'The OA' star Emory Cohen reveals how he snuck in the show's iconic 'movements' for one key scene

JoJo Whilden/NetflixEmory Cohen as Homer Roberts on ‘The OA: Part One.’
  • Warning: Spoilers ahead for “The OA: Part Two”
  • Emory Cohen plays Homer Roberts on “The OA.” For its second season, “Part Two,” Cohen played a version of Homer in another dimension who goes by Dr. Roberts.
  • Cohen spoke with INSIDER about this character transformation, and revealed how he subtly planted the show’s iconic Movements into scenes.
  • Visit INSIDER’s homepage for more.

Netflix’s mind-bending science fiction series “The OA” stars Emory Cohen as one of several characters who are cosmically bound across multiple universes. On “Part Two” of the show, the consciousness of Cohen’s character Homer is lost inside the body of another version of the same person, known as Dr. Roberts in the new dimension.

In creating this hybrid of his character, Cohen snuck in small gestures that were reminiscent of the Movements performed by Homer and OA on “Part One.”

“You get to throw in all this weird stuff,” Cohen told INSIDER over the phone earlier this week. “There were a couple times when I’d try to put into one of the Movements into the acting.”

INSIDER spoke with Cohen about the scene where you can see one of those Movements, the link between Homer and mythology, and one secret about inter-dimensional travel he’s not ready to reveal yet.

Zal Batmanglij, Emory Cohen Brit Marling, Netflix Vice President of Original Content Cindy Holland and Jason Isaacs attends the premiere of Netflix's 'The OA' Todd Williamson/Getty ImagesCohen standing between ‘The OA’ co-creators Zal Batmanglij and Brit Marling at the 2016 premiere of ‘Part One.’

Renfro: How did you go about creating the double-layered character of Homer and Dr. Roberts?

Cohen: There’s this whole thing about how [OA’s consciousness] is suppressing Nina Azarova. So I tried to look at it as if this Dr. Roberts figure was heavily suppressing Homer. When I was creating the character who feels like they have this hero inside them but doesn’t know how to access that, I found that somewhat relatable. I think a lot of people feel like that. I know I felt it.

On Part One, Homer is from this whole other place. He’s been living in captivity, he’s travelled to the afterlife and back. He seems so journeyed. And then Dr. Roberts can go get sushi and ride his bike – he has all of these freedoms but he’s so trapped within his own psyche.

OA and Homer on The OA part I NetflixNetflixOA and Homer together on ‘The OA: Part One.’

Renfro: That inversion of Homer was painful to watch play out. It felt like we were watching Homer have all the things that had had been wanting while he was trapped underground, except he wasn’t Homer – he was Dr. Roberts.

Cohen: The relationship between my characters [Homer and Dr. Roberts] and Brit Marling’s characters [OA and Nina] is one of those beautiful things. Scott Brown, Will Brill’s character, says it best. He goes, “You know, you were some football player and you held my sanity together when I was locked in a cage underground.”

When Homer is in captivity he has true love and he has a purpose and a mission, and then Dr. Roberts is in this modern world that we’re in where we have all this freedom. You can call an Uber to anywhere and you can GrubHub whatever the hell food you want, he even has an app on his phone where you can see the constellations – all of these pseudo-freedoms that are fake and this knowledge that’s not real.

What he’s missing is all the those real, human elements that Homer has in Part One.

Homer in captivity The OANetflixHomer’s high school mascot was a wolf.

Renfro: You bringing up the term “hero” make me think of the connection made on Part One between Homer and the Odyssey. Have you and Brit Marling and [co-creator and director] Zal Batmanglij talked at all about the correlation between your character and that epic poem?

Cohen: Not really. I saw Homer as more of a protector than a hero. To me, OA is the hero. I used to say that she is like a shaman and [Homer] is a wolf that protects the shaman. But we definitely didn’t talk about any connection to the Odyssey. We didn’t really talk about mythology or folklore. I think that was something we all understood was in and around the project, but we avoided thinking about it in that way to not hit it too hard on the head.

Renfro: What was it like filming the moment when Homer and Dr. Roberts finally integrate in that elevator?

