'Umbrella Academy's Best Fight Scene Took "Months" to Get Right
Hazel punches a lot of people on 'Umbrella Academy,' but the actor's favorite fight scene was also the most personal.
The Umbrella Academy’s eclectic soundtrack is one of several reasons the series stands out in a sea of moody superhero stories, and one of its best musical moments comes in the second-to-last episode when superpowered Hazel and Cha-Cha (a pair of time-traveling assassins’ played by Cameron Britton and Mary J. Blige) turn on each other and duke it out while Lesley Gore’s campy 1965 hit “Sunshine, Lollipops and Rainbows” plays in the background, accenting every powerful blow with the song’s cheerful imagery and upbeat tempo.
The entire scene feels effortlessly entertaining, but in an interview, Britton tells Inverse that it took months of preparation and training to pull off that one sequence.
“With Mary, we trained for a couple days before we we went in and shot it, and she had been training at six in the morning almost every day for months,” he says. “She came ready to fight.”
There’s an intensity to the fight between Hazel and Cha-Cha that no other scene in Umbrella Academy really matches. Not just because we’re seeing to two co-workers (maybe even two friends) come to blows, but because of the way their fighting styles differ. Hazel is all brute force, an unmovable object that can take a hundred punches and keep going. Cha-Cha is the opposite; limber and acrobatic, she ultimately runs circles around him — but not before they each get in a few impressive shots.
“We ended up having one of my favorite scenes in the show, the Cha-Cha on Hazel fight,” Britton says. “It’s just really visceral, and, you know, backed up by this kind of cutesy music.”
As an actor, Britton is new to this kind of work, but he says he took to it quickly and enjoyed the challenge of making a fight scene look realistic.
“I really found that I love doing fight scenes,” he says. “They’re really different. You can’t just do the fight, because that would make it look like a choreographed dance. You have to act the fight. You have to punch like your character does, take a punch like your character would. It took a lot more thinking than I thought it would, but then when it comes time to shoot it, they call action and it’s a blur.”
For Britton, the most difficult fight scene may have been his showdown with Diego (David Castañeda), a member of the Umbrella Academy who’s power lets him control the trajectory of throwing knives. By the time the series begins, he’s become a vigilante with Batman-level fighting skills, which makes him one of Hazel’s most fearsome opponents on the show.
“David is so fast that my reactions are just trying to keep up with him, which was fun” Britton says, “That’s what that’s like built for, for him to just unload a barrage of punches.”
It’s fun to watch Hazel take on various members of the Umbrella Academy (his battle with Luther, who managers to outclass him in both size and strength, is thrilling to watch), but there’s a reason the scene where Hazel fights Cha-Cha resonates so well.
“There are no humans on Earth like Hazel and Cha-Cha,” Britton says.
Watching these two go at it feels like watching gods battle. We never learn where Hazel and Cha-Cha come from. They just exist to kill, though Hazel’s decision to leave that life behind is what sets off their confrontation. Even that is a departure from the original comics, where the assassin duo never removed their haunting masks or showed much depth.
“In the comic, they’re more entities than humans,” Britton says. “So that was kind of scary.”
This gave the Umbrella Academy showrunners a nearly blank canvas to create something new and interesting, and the resulting interpretation of Hazel is one of the most captivating characters on the Netflix series.
“You could go any route with them because they were so simple,” Britton says, “but then the complexity you added was your own. It was scary, but fun to discover who Hazel was together. When I watched it I don’t really feel like I really knew who the character is until around Episode 5. Then he really starts to click.”
The Umbrella Academy is streaming now on Netflix.