Ellen Page on The Umbrella Academy and Learning to Stand Up for Herself
The actress is taking the road less travelled.
Ellen Page has just returned from a stroll with her wife—Canadian dancer-choreographer Emma Portner—and their dog, Patters, a three-and-a-half-year-old rescue Jack Russell mix, when we reach her on the phone in her current home base of New York. “I’m a walking maniac,” laughs Page. “I don’t know why. I was asking my wife that this morning, like, ‘Dude, why do I love walking so much?’”
If you live in Toronto, chances are you may have even seen the 32-year-old last year on one of her countless strolls (she and Patters are partial to High Park) between filming scenes of Netflix’s new superhero drama, The Umbrella Academy (co-starring Mary J. Blige and Game of Thrones’ Tom Hopper). The graphic-novel adaptation—Page’s first major TV role in 15 years—follows the seemingly ordinary Vanya (Page) and her six superpowered adoptive siblings as they reunite upon the death of their eccentric father and—minor detail here—the eve of the apocalypse.
It’s a superhero series, yes, and one that can easily be compared to Page’s first comic-book franchise, X-Men. (She played Kitty Pryde.) But it’s also an oddball family drama with a quirky tone, which is why the Oscar nominee was eager to do it. We’ve seen her in festival faves like 2007’s Juno and blockbuster fare like Inception, and now with a big 2019 ahead (she’ll also star in Netflix’s revival of Armistead Maupin’s Tales of the City), there’s a clear sense that Page is finally taking on Hollywood on her own terms.
So, why The Umbrella Academy?
“I read the pilot and burned through it. It was like nothing I had ever read before—just such an interesting take on the genre. The core of the show, to me, is this family, these siblings, who are all actually really wounded people who’ve had these crazy childhoods. It’s a deeply human, intense story.”
If you could have one of the superpowers from the show, which would you pick?
“I would want the rumours power, which is basically where I would say—and don’t worry, I’d never do this to you—‘I heard a rumour you can’t write,’ and then you wouldn’t be able to write. You can use it for some really awesome, positive stuff. You could go up to certain people and be like, ‘Hey, I heard a rumour that you’re full of love and kindness’ or ‘I heard a rumour that climate change exists.’ [Laughs] You could really use it for good.”
You’ve been working steadily since you were 10. What do you wish you’d known at the beginning of your career?
“How to stand up for myself. Shouldn’t we actually encourage people, particularly young people, to feel like they’re in an inclusive space? But, no, they’re not the priority. And, obviously, the stupid shit that was put into my head about the industry and being gay.”
How did you learn to stand up for yourself?
“I grew stronger. I didn’t feel afraid of what people were going to think of me—I’m not ashamed of who I am. But it took a while, whether it was just standing up for what I wanted a character to wear or whatever. You wouldn’t believe what’s been said to me. And it wasn’t that long ago, just post-coming out [in 2014]. It blows my mind what people think is appropriate.”
Do you ever think about writing or directing?
“I do, for sure. I have always wanted to direct. More and more lately, to be honest, I’m interested in non-fiction, particularly after two years of making Gaycation [the Viceland docuseries co-hosted by Page]. I tend to think more in the documentary space now. We’ll see!”
So, next up, documentaries; but first…more walking? Do you get back home to Nova Scotia often?
“Once in a while. I’m going to try to go more. I love to get to the woods. [Laughs] I’m that person. When I’m there, I’m just a better person.”
This article first appeared in the March 2019 issue of ELLE Canada.