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Wednesday 7 December 2016

'I was in more pain than I'd been after I was beaten up by samurais'

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Daryl Hannah is no stranger to action sequences. Who can forget the eye-popping showdown between her character Elle and Uma Thurman's Beatrix in Quentin Tarantino's Kill Bill: Volume 2?

But nothing could have prepared her for the opening sequence in Sense8, in which her character, a mysterious otherworldly figure named Angel, metaphorically 'gives birth'.

"It was really interesting, because I've done a lot of action movies and I've been knocked through walls and suffered broken bones, but after doing that scene I was in more pain and I was more exhausted than I have been after being beaten up by samurais," says the quietly-spoken 54-year-old of the intriguing-sounding scene.

Sense8 is a 12-part series created and written by siblings Lana and Andrew Wachowski, the creative minds behind the mind-bending Matrix trilogy, Cloud Atlas and the recent Jupiter Ascending.

It marks their first TV series, but is no less ambitious in its scale or themes than their big screen efforts.

"It's a piece of entertainment in the best and biggest sense of the word," says Chicago-born Hannah. "It really bridges so many genres - there's some thriller, comedy, fantasy, drama."

The series was shot on location all over the world, including in Mumbai, Nairobi and Mexico City.

"When we told people what we wanted to do with this story, the sheer scale of it, the overlapping elements and so on, practically everybody we met told us it wasn't possible," said co-writer J Michael Straczynski.

"So we took a deep breath and did it anyway."

Hannah laughs at the thought, and admits she didn't fully understand the scripts straight away.

And, although the entire series is available on Netflix, the home of binge-watching, she dissuades people from attempting a marathon viewing session.

"I think this series is dense," says the actress, who looks stylishly laid-back in jeans and a loose-fitting white top, with her trademark long blonde hair loosely tousled.

"There's a lot of material, and I think it's going to take a little while for people to absorb it all."

The series follows eight characters "from different parts of the world, from different racial and economic backgrounds, and from different sexual orientations", she says.

All of them, through witnessing a catastrophic vision concerning Hannah's character, begin to recognise they're connected through their senses.

hunted

"They can see, hear, feel and smell what other people on the other side of the world are experiencing," she says. "Then they begin to realise they can connect and help each other through those senses - and then they begin to realise that because of that, they're being pursued and hunted."

Hannah, who was once in a long-term relationship with the late John F Kennedy Jnr and also the singer Jackson Browne, admits: "There are some questions left at the end of the first series, so there's a possibility for more."

A five-series arc has already been mentioned, and she's not surprised.

"I think people are going to be so blown away because there are things you've never seen before. It's unbeliev- able," she says.

As for any over-zealous fans wanting to talk about the show in great length, she's already prepared.

"I've got plenty of disguises," she says, laughing. "I've been working since I was really young, so I know how to bob and weave."

In 2013, Hannah revealed she was diagnosed with autism as a child and continues to battle crippling shyness, but despite her introverted nature she became interested in film, and ballet, early on in life.

"When I was younger I was ambitious, for sure. This is what I wanted to do," says the actress, who made her movie debut in the 1978 horror The Fury and put her gymnastic prowess to use as the violent punk android Pris in Ridley Scott's 1982 Blade Runner.

"It was my first big movie and I was living in paradise. I was like, 'Oh my God, I'm in another world'," she recalls of the sci-fi classic.

"You can feel it when a film's working, you really can. When something gels, it gels, it's the same thing for sports or anything."

Hannah, who has appeared on both the small and big screen in 80-odd projects, experienced the same feeling on Splash, the 1984 movie in which she appeared as a mermaid opposite Tom Hanks; 1989's weepy Steel Magnolias; and the 2003 and 2004 Kill Bill volumes.

"It's weird how they stay alive, you know?" she says in recognition of the films' enduring appeal.

"There's a small handful of things that I look back on fondly, and now Sense8 has entered that handful, which is really exciting."

Hannah doesn't say that flippantly.

"Having worked so long, you know when you're working on something that is unique," she says.

It's why she wanted her younger co-stars to savour the moment, as 28-year-old Brit Tuppence Middleton, who plays Riley in Sense8, testifies.

"The whole time we were working, Daryl would say, 'My God, appreciate this, it's amazing! You have to know this is great, it doesn't happen a lot'," said Middleton.

Aside from acting, Hannah has also directed, produced and continues to campaign and raise awareness on a host of environmental issues.

So while she's set to appear in front of the camera in a few upcoming films, including I Am Michael with James Franco, acting is not the sole focus of her life.

"I'm not looking for anything at this point. I've other creative projects," she says. "Don't get me wrong, I'm thrilled to do something great, but I'm not particularly ambitious about looking for projects."

Sense8 is available on Netflix now

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