After years of travel writing and small acting roles, Justin Min has found himself on a hit Netflix series that's changing his career. He plays Ben AKA Number Six AKA The Horror on The Umbrella Academy which has become Netflix's newest hit and a much talked about show since its February debut. We had the exciting opportunity to chat with Justin about his role on the superhero show.
The series is a comic book adaptation of that same name that follows seven siblings, each born to mothers who experienced no signs of pregnancy until delivery, who are then adopted by eccentric billionaire Sir Reginald Hargreeves. All but one of the siblings has special abilities so Hargreeves uses them to form a super team called the Umbrella Academy. Hargreeves only refers to them as numbers but they're eventually given names by their robot nanny.
The comic book was written and created by My Chemical Romance frontman Gerard Way who also serves as a producer for the Netflix adaptation. Min's appearance as Six is unusual and significant because Ben never even appeared in the comic books, he was only talked about. Ben's actually dead. This is something we learn in the first episode. We also know that his death is the reason the Umbrella team disbanded and went their separate ways. They're only brought back once again after their death of their father in the first episode.
Ben's ability known as the horror is to have these snake-like monsters come out from his skin and tear apart whoever is in the team's way. It's pretty intense and always bloody. We don't know how Ben died but we do know he was an adult and had a close relationship with brother Klaus (Robert Sheehan), who can communicate with the dead... and talks to Ben quite often.
Min was challenged with bringing a voice and a face to a character who didn't have one. It was an exciting and rewarding experience for Min as an actor. Min opened up to us about his role, what it was like working with the whole cast, and what he knew going into the series. Keep reading to learn more about Justin!
TheThings (TH): This show is such a hit that everyone is talking about. How is The Umbrella Academy different from the somewhat oversaturated genre of superhero shows we've seen before?
Justin Min (JM): The Umbrella Academy resonates because of its relatability. At the end of the day, it's not about the superpowers or craziness, its about a family. And the dynamics of a dysfunctional family, yet the love that a family has underneath. All that we usually see is the action and that's all great and fun but, people are looking for human stories. Our show highlights that and the underdogs.
TH: Did you audition for any specific role for the series?
JM: Not at all. I didn't know anything about anything. I was given fake audition materials for a fake character and did the best that I could. I did multiple rounds of callbacks. I got the call that I booked the part but had no idea who I was and I was finally told I was playing Ben Hargreeves. I run out and buy the comics and come to find out that, lo and behold, Ben is dead. I had no idea what was going on or what was going to happen for the show. What happened with Ben at the end (of the series), I had no idea what was happening. I was in shock and happy and excited.
TH: Did you get a chance to talk to Gerard Way about Ben? How did you develop this character?
JM: I never spoke with Gerard but heard secondhand about who Ben was according to him, and who Ben will be and his relationship with the others. He wasn't in the source material and only referenced in it. It was exciting to create a character from scratch. We even had to go back and reshoot a few scenes as we learned more about who Ben really was.
TH: Did your own personality influence Ben at all?
JM: I'm an avid reader who loves books, studying, and quiet. My love for books personally helped breathe life into Ben and who he was. I also knew the family dynamic from having my own siblings.
TH: What did you learn about yourself as an actor throughout your whole experience? What was it liked playing a character who can only be seen by one other character?
JM: The technical aspects of this project were unique to me. To be in scenes where only Klaus can see me is interesting. We even had to reshoot some stuff when others in the cast made eye contact with me. Obviously, having the opportunity to develop a relationship with one character over the course of the show is unique. That is something we discussed. We thought it would be interesting to see if fans thought he was a ghost or Klaus' conscience. In a lot of ways, our characters (Ben and Klaus) are extensions of who we are as people. So when Klaus on or off set did something crazy I would roll my eyes and it was fun and I didn't always have to be acting. I was responding to all the fun.
TH: Can you talk about Klaus and Ben's relationship a bit?
JM: Klaus’s relationship to Ben is almost like a functioning like a ghost but also as his brother. They always had a strong connection and in many ways, they still carry the same dynamic. They joke around and sass each other but still love each other deeply. They're the most aware and weary of powers. Ben is the least likely to murder a group of people but can at the drop of a dime.
TH: What do you think of Ben’s power?
JM: I laugh, it's so ironic that he's known as the horror and is the shyest and sweetest of the group. Yet he has monsters under his skin and doesn't enjoy being a superhero or want the attention. I wanted to create a character that was memorable enough that because of his death, they split. He was an integral part of the family.
TH: How hard was it not to talk about your part in the series before the show came out?
JM: It was one of the hardest things I ever had to do. It was hard and when the show did come out, and it was a surprise, and it was all worth the surprise of Ben being there when he wasn’t expected to be there. It's funny that first scene in the car, we shot that initial scene a month and a half later because of weather so it was funny doing that first reveal a few months into the season.
TH: How was it working with a large ensemble cast?
JM: I’ve worked on a few sets, but none to this scale. I know a few other cast members have said that we had instant chemistry with everyone and we did. We're like a family as cheesy as it sounds. It's funny because even when the cameras stop rolling, we all play our parts still.
TH: This cast is very diverse. Do you think it adds to the show?
JM: Oh 100%. Diversity is so important to me and an issue I am passionate about as an Asian American actor, and to Gerard who said that he wanted to change things and have a diverse cast and that represents and reflects the world we live in today. I think diversity is lacking in the superhero genre and it's great we have it.
TH: What have you thought about all the attention and acclaim for the series?
JM: It's been insane. It's been overwhelming, incredible, amazing. As an actor, all you ever hope for is to be enjoyed by an audience. It's so amazing and great. To be honest, I knew going in what my character would entail and I knew at the end of the day, Ben was taking a bit of a back seat this season, so the fact that the fans have responded to Ben's minor role is awesome.
The Umbrella Academy is streaming on Netflix now! If you haven't already, check it out and see what everyone is talking about. Thank you so much, Justin! We hope you guys get a second season so we can learn more about Ben and the other Hargreeves siblings.