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Any fan of The Umbrella Academy on Netflix will know what a poor deal Pogo got.

The scary, old CGI monkey resulted from an experiment carried out by a self-absorbed central character who took on seven children and numbered them rather than naming them. Manic aside, it was the chimp that got the worst of the stick from fans; he was keeping secrets from the kids. Should he have revealed their superpowers, that include carving chunks out of the moon? For those who haven’t watched the show yet, it’s as weird and wonderful as it sounds – a family with issues and superpower do battle against the apocalypse and you’ll be bingeing it all night.

With all the hate, take a moment to consider the actor behind Pogo. Specifically, think about the person behind his body. Adam Godley was the British actor behind the aristocratic voice of the chimp, as well as the facial expressions – thanks to the team at Weta who were also the wizards behind the effects on Lord of the Rings and Planet of the Apes. Meanwhile, the Canadian Ken Hall was part of The Umbrella Academy’s team as the actor who embodied Pogo – he was on set wearing the motion capture suit and delivering lines for timing. 

You’ll never get to see the actor’s face on screen. How does an actor feel about that situation? 

“I know my lines inside and out, even though I know it’s not going to be my voice at the end of the day,” Hall explains to Jennifer Bisset for cnet, over a Zoom call from Toronto. “But to show up and play off other people is a huge benefit for them. I’m not just saying words. I’m physicalizing it. I am Pogo.”

In a word – No.

Hall was just like the rest of the cast as they filmed season one across Toronto and Ontario in 2018. He proved himself a hard-worker with a great attitude to match his physical performance skills, which were perfected over his years on the improv scene in Toronto. 

“A thing that I heard from some of the other actors that I didn’t even know at the time, was the appreciation of how cool it was to play off of me. Because I was giving them a lot of really good stuff to react to,” Hall says.

“I didn’t know it had affected them in a deeper way.”

It wasn’t just the cast who enjoyed working with him. Steve Blackman, the showrunner who put together the adaptation of the comic book from Gerard Way and Gabriel Ba, making it bright and full of charm, with amazing actors like the Oscar-nominated Ellen Page, noticed the efforts and talents of Hall.

“Ken came knowing that he was going to be removed and gave a 150% emotional performance every day. Ellen Page and the other actors had this wonderful person to act against and with. So, it made a huge difference,” Blackman told IndieWire last year.

The show’s boss went a little further – giving Hall a new role mid-way through the six-month filming schedule.

“They wrote and were like, ‘Hey, do you want to do this role?'” Hall recalls. “‘I would love to, absolutely. Play a person.'”

That’s how Hall got cast as Herb, allowed to wear different costumes in his role as a Commission agent. Herb’s job is to keep a track of the space-time continuum or keep what’s supposed to happen on track to happen.

The new character of Herb was in one episode, and again Blackman was impressed. Guess what happened next? Hall was given five episodes of work in the second season, as well as working as Pogo in a flashback to a funeral, although no Baby Pogo.

“He really liked the job that I did and as you see in season two, Herb gets to have a much bigger role,” Hall says. “Again, I’m forever grateful to have that opportunity.”

“You put in the work and people notice.”

The shift in season two

Spoiler alert for season two – Herb is a complete game-changer for the Hargreeves, working with Diego to understand the timeline and learn the cause of Doomsday. He also instigates the resistance to battle The Handler who took over The Commission and finally gets elected to be the acting chairperson. In that role, he even gives the Hargreeves a time portal kept in a briefcase so they can head to their home.

From down at heel typist in case management, Herb transforms into a bona fide hero, spouting happy lines such as, “We also provide body removal services.”

Away from his progression as an on-screen superhero, Hall is getting back into improv shows visa zoom plus he also offers career counseling; a job he started out at before he moved into acting in 2016 with sci-fi comedy show People of Earth. There’s also an exciting radio show on the horizon for people with disabilities, looking at the world with humor. 

Working in his role at The Umbrella Academy has been a boon for physical diversity on screen. “Performing has allowed me to be the best version of myself,” Hall says. “And so I feel very lucky that I can use that to help other people.”

The Umbrella Academy season two is on Netflix now.

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