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


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.”

MORE: How Daryl Hannah Stole Our Hearts, From 'Splash' to 'Sense8'

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!’”


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.”

MORE: Lana Wachowski on Coming Out: 'Once You Accept Who You Are, You Will Always Be More Free'

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.”