Sense8 Season 2: the cast on the show’s approach to sex and sexuality

The cast of Sense8 talk creator Lana Wachowski and her approach to sex

After its first season, Netflix’s Sense8 was quickly praised for its portrayal of sex and sexuality. Characters like Lito (Miguel Angel Silvestre), a closeted Mexican action star who struggles with his identity, and Nomi (Jamie Clayton), who just happens to be a transgender lesbian, helped to make a lot of viewers feel represented in a time where many people can be less than welcoming to those unlike themselves.

The way Sense8 handles certain people’s reaction to diversity is quite similar to the way X-Men shows human intolerance when it comes to the mutants. “It’s all the same thing; we’re afraid of difference,” says Terrence Mann, who plays primary antagonist Whispers on the show.

“We judge immediately. Xenophobic. Homophobic. Racist. It’s so prevalent today. We’re living in it right now. This show exemplifies it and holds it up to the light in a subtler way than X-Men does because it’s about real people and real places, happening right now. Systemically we have a problem… but you have to be taught to hate. I believe that we’re born to love, and that message runs through the show.”

As a trans woman herself, depicting all types of genders and sexualities on the show has become very important to Sense8 writer, director and co-creator Lana Wachowski. With that comes the depiction of sex, which Sense8 treats as something to be celebrated. It’s quite refreshing when it’s held against other sex-heavy genre shows on TV right now that often feature more rape than actual healthy sex.

Sense8 Season One’s most memorable sex scene (and there are many) is, of course, the orgy scene in episode six, ‘Demons’, in which Nomi, Lito, Will (Brian J Smith) and Wolfgang (Max Riemelt), plus non-sensates Amanita and Hernado, visit each other psychically to partake in a steamy, wonderfully pansexual romp session. The show is already starting to change the way a lot of people think about sex, including some of its stars.

Brian J Smith was raised in Texas, he tells us, which caused him to also grow up with a lot of shame regarding sex, and who he was or wasn’t.

“This show, even though I’m playing such a heteronormative, cisgender guy, I feel like it’s really made me regard sex as beautiful,” Smith says. “Sex isn’t a dirty thing; in some way, it’s the most creative, beautiful thing that we can possibly do as human beings. It’s such a gift that we get to enjoy it the way that we do. And what a shame that we spend so much of our entertainment and programming making sex something that feels gross or using sex as violence against women, portraying gay sex as something that’s only enjoyable as long as it keeps its element of shame. Lana is not interested in that at all.”

Alfonso Herrera and Miguel Angel Silvestre as power couple Hernando and Lito

Naveen Andrews, who plays Jonas, a member of Angel’s sensate cluster, compares the ground-breaking show to his time on ABC’s Lost back in the mid-2000s.

“It’s a completely different beast,” he explains. “Here it’s almost like we don’t have conventional rules. You have to remember that Lost was done with ABC, Disney, and therefore there’s a certain amount of censorship. For it’s time, we were about to push the boundaries. But with this, I don’t know if there are any boundaries! There’s a lot of freedom in terms of the piece itself, what it’s saying. Just in terms of the sexuality, I don’t think anything has ever approached it.”

Andrews recalls a film he did years ago where he got to visit eighth or ninth which featured a number of statues that had been drawn from the Karma Sutra.

“You see all these statues where everyone is shagging,” he says. “Everyone is shagging! Male, female, animals, horses, and you’re going, ‘Oh god!’ [Lana] is keying into something that’s also ancient, something that’s deep inside us as human beings. If we have proof of who we might be, or maybe who we really are, I think that’s incredibly subversive to bring that in.”

“Sex positive is the way she kept talking about it,” adds Smith. “She’s like, ‘I’m not interested in putting a bunch of rape in the show for shock value.’ She goes, ‘If we’re going to deal with sex I want sex to be beautiful. I want people to watch the show and I want them to want to go home and fuck.’”

“It’s loving,” explains Max Riemelt, who always gets his fair share of sex scenes on Sense8. “It’s not about the physical act itself; it’s about the spirituality you feel when you have sex. It’s more of a metaphor that she’s trying to bring closer to people.”

Sense8 Season 2 is available to stream on Netflix from 5 May. Get all the latest sci-fi news with every issue of SciFiNow.