Cohen: It was just about getting that feeling that [Homer] has come back from captivity, or that he’s back in his right mind. Brit [Marling] and Zal [Batmanglij] really helped in the way they edited that scene with the flashbacks.

It’s so funny because Brit [Marling] has told me that she really loves that part and thinking back to actually shooting it, I just remember screaming in an elevator and that’s about it.

Homer The OA season 2 Nicola Goode Netflix 6Nicola Goode/NetflixThe moment Homer and Dr. Roberts’ consciousness integrated on ‘Part Two.’

That was a really vague answer, but there’s one other thing. Ooh, never mind. Now that I just thought about it, it might be something that if I say it, it might give something away. It’s a way that me and Zal have talked about how the character comes to in each new dimension. I was gonna share that, but then I realised I might be giving away stuff that I can’t give away yet.

Renfro: You’re saying it has to do with the transition of one consciousness into another dimension?

Cohen: Yeah and how that jump occurs.

Renfro: Can you explain how the dimension we see for most of Part II is also the place where Homer goes in his NDE on Part I? Is he jumping to the future? Or sideways?

Cohen: I’m not sure, I wouldn’t necessarily say “the future,” because my answer is going to come right from the show. Which is when Riz Ahmed’s character talks about how different spaces hold different dimensions. So the way that I saw it is that Homer’s NDE in season one taps into this other dimension, which becomes Treasure Island. So in the same space in which Dr. Roberts is holding a therapy session with OA, Homer is running around trying to find something living to eat.

How that all coincides? That’s above my pay grade.

But seriously, Riz’s character says it so it makes sense to me: Different spaces can hold different dimensions. You can trust our characters – [they’re] telling you to the truth. We’re just not sure how much that will last until the next season.

The OA and Homer over Shelly NetflixNetflixOA and Homer performing the Movements.

Renfro: “The OA” is definitely one of those show where re-watching it benefits fans so much.

Cohen: Yeah, when I was watching episode one of this season, and Kingsley [Ben-Adir’s] character starts playing the game on the phone and they’re going through the rules of the game, that felt to me like somewhere in that writing is this idea of how [“The OA”] is kind of a game or a puzzle.

When you finish playing game is it ever as fun as when you were in the middle of playing it? I always played Monopoly to enjoy playing it, I didn’t play to win. And that’s a metaphor for how to watch the show, at least that’s how I interpreted it.

Renfro: There are a lot of scenes like that where fans can easily interpret different meanings.

Cohen: When we were prepping “Part Two,” I was watching some fan theories. I work with an acting coach for about a month before each season, and I just wanted to check it out and they were really interesting.

I remember there was one about a cut on Homer’s forehead that happens on French’s that I maybe stole an idea or two from.

Renfro: You saw that theory and then worked that into your method?

Cohen: Yeah, if it’s an interesting idea then maybe I’ll use it. That’s the interesting things about the show – because [I’m not writing the show], my process of acting and coming up with ideas for the character is like creating my own little theories, and then acting based on them.

What’s fun is that I can be as confused as anyone -I just need to know where the character is supposed to go. But you get to throw in all this weird stuff. There were a couple times when I’d try to put into the acting one of the Movements. We’ll just throw them in sometimes.

Emory Cohen The OA Part II Trailer NetflixNetflixSome fans thought Homer was doing a Movement in this part of ‘The OA: Part II’ trailer.

Renfro: I saw people noticing that when the first trailer came out. There’s a shot of Dr. Roberts when his hands on his forehead in a shape from one of the Movements. Was that intentional?

Cohen: Oh no. The sun was in my eyes. [Laughing] There are other ones that are intentional, but that one wasn’t.

Renfro: Can you remember a scene where a Movement intentionally appeared?

Cohen: I don’t know if it made it in, but there might be one in the first therapy scene with Dr. Roberts and OA.

Renfro: Well I’ll have to go back and see if I can spot that one.

Editor’s Note: Upon rewatching the scene, we spotted what appears to be the movement in Cohen’s performance of one line. You can see the two GIFs below, one of the potential movement from “Part Two” and the coinciding Movement as performed on the “Part One” finale.

This interview has been edited and condensed for clarity.

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