Interview: Aidan Gallagher - advocating for environmental change.
"What needs to happen is people speaking out not one day a year for a march but every day on their social media to show they really care about clean air more than looking cute. Air pollution is the number one killer in the world and people keep posting selfies while claiming to care about children or puppies or whatever. People are such posers. It's sad but the world will end due to lack of sincerity and conviction. Even if you only have two followers it doesn't matter, make at least one of your posts about clean air and how much you appreciate it. People post photos of a cute outfit, but not about clean air and water and food and shelter or climate. Be thankful for the essentials first, right?" He might only be fifteen-years-old, but Aidan Gallagher (best known for his role as Number Five on Netflix's adaptation of Gerard Way's 'The Umbrella Academy') is not one to mince words, and already has a formidable reputation as a passionate advocate for environmental causes and speaking out against political corruption.
Recently, Gallagher also addressed a fan's question about why teenagers are having to fight to persuade adults to help the dying planet: "I think it's because kids care about their future and having a clean planet and adults are concerned about making money. There are clean ways to make money but so much of the current established industries are worth trillions and comprised of planet destroying industries. Energy for just one example has grown to the point that it's poisoning our planet to death and we now must transition to clean energy or we all will go extinct with all life on this planet as our eco system collapses. We have the money and technology to switch to green energy but the current oil companies are making too much profit to switch. They are run by boards of billionaires who are addicted to money as strongly as any drug addiction. They bribe and blackmail politicians to keep their industry running regardless of public protests. This is the problem. It's why I post against corruption as well as the environment. We can't save the planet without stopping the corruption. This happens in every country and every industry, even though corruption and bribery and blackmail are all illegal in every country I'm aware of. Everyone considers these things to be evil and against humanity and decency and yet greedy individuals allow them to continue as long as they get their share."
While Netflix has officially renewed 'The Umbrella Academy' for a second season and Gallagher has been confirmed to return, right now, Gallagher is looking forward to releasing more music this year, having kept himself busy in the studio self-producing recording sessions.
Coup De Main caught up with Aidan Gallagher to discuss his upcoming debut EP, everyone's favourite time-travelling assassin Number Five, and the importance of educating yourself about the earth's sixth mass extinction...
Click here to order a CDM x Aidan zine (i.e. a mini-magazine featuring photos + quotes from this interview).
COUP DE MAIN: What can you tell me about your very first ever EP that you're currently working on?
AIDAN GALLAGHER: I’m currently producing my first EP ‘Blue Neon’. I’m planning to release singles this year and then follow up with a world tour. The songs are about things that matter that you can’t see, but can feel in your soul. And how the passing of time affects those things. I’ve put in a lot of layers.
CDM: Are you collaborating with anyone else on it? Or are you producing it all yourself?
AIDAN: I have worked in the past with producers, but now I’m producing myself. It’s the hardest and most fun step I’ve taken in my music. Producing it myself is really allowing me to focus on certain parts of my music and songs without distraction from outside sources or influences. Ultimately, it’s a very satisfying feeling.
CDM: How does your songwriting process work?
AIDAN: For me, it starts with a feeling that sort of leads to me writing and capturing the words and then the melody. It works best when I’m just relaxing; following my heart with the time just spent making music for fun. I might work it out on the piano or the guitar in parts. Record it, let it sit, come back and work on it. It’s really something that just flows artistically so if I’m in the right head space, maybe inspired by where I am or finding a moment to myself, sometimes a song just comes to me and I have to quickly get to it, so I don’t lose it!
CDM: Do you prefer writing on the piano or guitar more?
AIDAN: A lot comes to me when I’m just playing my guitar, but it is both. Hard to say which one, it depends.
CDM: What was running through your mind while writing your song 'Blue Neon'?
AIDAN: While I like for people to come to their own conclusions, ‘Blue Neon’ is about a lot of things put together. For one thing, just the name makes you think of something that you might have a feeling about. Is it the feeling you get at night when you are out in a place that is all lit up with different coloured lights? When I’m writing, it’s really the interpretation of a feeling or feelings that is coming through. Maybe memories combined with something I’m feeling right now, or something that triggers something else.
CDM: What do you like most about making music?
AIDAN: It’s just my passion. It seems like I’ve been making music in some way my whole life. Making music is relaxing and challenging at the same time. When I’m in it, it’s like a flow that has my whole concentration. I think it’s the same feeling you have when you are creating maybe a painting, or cooking, or doing something absorbing and fun.
