Aidan Gallagher on Playing Five as He Dealt With Paradox Psychosis in ‘The Umbrella Academy’

Aidan Gallagher plays Number Five in The Umbrella Academya middle-aged, time-traveling, and space-jumping man stuck in an adolescent’s body. He’s always out to save the world, no matter who or what stands in his way. As for his moral compass, it doesn’t always point North. Yet, the boy (man?) knows how to get the job done. 

The character is quite complex, and Aidan Gallagher rises to the challenge — paying homage to the comic book source material while bringing the character to life for the live-action interpretation. While Gallagher has grown used to playing Five, as he is now two seasons in, the paradox psychosis scenes presented a new challenge for the actor. He got to play with sides of the character that would have otherwise gone untraversed. 

Aidan Gallagher The Umbrella Academy
Aidan Gallagher attends Netflix’s ‘The Umbrella Academy’ Screening | Emma McIntyre/Getty Images for Netflix

What is paradox psychosis in ‘The Umbrella Academy?’

[spoiler warning for season 2 of The Umbrella Academy] 

In season 2 of The Umbrella Academy, Five is forced to confront another version of himself in the 1960s. There’s only one catch: meeting oneself can cause paradox psychosis, as humans should not cross paths with themselves in time, as it, inevitably, messes with the mind. 

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There are seven stages to paradox psychosis: denial, itching, extreme thirst and urination, excessive gas, acute paranoia, uncontrolled perspiration, and, ultimately, homicidal rage. To put it simply: Five choosing to confront Five was the last resort — a last-ditch effort to save humankind. During an interview with Looper, Gallagher discussed paradox psychosis, noting the acting opportunities it opened up. 

Aidan Gallagher on building a ‘new element’ of his character via paradox psychosis 

While Aidan Gallagher might be naturally homicidal, he’s a bit calculative in his approach — calm before the storm is a better descriptor than rage. Not to mention, can anyone imagine Five farting uncontrollably or anxiously itching at his skin? Discussing the scene, Gallagher noted: 

But yeah, that whole arc where I got to cross an older/younger version of Five was really fun. And especially the whole Paradox Psychosis arc was a really interesting thing. Whenever you get to build a new element of your character as an actor, it’s exceedingly interesting. I did that for the blink, what the physicality might be like, but for Paradox Psychosis, before every tape I would sprint. I would sprint into mark and I would contort my body in all these weird ways and really just quick, this sort of stress and all these different little weird takes on his emotions that didn’t necessarily make sense within the context of the regular team for Five, but were completely at home and cohesive with the paradox psychosis. 

Looper

Aspects of the paradox psychosis stages are inarguably at odds with Five’s disposition. However, because paradox psychosis supersedes typical behavior, Gallagher got to have a little fun, exploring new crevices, and building a “new element” for Five.