[Editor’s note: The following contains spoilers for the “Sense8” series finale special.]
When Netflix announced that “Sense8” would get to finish telling its story, the most important thing Jamie Clayton was hoping for was a wedding — specifically the wedding between her character of Nomi and long-time love interest Amanita (Freema Agyeman). While the lovers had proposed to each other in the Season 2 finale, the cancellation of the mind-bending series left the ultimate fate of their romance in limbo.
“I only spoke to Lana [Wachowski] one time between Season 2 and the time that the finale was announced,” Clayton told IndieWire in a recent interview. “They were trying to get everyone’s schedules coordinated, so she was reaching out to everybody. I said to her, ‘You know I really only want to do this if the wedding is going to happen.’ And she said, ‘Well that’s happening.’ And then I said, ‘Great, where do you want me?'”
In some ways, the existence of “Sense8” has always felt relatively miraculous, given the show’s more-than-unique premise: For two seasons, we got to know the eight strangers born at the same moment on the same day who, despite being separated by thousands of miles, discover a psychic link between them that changes all their lives. One of the show’s most important features is the commitment that creators J. Michael Straczynski and the Wachowskis had to creating eight individual characters who represented a wide range of inclusivity, from class to gender to race to sexuality.
Even getting a true series finale, as opposed to its abrupt cancellation, was shocking. Clayton said that she didn’t really believe it was happening “until we were actually shooting it I guess. Because I think it was such an unbelievable thing. It wasn’t until we were actually shooting it that I was like, ‘Is this actually happening?'”
But it led to the ultimate culmination for Nomi and Amanita, to the point where during a recent fan screening of the finale, in her words, “I basically was just sitting there for two hours waiting for the wedding to start. Because I wanted people to see it.”
The sequence was actually shot on location on the Eiffel Tower in Paris, because the “Sense8” dedication to shooting on location knows no bounds. “That’s the thing about this show, is that if we’re in Naples, we’re in Naples. If we’re in Nairobi, we’re in Nairobi. If we’re getting married at the Eiffel Tower, we are filming at the Eiffel Tower,” Clayton said.
While nearly 15 minutes of the two-and-a-half hour finale are devoted to the wedding, Clayton said that the “Sense8” team managed to film it all in one long night shoot. “I think my call time was somewhere around…like four or five o’clock in the afternoon,” she said. “And then we shot until eight or nine o’clock in the morning.”
One quirk to the shooting schedule: Everything was shot in reverse. So production began that evening with the dancing montages, and the actual wedding itself was the end of the day. “It was hilarious, working backwards, but at that point with this show that’s just what we do. Everything is backwards. It’s all crazy with ‘Sense8.'”
When it came to the wedding dresses worn by Nomi and Amanita, Clayton gave full credit to costume designer Lindsay Pugh. “She told me about the dress and [it] to me didn’t really matter. Once I did the table read and I read those vows, I couldn’t stop crying at the table read. I just couldn’t wait to get there and walk down that aisle with Bug and say those lines to him about being my family. I couldn’t wait to say all those lines. I don’t know that I ever really thought about the dress. For me, it was just about the moment and those lines.”
Another important family moment for Nomi in the finale was when her estranged mother Janet (Sandra Fish), who had never really accepted Nomi as transgender, came to her with a rush of love and acceptance. A “special” brownie was involved in that moment, but it still led to a scene which Clayton described as “so beautiful.”
“I mean [Fish] deserved that so much. Anytime there’s a fandom, there’s this hard thing where they don’t separate the actor from the character, and [Fish], she’s one of the kindest women that I’ve ever met and she’s so just natural and kind and her light just shines so bright. When I read that at the table read, that that was going to happen, I was just so filled with joy for her and her character.”
Added Clayton, “I was like, ‘This is so great.’ And also just so great for Nomi — I mean how beautiful that she finally acknowledges her name. That was dope.”
In general, when it came to the experience of making “Sense8,” Clayton noted that every actor’s experience was likely quite specific. “If you set each actor down individually and asked them what their experience was working on this show, we’re all going to have extremely different perspectives,” she said. “And that’s the beautiful thing about this show — because that’s exactly what the show is about. We all did the same thing. Like having dinner. We all experienced it in a very different way.”
For Clayton, there was an element of sadness, “because I know how needed this kind of content is. As the only out queer person on the show, I carried a huge burden and it was exhausting. And I knew how needed this kind of representation was and I was really sad that it was going to be over.”
But there was an element of joy: “At the same time, I couldn’t wait to shoot that wedding scene. And that’s what I was there to do. I wanted so desperately for the fans, for queer people of all ethnicities and all genders and all sexualities, to be able to see these two women in love and express that love in a very public way,” she said. “So I was sad but I was also really grateful that was getting to happen. Because the idea that that wouldn’t happen, that ruined me.”
And looking back, her favorite part of the experience will be what the show was able to accomplish simply by depicting people of all types, including those within the transgender community. “I think probably again it’s how needed the representation was and how proud I am to be a part of something like this character of Nomi, and how she is a woman who identifies as trans but her storyline had nothing to do with her being trans,” she said. “It’s so rare for that to happen. And I’m just so, so, so proud that I got to portray her and that so many other people of trans experience got to finally see themselves represented in that way and not have it be a stereotype or a trope or a victim. That’s definitely the most amazing thing about it for me.”
“Sense8” is streaming now on Netflix.