Special for the Republic
Important and representative actor in the film industry Robert Downey Jr. left his Iron Man character for a while, and all the others that precede his successful career, to assume, along with his wife Susan, the executive production of the series ‘Sweet Tooth’, which this weekend debuted on Netflix with critics in its favor. On this note, Downey enthusiastically recounts his behind-the-scenes experience.
How did you hear about ‘Sweet Tooth’, the Jeff Lemire comic?
There was something about the comic that got us. The main character is a hybrid child, part deer and part human, and my wife had never seen anything like it. The challenge was how to approach this rare boy’s journey and story of transition to adulthood set in a wild context, and create something that was understandable to audiences. We wanted parents and their children to have a great experience watching something together. Also, when Susan (his wife) starts getting involved with something, she doesn’t rest until it brings it to life.
What motivated you to want to adapt it to a series?
This is a wide world with an epic story. Today, history has to amaze me, as if to say, “Wow! What is that? Who are these people? What happens? And then I always leave it to the head office to make sure it sounds real and the characters are great. This series has the macro elements that attract attention, so you will always believe in the characters and give them your support.
In the series, a catastrophic virus changes the world forever, which curiously, in some way, ended up reflecting what is currently happening due to the covid pandemic. How did this situation influence the story?
When we started to develop the story, it seemed like science fiction and out of the ordinary, and soon we were obviously involved in a similar version. But that, on the contrary, helped us reinforce the desire to explore hope and community, and what we must do to rebuild it. Jeff Lemire is a psychic or has a crystal ball or a very accurate tarot card. Considering the complex times, I think it is an entertainment series of real interest for the situation.
How did you find the main actors, Christian Convery (Gus) and Nonso Anozie (Tommy Jepperd)?
We search many places for the perfect Gus, and Christian is a true professional. Gus possesses a positive attitude, but he also has painful moments in his transition to adulthood when he leaves the forest and faces some difficult experiences. Finding a child who could do both was not easy, and with Christian we hit the mark. Also, while I was reviewing the filming evidence, my son came up and said, ‘That’s the guy from the movie’ Playing with Fire! ‘Because he has already participated in so many projects that he is known to younger audiences. I adore this child. It could not have been another. And I love Nonso’s restraint. As they say, prudence is the best part of courage. There are many places where you say, “You start to see a little crack in his armor here.”
Can you tell us a little about the Animal Army and its leader Osa, and with whom the young audience could feel identified?
Osa and the Animal Army are perfectly representative of today’s teenagers, who are much more aware of what is happening in the world, especially the environment, and who see activism as a way to make themselves heard. Osa is this tough and intense teenage warrior. She is a protector of hybrids and an advocate for the preservation of the natural world. And it also has influence and can exercise power. In addition, I think that the Animal Army represents one of the biggest issues or conflicts, which is: how do you not become what you fight against? From the moment I saw Stefania LaVie Owen at the shooting tests, she always showed this spirit and this intensity. We did an extensive casting for Osa, and now with the internet and everything you receive requests and auditions from all over the planet. She is from Wellington, New Zealand. It is a true national treasure. I’m telling you: this girl is a star.
What do you hope people feel when they see ‘Sweet Tooth’?
First and foremost, I hope that people are entertained, that they have the same experience that we had with our children, in which we snuggle up to watch her on the couch and find scenes that we all love or different characters that will be our favorites. If we did the job right, people should laugh, cheer, and, I think, even drop a tear or two.
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