Daryl Hannah takes a leap into the unknown with sci-fi show Sense8, the Netflix series from the creators of the Matrix trilogy. She talks to Lydia Jenkin.

I've always really been passionate about the basic, primal truth of interconnectedness. Imagine seeing, hearing, tasting, and smelling things that don't belong. Hearing thunder and rain when it's clearly sunny outside, feeling the deep bass of a club beat reverberating round your head, even though you're at home in a silent apartment, looking through a window to see an unfamiliar street that wasn't there a moment before.

As the new Netflix series Sense8 begins, that's the premise we're presented with. Eight seemingly unconnected people - a cop in Chicago, a Korean business woman, a Nairobi bus driver, an Indian pharmacist, a German crook, a Mexican actor, a British-based DJ, and a San Franciscan blogger - become inextricably, but unconsciously linked through their senses and minds. They become "sensates". And the one who's given them this connection, is a woman named Angel, played by Daryl Hannah.

Sitting down in a Sydney hotel room to talk about the ambitious new series, Hannah laughs at the suggestion of how talking about any project from the Wachowski siblings - the pair behind the Matrix trilogy and more - in collaboration with sci-fi writer J. Michael Straczynski can feel like twisting yourself in knots.

"Even after shooting it, there are lots of mysterious aspects to it, because if it does become a longer running series, I think there are things they obviously want to unfold slowly. But there are lots of things that do become clear, and they're fascinating, or I find them to be fascinating, exciting concepts that I don't see explored too much."


Yes, it's a high concept show where philosophy meets sci-fi, and trying to explain too much about Angel would effectively ruin it, but Hannah gives a few hints.

"I can tell you a bit, but not that much, because it takes a long time to learn much about her," she smiles. "Angel is the 'mother' to these eight people - not literally, I didn't give physical birth to them, but I give birth to their awareness of these abilities. It's a kind of horrible way that I do it, you'll see pretty quickly, but as the series unfolds you'll start to understand why it has to be that way. And Angel is from a former cluster of sensates."

Hannah has never really delved into television before, but the 54-year-old who became a star in the 1980s after roles in Blade Runner, Splash, Roxanne and Wall Street, had no doubts about this ambitious project, filmed in nine different cities with as many crews.

"When I met with the Wachowskis and Michael to talk about Angel, I hadn't read any scripts, they had just told me verbally about the series, so that was all I knew really.

A scene from the TV show Sense8.
A scene from the TV show Sense8.

"But I knew about them, and I had a lot of admiration and respect for their artistic genius, and when I met them I was overwhelmed with just how brilliant they are. They're so smart, and so human, and so compassionate.

"And the series is extraordinary. It has all these different elements from different genres, and though it's based in reality, it still has fantastical elements. And it also confronts so many different issues - economic, racial, social, sexual - while also being about the most profound issue of our deeper interconnectedness."

It's an issue that clearly resonates with Hannah - and the fact that Angel is a key proponent of it was a real drawcard for her.

"I've always really been passionate about the basic, primal truth of interconnectedness. It's something that we deny, or we don't acknowledge, but it is a fundamental truth of all life.


"So the fact that it's something that Angel understands and values, is something that I could identify with. I feel like if we really understood that consciously, I think we would be able to solve a lot of problems in this world."

The issues the Wachowskis have chosen to address also seem to be a response to our increasing detachment and loneliness, despite our increasing technological connectivity.

"We're more polarised than ever before, but yet we have more access to and more understanding of everything that's out there, and there's more of us so we have more physical contact with each other, and yet we're super-isolated.

" It's a strange dichotomy that we're living in, and I think that they explore those ideas," Hannah explains.

She was delighted to be involved in such an extended creative process - through the conception to the development and lengthy shoot, along with the knowledge that they're thinking beyond just one season.

"I really enjoyed it, because allows you to get really deep, and to get some meat on the bones. Part of my technique is to daydream as much about the character and the it character's life as I can before we start shooting, so you're really as far in there as you can be."

A scene from the TV show Sense8.
A scene from the TV show Sense8.

She also revelled in the opportunity to film in such diverse cities.

"It was brilliant. I'd never been to Korea before and that was amazing, I'd been briefly to Nairobi before, but it was interesting to see it more in depth, and I'd briefly been to Iceland, but it was so brilliant to go back there and spend time. Same with Berlin. I spent a lot of time renting bikes and riding around exploring. And it was even better because we all went, we were travelling as this sort of family."

Hannah sees this project as "one of a kind".

"I understand that film is a collaborative medium, and sometimes those collaborations don't work, but this just seemed like an incredibly perfect stew you know. It had the best top notch people all the way across the board, as well as being a fascinating story with interesting characters.

"All the elements seemed to be of the highest quality and level of creativity you could aspire to, so when you are given an opportunity like that, what's the downside?"

There would be some sceptics who might suggest the downside of working with the Wachowskis could be a disappointing result, given their recent, ambitious but confused projects Cloud Atlas and Jupiter Ascending. And the fact that the show is drawing comparisons to Lost (not only because one of its stars, Naveen Andrews, also appears in Sense8, but also because of its brow-furrowing premise), might give one pause.


But Hannah thinks Sense8 will resonate with smart audiences looking for something to stimulate.

"The Wachowskis are so smart. There's a lot of different levels that they're working on! You can take multiple pills - blue, red, and many other colours," she laughs, referencing the famous scene from The Matrix. "They've got it all covered."

Who: Daryl Hannah
What: New series from the Wachowski siblings and J. Michael Straczynski, Sense8
Where and when: Available on Netflix from June 5.

- - Timeout