CDM: Do you want to play more live shows?
AIDAN: Yes! Definitely. Playing live is really fun. Right now, it’s also kind of unpredictable, unlike being in a studio where you control everything. There’s a raw quality to live music that is electric. I like playing music with people around me. The feedback and interaction is cool.
CDM: 'The Umbrella Academy' showrunner Steve Blackman has said that Number Five was the hardest role to cast, having already seen 300 other kids before they watched your tape. What was the audition process like for you?
AIDAN: A lot of people have asked me that. Almost like because it was hard for them to find me, maybe they think it was hard for me to audition. But the audition process is not like that. When you audition you have no idea of where they are in their search, you only know they called you and sent you a script and you want to do your best. You want to get the part. First, I didn’t think I could get it because it was so ultimately cool and mostly when you audition there are so many factors and a lot of luck. But I already knew the character from being a fan of the comics and just having the opportunity to self-tape for it was amazing. Just getting to study and bring Number Five to life was fun it itself just for an audition. To inhabit that space of a multilayered person like Five. In a weird way I feel like I was born to play this character even though I’m nothing like him. Except that I've never felt my age my whole life. I sent them this tape and then they called me and there were meetings and more auditions in person and then when it all came together, I knew I was probably the luckiest person ever.
CDM: There's a promo poster for Number Five which features all his essentials (coffee, a donut, his flask, a peanut butter sandwich, Dolores, his Umbrella Academy uniform, etc.), what essential items would be in an 'Aidan Gallagher Starter Pack'?
AIDAN: First and foremost, I need a guitar. Also, I need some coffee too. And I’m attached to my watch, which my Dad gave to me. Those three things.
CDM: The soundtrack for the show is incredible. If you could make Five your own playlist of songs to listen to, what would you put on there for him?
AIDAN: The parts of the show that feature Five and music are perfect! So definitely Queen and Woodkid, hands down are right on. I think I’d add in in something like My Chemical Romance's 'Dead' for its chaotic nature and maybe even some EDM for certain action sequences.
CDM: It must be exciting for you that Gerard Way and Gabriel Bá are both still working on 'The Umbrella Academy' comics, with a few more issues of 'Hotel Oblivion' still yet to be released. If you could write your own Umbrella Academy instalment, what would you want to happen in the storyline?
AIDAN: Meeting Gerard and Gabriel and learning about their ideas for Five has been amazing. This has been a dream come true. I think everyone who loves the show has their theories of how they would write an instalment. There’s so much to think about what could happen. It would be interesting to explore on screen what actually happened to Five after the Handler took him out of the apocalypse. The comics provide details about how his DNA was altered to make him the deadliest assassin in the universe and what he did for the Commission. So, I would write about that.
CDM: I'm hoping that the show introduces Five's puppy Mr. Pennycrumb at some point!
AIDAN: As an actor you never know what’s coming in a TV series. It’s not like a movie where you read the whole script ahead of time. I have no idea what adventures Steve might take us on given the opportunity of a season two, although I have some theories. But I have to be careful, because if I put a theory out there now so many people are listening to what I say about this show and the rumour mill starts. It’s crazy.
CDM: Number Five says to Luther: "There's no such thing as good guys or bad guys. There's just people going about their lives." Do you agree or disagree with him?
AIDAN: It’s a heavy line. I mean, objectively you could say Hitler is a bad guy. But he didn’t think he was, which is weird. He thought he was a good guy. I could point to some of our politicians and what they are doing to our environment. They are bad guys, but they don’t think they are. I think Five is telling Luther to stop focusing on his own morality and think about the context of the problem of saving the world from the apocalypse at any cost, because the cost will be minimal compared to the moral directive to save 7 billion people from the end. Luther wants to live by a code. Five has no code and just deals with things as they happen. I agree with the idea of context.
CDM: In one of your behind-the-scenes videos from filming 'The Umbrella Academy', you express some concern over the use of hairspray by your glam team. Other creatives like Billie Eilish and Grimes request cruelty-free and environmentally friendly products from hair and make-up artists that they work with. Is this something you would want to do in the future?
AIDAN: That’s a good idea. The make-up artists usually tell me their products are vegan because they know I am and know I don’t want anything toxic or cruel put on me.
