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Umbrella Academy actor explains Herb's new role in Netflix hit show

by David Purcell

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Herb is one of the breakout stars of Netflix's Umbrella Academy Season 2 and the role for Ken Hall, the actor who plays him, has changed quite a lot to reflect that. 

In the first run of the show, Herb was very much one of the men in the shadows for The Commission. He had small parts to play here and there, although always too nervous to take command – at least that's what viewers could see.

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The prominence of the Handler in the latest season of the show saw Herb's character build progressively. An apocalypse takes center-stage so you will be forgiven for not following all of his scenes with great detail. However, we got to see a bit more wit, even with the nerves, and the decisions he made in the central plot had a huge impact.

In fact, the final episode appears to have put a jetpack on the bureaucrat's back for the future.

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Umbrella Academy's Ken Hall on playing Herb

Herb in Umbrella Academy
Netflix
Herb now plays a bigger role for The Commission in The Umbrella Academy.

If you're excited to see a whole lot more of Herb in future Umbrella seasons, one can only imagine how it feels to have played his leap into the ascendency – like Ken Hall.

In an interview with Looper, the actor spoke about how his role has been tweaked. He seems delighted about the expansive role, too.

He said: "In the first season, I played the body of Pogo, and in episode 6, I got to play Herb, which was a very small role, but it was great, and it was a comedic role as well, which is more my background. And the showrunner, Steve Blackman, really loved it. He said 'Man, that was laugh-out-loud funny.' From that, in season 2, without getting into things, yeah, Herb is back as part of the Commission. And so yeah, it's really lovely to be able to see and experience the show from two different perspectives."

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More comedy

Umbrella Academy fish head
Netflix
Carmichael was one of the senior figures in Season 2, and Herb used his advice in one episode to make a big discovery.

One of the biggest shifts this season, and it's not hidden away either, is the introduction of comedy for the role.

"He's a character that I can really identify with. He's good at what he does, and he's got a bit of a nervous disposition to him, but I think he wants to do a good job. For me, I appreciate the writing that went into making Herb happen in this season," Hall added. "A lot of it is very comedic-based, which, again, is more of my background in improv and clown and comedy and such. So I really feel like I get to play with my strengths.

During the interview, he admits that he's not sure he would like to work for The Commission himself. All employees seem to be knocking at death's door, but that didn't take away from the excitement of playing a breakout character.

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What's changed since Umbrella Academy Season 1, for Herb?

Looking back to the first season as well, he admitted Herb didn't really have a chance to come out of his shell. That's changed.

"With Herb, there are lots of really fun moments that I found doing some stuff on set," he said.

"I tell you what, though, now that I think about it, in the first season, I had a very small part when they introduced Herb. It was a really funny dynamic, what we had in season 1, being domineered by Kate Walsh's energy and the character that she's playing, and my very nervous bumbling, trying to search for words, being very uncomfortable, being put under the microscope. We did many takes for that one small scene.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Me0eoCwLj-A

Hall added: "So there are many different versions of stuff that I tried out — wild lines, basically, and just playing with the physicality. What I got to do more this year is to play with the more physical comedy moments, this sense of the mannerisms of Herb. I think in season 1, there was a lot of improv that went into me trying to fumble for my lines in response to what Kate's character, to the Handler, what she was saying to me."

He may be an even bigger character next time, too, as fans who have completed the season will know all too well.

So, watch this space for a more dominant Herb character, and for more from The Umbrella Academy. After recording over 14 days in top spot in Netflix's Top 10 things to watch and dominating the ratings, there's more to come from this series. You can be sure of it.