Toby Onwumere: Irrepressible Capheus in Sense 8

A special interview with Toby Onwumere, who plays the irrepressible Capheus in Sense8


Where you nervous taking on the role when the previous actor left?

No, that aspect of the entire process really didn’t affect me too much to be honest (me replacing the prior actor). I was more so excited just to be able to work on my first gig and to embark on this amazing journey with the rest of the cast and the crew.

How did you hear about the role?

It came as an audition through my agent. I went in for the casting director on a Wednesday, and later that night my agent calls me saying “So……..they want to fly you to Mexico City to do your callback for Lana Wachowski”, and I was floored. That Saturday I fly to Mexico City and Sunday i do my callback for Lana and James McTeigue, that night they introduced me to the entire cast, and the rest is history.

Did you watch the first season of the show?

Before I auditioned for it, I hadn’t watched a second of it. I kept seeing the promo picture on Netflix every time I logged in, but thought “I will check it out later” . My friend Matt exalted the show once I told him that I got an audition for it, which added to the excitement

What were you most excited about filming the show?

The absolute most exciting part of filming the show was the extensive traveling. We were in every continent on the globe except for Australia and Antarctica, and I relished overtime we traveled to a new city. Each move brought about an introduction to a new culture, new cuisine, new language, and most importantly new people. That facet of Sense8, being shot on location all over the world, truly makes in unlike any television program on the market.

Capheus always has an optimistic outlook on life, no matter how bad things are. Are you like that?

Survey says…….yes, we both are similar in that regard. I do however have my down periods where i get a little crabby (especially going too long without food or lemonade), but for the most part I have a pretty sunny disposition through the thick and thin, I believe.

Did you know any of the actors you were going to be working with?

Not. A. Single. One.

What was filming in 9 different countries like?

One of the best experiences of my life. It was sort of a crash course on “Oh yeah, there is such a more nuanced world outside of where I life”.

Did that take a toll on you?

Certainly not in any negative way.

What was the best thing about filming Sense8? The Worst?

The best part for me was being able to meet such amazing people from all over the world and get a glimpse at how they walk through the world. The worst part would have to be the wait time. The “waiting game” as an actor is apart of the business, but we had to often times be on call for a long period because Lana just drafted a scene as she is directing, and we have to be prepared to step in.

Did  any of the scenes push you past your limit, mentally or physically?

Oooooooooh yes. Funny enough the very first scene where you get a glimpse of my face was the toughest shooting day that I’ve had. We were in Malta shooting the underwater/diving montage, and to be frank, I am a horrid swimmer. In the scene we had to do underwater choreography…….with our clothes on…..and weights in said clothes so that we could sink. All of this was terrifying to me, and although I was only slightly concerned on the outside, I was a torrent of fear and trepidation on the inside. It took me a bit to muster the courage to do the scene, but it all worked out in the end (and in hindsight, was one of the most exhilarating parts of filming season 2).

Where you worried about the reaction to any of the scenes you were filming?

There was only one that I was slightly worried about. The Orgy. I was mostly concerned at what my parents were going to think of it, but they thought it was beautiful and served the story justly. I was anticipating a scathing call about how the last time they saw my butt was when I was a baby, and now its out for the whole world to see, but no such telephone call happened:)

Did you know the show was going to be cancelled? What was your reaction to that?

I had absolutely no idea that the show was going to be cancelled, in fact, I was of the mind that we were well on our way to closing a deal on season 3. With that all being said, I was devastated when I found out that the show got cancelled.

How did you handle the physical aspect of filming?

By trying to take care of myself. Working out with my cast mates, trying to eat correctly (with varying degrees of success), and resting whenever possible. The show is so demanding and can be very taxing on us, especially physically, and I wanted to make sure that I was ready at a moments notice.

Which scene was your favorite to film and why?

My favorite scene to shoot happened to be my first ever scene that we shot, and it was Lito’s segment of the birthday montage in the Christmas episode. That scene is more or less a microcosm of how the entire Sense8 experience has been.

What did you think of Cepheus’ campaign?

Its definitely better than a certain someone who occupies the presidency, I will say that. I really like how Capheus didn’t initially even mean to get into politics, he just felt strongly about love, equality, and justice, and naturally his community pushed him as a front runner. It all happened organically, and in a positive way

What did you think of the story line this season?

I LOVED IT! Season 1 was a huge introduction to all of the fascinating characters and concepts and relationships, and in Season 2 we are able to delve deeper in the personal lives of all 8 of the sensates. There is more drama, more action, more sex, more love, more partying………and more sex. All of which serves the story.

I heard you did most of the character switching practically. Was that different to keep track of?

It was for a bit, but our phenomenal script supervisor Julie Brown kept us all in sync with where we just were (both in the show and on set), and where we need to be. It was kind of cool to be able to continue on with a scene in a completely different part of the world with a completely different landscape. The job never gets boring.

Were you surprised by the fans outcries when Netflix cancelled Sense8?

I was more so stunned at the enormous number of people who were outraged by the cancellation. All the sensates across the world rock with us (and we love them for that), but it was the number of them that really blew me away.

How did you feel when you heard you were going to get a special to wrap things up?

I was overwhelmed, overjoyed, over-EVERYTHING. It perfectly illustrated what can happen when people unite together for something they believe in. It was a really beautiful moment, one that I believe fits perfect in the Sense8 narrative.

Is there any chance of getting that third season?

Nobody thought we were going to be resurrected from cancellation, and now look where we are. Anything.Is.Possible.

Can you tell us anything about the upcoming special?

Hold on to your seats:)

Do you have any messages for the fans?

I love you all so much and I would like to thank you for welcoming me in to your Sense8 family. We are all connected, and together, anything is truly possible.