CDM: You have 2.3 million followers on Instagram and instead of promoting paid brand partnerships like other young actors, today you've been speaking out against political corruption by men in power from the energy and pharmaceutical industries. Why is it important to you to use your social platforms for good?
AIDAN: I don’t care about selfies, although I like sharing what I’m doing with fans. I grew up around other celebrities and some just want to grow their following but not use their influence for anything good. I have found my posts have cost me at least half of my potential following because kids my age are mostly turned off by posts about the planet or against corruption, but the ones that stay are the ones that care - so by definition they are the smart ones, and I prefer a smart following over a bigger one. And I would rather be a caring person over a non-caring one. I also accept that my fanbase is 75% female and that from time to time they still want me to post a photo of myself, so I do, but it’s mostly posts about important things people need to know. There are important things happening right now that are going to affect everyone’s future. We are currently in the sixth mass extinction, and 60% of animal species have gone extinct. They are the canary in the coal mine for humans. I wish people would wake up and I’m trying to wake them up. I’m deadly serious about these issues. Look at what people stand for and decide for yourself if that is who you want to follow. Or if that is a product you actually want to buy and is it going to help the world situation or not? I could probably have more followers if I took more photos of myself and maybe did some dancing like others. Lots of people do not like my posts. Ultimately, I’m an optimist and I think I can inspire change on a global scale.
CDM: In 'The Umbrella Academy', Reginald Hargreeves tells his family that they must "remember there's no individual stronger than the collective." Is that how you feel about you and your fans bonding over helping to save the environment?
AIDAN: Well, it’s a bit of a coincidence that I landed this role of a guy who’s trying to save the world from an apocalypse and I’m also trying to save the world from an apocalypse. Actually, I think individuals have a lot of power. If everyone starts small with just one thing, just one change, that will have a positive effect, and also yes collectively it can be stronger. So, it is both.
CDM: Which industries do you think need sustainability plans most urgently implemented in?
AIDAN: We need to look around and recognise how much plastic is being produced. It’s hard to believe plastic is everywhere and it’s so damaging. We’re at a point now where scientists have discovered that there is so much plastic in the ocean broken down into microplastics that the fish ingested, that now they have found microplastic particles in humans. We are eating the plastic. What does that tell us? Also look at the air quality. Factory farming is contributing to half of carbon emissions. Are we such a dumb species that we are willing to poison our own oxygen? The plastics and toxins that are running into the oceans are killing the health of the oceans and the fact is that the oceans produce almost 70% of the oxygen on earth we need to breathe. So, before we even talk about overfishing, or over-breeding of cows and pigs, or deforestation, we are already killing off the oxygen supply with the industries that make our ‘stuff’. This is a toxic cycle that is coming to a dark ending very soon. The only thing keeping it going is greedy and corrupt governments who care more about money than the future of the planet.
CDM: How would you explain the earth's sixth mass extinction to anyone who isn't already familiar with what is going on?
AIDAN: I just did. It’s really not a hard concept to understand if a person cares enough to wake up and stop ignoring it. The question is, can people acknowledge the science or is it so anxiety provoking they can’t even think about it today? We are growing too fast as a species for this planet. The maximum sustainable human capacity of planet Earth is 5 billion people. We are currently at 7.5 billion, so we are using 1.5x the resources of the planet and the planet can not recover from this or sustain it. Soon we will have 10 billion humans on Earth. This is the simplest way to explain it: If you were on an elevator with a big sign that said maximum weight limit; 5 people, you would feel comfortable with 2 or 3 people on it right? If a 4th got on you’d start to worry how much everyone weighs (or consumes). When the 5th person got on you’d want to get off, right? I mean, the cable will snap over 5 people, the sign clearly says. We are currently on an elevator that can only handle the weight of 5 people but we are crammed in with 7.5 very heavy people (who consume way too much of everything). It’s just a matter of time before the cable snaps and we all go extinct at 7.5 billion. But every floor, another person crams their way on and no-one can get out. This keeps happening and we can hear the cable creaking and ready to break.
CDM: What does it mean to you to have been appointed as the youngest United Nations ambassador ever?
AIDAN: It is a great honour and even bigger responsibility, and hopefully it allows me to reach a wider global audience with my environmental messages.
A MESSAGE TO NEW ZEALAND...
Watch a music video for Aidan Gallagher's song 'Time' below...