosen.” Klaus’ wardrobe became what Sheehan calls out-of-work gay biker. “It was brilliantly imaginative and it really helped in developing the character. It’s nice when you put on clothes that make you feel something—you look in the mirror, and oh yeah, we’re getting more and more in focus… focus!” says Sheehan, his eyes shiny with mischief.
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Robert Sheehan attends a photocall for Netflix 'The Umbrella Academy' at Curzon Cinema Mayfair on February 07, 2019 in London, England. Photograph from @thesheehab on Instagram
Robert Sheenan attends the premiere of Netflix's 'The Umbrella Academy' at ArcLight Hollywood on February 12, 2019 in Hollywood, California. Photograph from @thesheehab on Instagram
Rob on the Red Carpet for Mortal Engines in LA. Photograph from @thesheehab on Instagram
Photograph from @millermode on Instagram
The clothes make the man, and the way Sheehan tells it, Klaus is the kind of man who’ll charm cash out of you to buy uppers. He might then proceed to tell you all the things he loves about you. Which is to say that he’s something of a hedonistic humanist. “I think sometimes he can be very, very charming, and sometimes use charm as a little bit of a manipulative tool… but sometimes there’s not a full honesty behind the charm—because Klaus uses any tool available to get drugs—basically his whole mission in life is to keep himself perpetually high—that’s where we differ. I think you know he’s a humanist beyond the drug addiction. He’s somebody who really, really loves people and loves that people love him. You know it wouldn’t be worth getting out of bed in the morning unless you had someone to talk to that day.” So Klaus puts on a feather boa one day, and a leather skirt the next. The same way Sheehan might wear flip-flops and an African-print suit to a film premier. There’s a little bit of Oscar Wilde there, a little bit of Bowie, and all the looks of Sheehan, who we’ve actually heard a woman call “the most handsome man she’s ever seen.”
Sheehan stands up to rise and smiles to the media by way of goodbye. “We’d probably die of loneliness quicker than heart disease,” he says, smoothing down the sheer blouse he’s wearing over his neon undershirt. You can guess he won’t be lonely tonight.
The Umbrella Academy is now streaming on Netflix.