EXCLUSIVE: The Moment Filming 'Sense8' That Made Jamie Clayton Feel Like Selena Gomez

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Photo: Netflix

To film Sense8 is no small feat.

The Wachowskis’ ambitious Netflix drama, now in season two, tells the interconnected stories of eight strangers of different cultures, races, genders and sexualities. As the sensates, Capheus (Toby Onwumere), Sun (Doona Bae), Nomi (Jamie Clayton), Kala (Tina Desai), Riley (Tuppence Middleton), Lito (Miguel Angel Silvestre) and Will (Brian J. Smith) all share a collective consciousness that allows them to communicate with each other as well as share language, skills and knowledge when they tap into their psychic link. And because these characters live in various parts of the world -- Germany, India, Kenya, Mexico, South Korea, United Kingdom and the United States -- any given scene might require an actor to film it multiple times, as with the case of Clayton, whose character is based in San Francisco but is constantly thrust into the consciousness of her sensates in places like Seoul and Mexico City.

“I can’t tell you how many times I’ve been on set, sitting there about to film and being like, ‘Wait a minute. I'm sorry [but] I don't know what episode this is,’” Clayton tells ET. Unlike other episodic shows, Sense8 does block shooting, meaning that when they’re on location in South Korea, they shoot all 10 episodes’ worth of scenes and then move on. “So we’re constantly moving backward and forward because nothing’s ever in order. You can show up day one in [South] Korea and we’re shooting episode seven.”

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But all the traveling has opened Clayton up to a new world of cultures, languages and experiences, like shooting in Sao Paulo, Brazil, during the world’s largest LGBT pride event, which has millions of participants. Caught on camera by fans and paparazzi, the cast was seen filming scenes on a parade float while making out and dancing with each other -- recalling some of the show’s sexual and celebratory scenes. The experience, Clayton says, was “bonkers.”

“When you’re there, you can feel the collective heartbeat of these people and their passion,” she continues, adding that the country’s fandom made her feel like Selena Gomez. “They swarmed the hotel. They swarmed the van and we were getting chased. I was like, ‘Oh my god, we’re stars!’”

Photo: Netflix

While Clayton embraces the challenges of traveling, it does become difficult at times recalling specific emotions for scenes, especially scenes like the one in the first season when Nomi and Lito discuss coming to terms with their gender and sexual identity. The moment was shot first in San Francisco and then months later at the Diego Rivera Museum in Mexico City. “We had to do it multiple times, and it’s hard,” Clayton reveals. “As an actor, you know, you shoot something and you put it on the shelf. But our show is so different. You film something and then you're going to shoot it at least one more time, if not two, three or four. So to bring up that emotion again, it gives you an opportunity to explore a different level of it.”

When it came to that particular scene, a standout among fans, Clayton says she didn’t know how emotional the experience would be -- especially when she realized how much it aligned with Sense8 co-creator and director Lana Wachowski’s life. “That particular flashback scene,” the actress says of Nomi’s story about getting abused by young boys in a gym shower, “was based on something that had happened to Lana. Once I got on set and I realized what was happening, it became extremely emotional for both of us... I was a mess by the time we were done shooting that.”

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However, there have been plenty of happy moments on set, like when Clayton met Lana’s sister Lilly, who came out publicly as transgender in March 2016. While on set for season one -- known then as Andy -- to co-direct seven episodes, she took a break during filming of the second season to focus on her transition. “During season one, I felt with Lilly that there was this inherent sadness,” Clayton says. “And then once I knew and I saw her -- when I met Lilly -- you’ve never seen a bigger smile on anyone’s face. I never felt energy radiate from someone like that. It was literally like there were beams of sunlight coming out of her.”

After getting to know Lilly, Clayton knew she “was on the right path” and even applauded her for taking time off. “I thought, I’ve been there. I’ve been through that. And I needed to take some time off,” she says. “I’m so proud of her. She’s exploring her painting and she’s happy. That’s all that matters.”

And at its core, being authentic is what Sense8 is all about, from behind the cameras to what’s seen onscreen. “People are cis, people are trans, people are gay and people are straight. That's the cool thing about our show: We're not showing you anything that isn't going on in the world,” Clayton says of the sci-fi series that’s rooted in human storytelling. “The stuff that all these people do -- the people that they are making love to, the food that they eat, the places that they go, the temples that they worship at -- all of this exists.”