Sense8 season 2 actor Max Riemelt: 'The sex scenes are less pornographic, more like oil paintings'

Jacob Stolworthy

The Wachowskis' Netflix series Sense8 returns to the streaming service on 5 May, reuniting the eight 'sensates' – strangers from across the globe who have been mentally and emotionally linked to one another since birth.

The first season scored positive reviews from critics who championed the show's inclusion of characters from various cultures (Mumbai, Seoul, Berlin, San Francisco and London all feature prominently as locations) as well as LGBTQ themes led by gay character Lito Rodriguez (Miguel Ángel Silvestre) and Nomi Marks who is played by transgender star Jamie Clayton.

German actor Max Riemelt stars as Wolfgang Bogdanow, a bad boy safecracker with links to Berlin's organised crime underworld. We spoke to the actor about his character's season two journey and what it's like to work with the brains behind The Matrix.


What can Sense8 fans expect from season two?

Well, what can I say without spoiling it? More more more - more of everything. More sex. More violence. But also, eventually, maybe some new characters. Yeah, it's getting even more complex.

Are the Wachowskis as much of a force this time around?

This time it was only Lana. She is demanding but in a positive way. It's like a whole big experiment because she's constantly adding stuff and coming up with new ideas, maybe even on the day. It was a guerrilla kind of shoot, all over the world, where you'd just try to stay as open and flexible as possible when on set. Sometimes you have characters that aren't even there – you just have to imagine them. You’re in different environments and you have to act like it's really cold – it's that kind of stuff. The Wachowskis have a very complex way of thinking and of creating. You can never imagine what the show will look like.

Sense8 really pushes multi-cultural and LGBTQ themes. Does that aspect of the series make you proud?

Yeah, I'm really proud to be a part of that movement, to be on that side – to be a Jedi and not on the dark side. To try and give people hope and the optimistic kind of perspective that the show represents. I'm happy that people can identify with these characters [regardless of whether] they're living in strange worlds or worlds that people don’t see themselves in. They accept it as something that comes across as very honest. It's innovative in the way that we don’t have a moral code or an idea of how people should be together. It's more like a big menu where you can just pick whatever you like. It's easy for me in Berlin where everything's so open and liberal but I think that’s an important message – that we are individuals but we can be more open and honest with each other. I think everyone can identify with something in this show.

Did Lana Wachowski have the current political landscape in mind when writing this season?

I think it’s always something there. It represents a zeitgeist, aesthetically but also politically. But I think the writers are also aware that all these things that are going on in the world are repetitions. I would say it's human nature to be ignorant and go straight to war, but Sense8 tries to illuminate the positive side of humanity. The sex scenes are very positive: they're symbolic and full of feeling, which is so important. We don’t show it as something pornographic.It looks like an oil painting and gives you a nice feeling when you look at it. There's a lot about identity and family and immortality and cultural backgrounds – so many things that people are struggling with when they can't see themselves in the bigger picture.

Your former cast member Aml Ameen, who played Capheus, dropped out. Was that a shock?

That was sad but we got over it really quick. We were in the middle of shooting. We were looking for someone like Toby [Onwumere]. He's a great actor and was able to adapt so quick. I don’t want to compare these guys with each other, you know? He's not a substitute. He created another character. I haven't seen it yet but I have a feeling that he is perfect for this part and that he did a really great job.

Do you have a standout moment from filming the first season?

One of the great moments was the nude wedding in India where everybody told us that we would go to jail for doing that. They told us it wasn't possible. That moment was kind of thrilling when we did it. But I also like action sequences a lot. I've only watched [the first season] once or twice but I’m over it because I don’t like to think about it too much.

Why's that?

I have to find balance. I don't want to be taken away by this whole industry when I think about it and all the problems that come with it. When I've finished it, I'll watch it and see if it works. If I like it, I'll watch it one more time. Then that's it.

A third season is looking extremely likely. Do you think this series could last for a while? The perfect number would be eight, right?

Ha. Could be, could be. I don't know if that would be necessary. I don’t know what the storylines will be like. Maybe my character dies? Who knows? It looks really good. Lana is telling me there's a lot more potential.

Season two of Sense 8 will be available on Netflix from 5 May

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