Tina Desai & Max Riemelt on ‘Sense8,’ Best… by Uinterview

Sense8, one of Netflix’s most popular new shows, will begin its second season on May 5. The show hit the streaming service in a time of increasing division within the U.S. and the world – July 2015, less than a month after now-President Donald Trump called Mexican immigrants “rapists” and “criminals.” The divisions between the ‘us’ and the ‘them’ have only grown more cavernous in the time between the first season and the second. But Sense8 has something to say about that, even if they don’t mean to.

“I think the message is that we all have the potential in us, or the good will, to just see certain things and to accept certain things and not to categorize,” says Max Riemelt in an exclusive discussion with uInterview. He plays Wolfgang Bogdanow on Sense8.

“When you label too many things you make it too easy for yourself. The world is much more complex than we can ever understand and I think this show represents that so well.”

Riemelt’s co-star and fictional love-interest, Tina Desai – she plays Kala Dandekar – feels similarly but that there are also two sides to the show’s message – the division and the connection.

“I think the writers came up with this idea because of mobile phones and how they connect all of us even when we are in different parts of the world and I think they took that a step further and said, ‘Well, what if it’s mental and not just technical,’” Desai told uInterview.

“And on the flip side, we are all disconnecting so much because of technology and because of distance. It would be nice if we were a lot more connected, and if we were a lot more empathetic, and a lot more available for each other. So taking these two things together they came up with the concept of Sense8.”

The message of empathy and connection isn’t just for the audience, though. The actors found that the process of filming the show brought them, all of whom come from different backgrounds and cultures, close together.

“We are all away from home, it is an international cast and crew, we are all, culturally very different, and we are all dealing with high stress situations together, so we just end up becoming family,” says Desai.

Riemelt agrees, “We go through this together and the more we are experiencing together, the more we are bonding and getting to know each other. It is really transcending though the whole show I think.”

Sense8 was created by Lilly and Lana Wachowski (The Matrix, V for Vendetta). The first season and the Christmas special are currently available to stream on Netflix. Start binging on the rest of Season Two of Sense8 on May 5.


Q: Tina, what happens with your character this season? -

I have the most interesting problem of all the sensates. One is fighting brain surgery, one is fighting a power war in his city, one is dealing with his career being threatened, and I am worrying about who I love [laughs]. So I think it’s funny but I think it is something that can consume a lot of your time and energy, and piece of mind. I graduate to bigger problems because, as you’ve seen in the Christmas special, I’m now married to Rajan, and still not in love, or trying to be in love. And now the connection with Wolfgang continues so she is trying to be morally correct and do what is expected of her and yet be true to herself. So the problem continues, it intensifies. Separately, there is also the fact that we are all sensating a lot more this season so we are all helping each other out a lot more. We are visiting each other so we are all able to solve each other’s problems a bit more and discuss things a bit more. It’s a lot more collaborative, there’s a lot more contribution in this season so I think it is two-fold, what she is going through. I don’t know, in terms of religion, I feel her connection reduces a bit more in this one with enough reason once you see the show.

Q: Max, what is Wolfgang’s story? -

He is troubled by the mess he left behind, of course, and after he got to know his powers he feels more connected to the others and also, eventually he is willing to help out more and connect more and fight the dark force called BPO. And, of course, his love interest, which is still Kala. This is a big issue for him because I think Wolfgang does not really like to be that vulnerable. Especially not sharing these problems with the cluster or with the whole world. He is always holding back his feelings.

Q: How have the actors developed their connections with each other? -

Max - "It happened quite naturally actually. We spent a lot of time together and through the circumstance that you travel a lot, that you have to go through extreme situations, as I like to call them. For everyone there are different issues and different problems. For me, for example, I have a daughter back home and for me it’s really hard to be gone for so long. Then also, when it comes to scenes when you have to be nude or sexual, it’s also an issue for many of us. But yeah, we go through this together and the more we are experiencing together, the more we are bonding and getting to know each other. It is really transcending though the whole show I think."

