Exclusive: ‘The Umbrella Academy’ Actor Ken Hall on Pogo, the Commission, and Physical Diversity in Hollywood
When The Umbrella Academy returns on July 31, 2020, the Hargreeves will be in another decade entirely. But they haven’t forgotten their past (err, future?) trauma, including the death of their chimp butler, Pogo. Showbiz Cheat Sheet spoke with Ken Hall, who provided the body and movements for the character, about how he landed the role, what’s to come in season 2, and his work advocating for physical diversity in Hollywood.
How Hall became Pogo
Hall auditioned for Pogo’s body and voice, the latter of which went to Adam Godley. He worked with Toronto acting coach Michael Gordin Shore “to try and get the physicality down and to have a voice that felt appropriate for the character.” “I left that audition, and I thought, ‘I did a really good job,'” said Hall, so he was “surprised” not to hear back at first. After Godley was cast as the voice, he got the call to do the motion-capture work.
Hall says he researched to “discover the movements” of the character. “It was interesting to not just physicalize or personify a chimpanzee but to also incorporate the fact that he’s an elder chimpanzee. So his movements are somewhere limited,” said Hall. “I wanted to get the feel and the tempo of that character. It was a really good opportunity to really make him my own.” He adds that he “really loved” the role, saying of Pogo, “He’s such a great character… very paternal in his ways.”
He plays another role in ‘The Umbrella Academy’
You may also remember Hall’s face from season 1, where he played Commission employee Herb. “Herb was such a great surprise,” Hall chuckled. “That was not initially in the cards.” He said that he “really came to work super prepared,” and the powers-that-be noticed. Hall added that he “can really identify” with Herb and his “nervous disposition.” Plus, the role was comedic. “That’s more my bread and butter,” said Hall, an improv comedian.
Herb interacts with the Handler, played by Kate Walsh, which he called “a really cool opportunity” and a “fun dynamic because she’s super high-status in the show, and I’m very afraid of her.” Of his moment in season 1, he said, “I remember talking with Steve Blackman, the showrunner, and he was like, ‘That was great…That was laugh-out-loud funny.’ It was lovely to get that kind of recognition…even for that [small amount of] screen time, that it made that kind of impact.”
Is Hall in season 2?
Those who saw the trailer (above) already know that Baby Pogo makes an appearance in The Umbrella Academy Season 2. Though Hall won’t comment on how much Herb is a part of the action, he did say the character “is being reprised,” noting, “I feel really good about the work that I did. And I think people will really dig [it].”
He added, “I’m really playing to my strengths as a comedic performer and getting to work with some really great people as well. I’m in my element… and the writing is so good on the show, so my job is made a lot easier.” Hall praised the “beautiful” and “eclectic” storytelling, saying, “It’s lovely that it’s such a giant world we get to play in.”
On physical diversity in Hollywood
At just under 4-foot-8, Hall has faced his share of limitations in the industry. He portrayed an alien in the comedy People of Earth, and says he’s auditioned for “many, many elf roles.” “I really encourage people to see past what someone looks like,” he said. “There are people who are physically different and abled [who] bring a lot more nuance to a table.”
Hall feels Hollywood is moving in the right direction. “I feel like there’s been a lot of really cool shifts that [have] been happening as of late,” he said, mentioning the focus on diversity in show business and beyond. “We’re trying to see differences and trying to normalize all of us,” he said, adding, “Different is not weird, that’s the world.”