The Umbrella Academy is a sci-fi odyssey filled with a circus of freakishly powered characters. In just two seasons, the show has ended the world twice, traveled through multiple timelines, revealed that aliens walk among us, taught us the flatulent side-effects of paradoxes, started a cult, and dismantled a nefarious agency charged with keeping tabs on time itself. You’d think we’d be done with being surprised by the weird sh*t this series comes up with. But then, the show introduced Ritu Arya in Season 2 and left us questioning the fragile nature of our accepted reality all over again.
Arya plays Lila, a mysterious young woman who befriends Diego (David Castaneda) while he’s stuck in a psych ward after a botched time-jump. She quick-witted, capable of taking out grown men twice her size, and oddly determined to keep both Diego and his brother, Five (Aidan Gallagher), alive. As the season goes on, we learn bits of Lila’s background, her connection to The Commission, and her real motives for befriending the Hargreeves siblings — but even after a handful of out-of-left-field reveals, nothing prepared fans for the season’s final episode and the part Lila had to play in it. We chatted with Arya about joining this misfit crew of superpowered losers, the clues to Lila’s origins hidden early in the season, and that time-traveling cliffhanger.
Were there clues early in the season as to who Lila was?
Yeah, there were moments that were placed in for sure. In episode five where she’s having a fight with Five, she’s using his powers then, and it’s important to not give away that she is. However, you watch it a second time, it’s quite clear that of course, she’s doing that, you know?
How did you make sure not to give too much away?
That was a worry. I did my best to really think about that. For instance, in episode one where she beats up the security guard at the end, she whacks his gun out of his hand, and [Diego] says, “How’d you learn to fight like that?” And she says, “My mother.” I think it was very important for me to make that a charming casual comment as opposed to a literal, “My mother… who is The Handler, who is the head of The Commission.” I didn’t want to put much weight on those moments so that you could easily shift by it and not think too much about her at that stage.
Her romance with Diego really impacts both characters as the season goes on. How does she view that relationship?
At first, it’s just all part of a mission. She’s having to lie to him and gain his trust. In doing so, she starts falling for him, and I think she’s in denial about that until quite some time until she’s finally open about it. And by then, it’s tricky because her mum is on this power trip, and she’s losing trust with that, and Diego leaves the commission after she thinks that they’re now going to be together again. So, it’s a bit of a roller coaster, to be honest.
Speaking of an overbearing mother, what was it like going toe-to-toe with Kate Walsh?
We had rehearsals together and it was quite a natural bond that we had. A lot of it was just how I felt in the moment with her during a scene. She carries so much gravity and power and status, generally that it’s quite easy to work with that dynamic. So it was easy to love her as a mum and be afraid of her as a mum, too.
Do you think Lila expects her mother to betray her in the end?
No, she doesn’t expect it. She knows that her mum’s very different from other mums, and she knows that she’s been raised with tough love. I think she has always wanted to break through that, but not quite known how. But I don’t think she’s been too aware of her mum’s higher ambitions. That’s not what’s on her mind so much. It’s only when she starts seeing it towards the end of the series that it becomes a worry.
Where does Lila go with that briefcase at the end of Season 2?
That’s a secret.
But you know?
She could be anywhere. She could any time, any place, it’s all very exciting.
What was filming that final battle scene with the whole cast like?
They were all the worst.
But no, I really enjoyed it. I hadn’t worked on set with them yet. So, I was like, “Hey, come play with me!”
What’s Lila’s relationship with Five and will that tension continue now that the Handler is seemingly gone?
I think she’s pissed off at her mum when she says she chose Five to take down the commission board because she wants to be known as the best at what she does. There’s a love and hate thing, because there’s always respect for someone that is really good at what they do, and it’s also fun because no one can really match her. He’s a tricky one.
You studied astrophysics in college. How does the time travel theory hold up on this show?
[Laughs] They are really on it with the writing. I think it’s a really intelligent show, but, it’s also fiction so you can get away with absolutely anything. But yeah, it didn’t ever come into my mind to be like, “Excuse me. Let me just…”
Correct your formula here?
Netflix’s ‘The Umbrella Academy’ is currently streaming Season 2.