Tina - "Yeah, it is exactly what he is saying. Especially in the second season we were together for eight months and that is a significant chunk of time to spend together. We are all away from home, it is an international cast and crew, we are all, culturally, very different, and we are all dealing with high stress situations together, so we just end up becoming family. It is not out of choice. It is just what you have to do because you are always in each other’s face, eating together, working all the time, we ended up partying a lot together. Just by default of spending that much time together you just end up becoming a family, you actually do, because you’re sharing everything. We all understand each other’s moods, we understand what makes everyone happy, we know what each one’s comfort zone is, we just know each other like no one else would because we are in that sort of situation. Automatically, that sort of trust and comfort that comes in with time and with dealing with these many situations together, there is just a comfort that comes through. I went through a lot of trouble in the season. There were a lot of things I had to do that I couldn’t but I am extremely grateful of how the cast came forward to support me and help me and be understanding and council me, it’s shocking. Even today when I think of it, they have a lot of patience and a lot of heart, so it’s a good bunch of people."

Q: What was the most memorable bonding moment on set? -

Max - "These extreme situations, in the end we had to shoot and underwater scene where we had to dive and at the same time interact with each other. In that kind of moment you can’t hide your fear, you can’t hide anything anymore. You have to help each other out and we, I don’t know, it just happened so naturally. When you are on the same page and you know that you have to do something for the greater good, that’s what we call it. You have to be very committed to presenting or representing something and also to let each other shine. This process was also about learning something, being professional and doing what the director is asking. It is also about taking something with you. But difficult? It depends, doing something underwater is difficult but when you go to a pride in Sao Paulo where there are millions of crazy people who like to party and you need 150 body guards to protect you and at the same time you have to stay connected and do whatever you need to do because there is only this amount of time, and daylight, and weather, and what not, you have to fit in and think for each other, and help out if someone is not following you help them. I don’t’ know, it is very complex."

Tina - "The way we shoot it is that we have more work in our cities. So I am working more in Mumbai and in Berlin than any other city. So those are the cities where we are working morning to night and it turns out being much more intensive then in the other cities. I don’t know if you could categorize it as being more easy or difficult it just means that it is more intense. And there are cities, like in Mexico where we only have a few scenes because we are only visiting Lito."

Max- "Lana would also come up with ideas very spontaneously or would just say, ‘I might have an idea so you better just come on set and be ready.’ So that time to just be in your trailer and not know what you are waiting for would be the hardest for me."

Tina - "Exactly, you would think that these are silly problems but really, I think in Seoul, Korea, it was extremely hot, and I’m from India and I’m still saying it was really hot, and there was a time where I think I waited 12 hours and I shot for like five minutes. When you are doing that repeatedly it can really… I mean, how many times can you look at your phone, how many games can you play, how much of that show can you watch, after seven days you will start getting irritated. So it is quite a thing to keep yourself motivated, to keep yourself positive, and creatively charged when you have ben asked to wait so long. So there are various challenges that we have to deal with and it’s not easy or difficult. I mean, it’s an odd problem. We are traveling to seventeen cities and it’s a great privilege so when you are off you get to see all of these things and experience all of these things and I don’t know of any other project that does. So there is a good and bad side to everything."

Q: Do you think that there is a message behind the series? -

Max - "I think the message is that we all have the potential in us, just the perspective or the good will to just see certain things and to accept certain things and don’t think and categorize. When you label to many things you make it too easy for yourself. The world is much more complex than we can ever understand and I think that show represents that so well."

Tina - "I think the writers came up with this idea because of mobile phones and how they connect all of us even when we are in different parts of the world and I think they took that a step further and said, ‘Well, what if it’s mental and not just technical.’ And I know that we really do share that with some people. There is this friend of mine and every time I go online and feel like sending him a text, he is possibly sending me a message at that same time and it’s like, ‘how?!’ So it’s like you are connected to people like that on a level that is telepathic in some way. The same friend, he knows what I am going to say before I say it. The writers were considering a more ideal situation where it’s not just on a surface level but something that is far deeper and make more of an impact. And on the flip side, we are all disconnecting so much because of technology and because of distance and it would be nice if we were a lot more connected and if we were a lot more empathetic and a lot more available for each other so taking these two things together they came up with the concept of 'Sense8'."