One of the most significant changes The Umbrella Academy showrunner Steve Blackman made to the acclaimed comic by Gerard Way and Gabriel Bá is in the depiction of Ben Hargreeves, whose mysterious death splintered the dysfunctional family of superheroes. Better known as The Horror, for his ability to summon eldritch creatures through a portal beneath his skin, Ben is shown in the source material only in flashbacks. While still dead on the Netflix series, he maintains a presence as a spirit attached to Klaus, serving as a conscience of sorts for his adoptive brother before becoming more vital to the present-day action.
With his role as Ben kept under wraps until the show's release, actor Justin H. Min wasn't part of the early publicity for The Umbrella Academy. But now the cat's long out of the bag, and the relationship between Ben and Klaus (Robert Sheehan) has become a fan favorite, CBR had an opportunity to speak with Min about his unique experience filming the series, his insights into Ben, and the undead(?) sibling's role in the messed-up Hagreeves family.
CBR: Describe the audition process for us. How much did you know about the character of Ben going in?
Justin H. Min: I knew absolutely nothing going in. I ended up getting an audition; they told me that it was for a Netflix series. I was given fake audition sides, which means that it’s not actually from the show or scenes that I’d be playing. I did the best that I could knowing nothing about the character. I think that, in that way, the creative team was sort of looking for more of an essence of who I was. So I did the best that I could. I ended up getting called back, and there were multiple rounds -- again, all fake sides. Then when I got the call from my agent and manager that I booked the job, I was obviously so excited. But as soon as we stopped screaming, they said, "We have no idea who you are still."
So, it was another week after I booked the job that they finally let me know that I was Ben Hargreeves, which was so exciting. So I frantically went to the comic book store and bought all the comics and started to read and, lo and behold, Ben is dead! I was even more confused than when I started because I was like, “Am I gonna be in flashbacks or what, still nothing." And then finally I got to Toronto. I got the first script, and then all the pieces started to unlock. And then obviously I had my sit-down conversation with our showrunner to really find out who Ben was and find out what sort of role he would be playing this season.
Oh, my God, it's like you were in your own personal episode of Lost.
[laughs] I saw that every layer I would get more information and ... then I ended up being more confused.
Did you ask Steve Blackman why Ben's character was adapted this way?
No, I didn’t, and now that I think about it, I should actually ask him that. That’s a really good question! No, I didn’t really hear about why they decided to give him a bigger role in the show. Obviously, I am so glad they did. But I think it was a conversation that he had with Gerard.
What’s interesting is that even for the comic book fans, Ben was sort of a fan favorite even though he was rarely mentioned in the comic books, which is so funny and ironic. So I think in that way both Steve and Gerard knew that Ben had this special place in a lot of the comic book fans' hearts, so I can only assume they might have wanted to tap a little more into that.
[Not to mention] the fact that Ben’s journey is so integral to Klaus’ journey and arc, and to really help Klaus explore that I think Ben’s character was really important. I’m glad they did, and I’m just along for the ride.