You might have seen him on Netflix: a little boy, with antlers sprouting out of his head. That’s Gus, and he appears on Sweet Tooth, a show based on a set of DC comics that centres around hybrids (animal-humans), a virus that irrevocably changes the world, and secrets to unearth. Recently, we are TallyPress had the chance to sit down and talk to cast members and producers of Sweet Tooth, and here’s what we discovered!
Cast members and producers we talked to:
- Christian Convery (Gus)
- Stefania LaVie Owen (Bear)
- Jim Mickle (Executive Producer)
- Beth Schwartz (Executive Producer)
1) Cast members drew on actual experience of being in a real-life pandemic
Filming for Sweet Tooth took place during the pandemic, in New Zealand, and both Christian and Stefania thought that it was both easy and tough, as the show has a similar premise to the pandemic we’re in. Everyone on set was very effective at following safety protocols while staying on task, but little things like meeting up more often, hugging, or fist bumps couldn’t happen, and that took away a lot of the fun. According to Stefania, the “good” part of it was that they brought their actual experience of being in a real-life pandemic to the screen.
2) A new way to look at the end of the world
Executive producers Jim Mickle and Beth Schwartz both think that this show incorporates a new way to look at apocalyptic shows, and that is a surprising dose of joy. Jim in particular thinks that the story Jeff Lemire (the comic writer) wrote has a universal element to it, and they were able to put their own twist on it and play it through their lens. Audience might expect a certain thing when they hear “pandemic” or “end of the world”, but then they’ll come in and find an adventure story that’s both emotional and escapist.
3) The show is lighter, and more family-friendly
Both Christian and Stefania have read the comic books, and Christian thinks that they’re dark. “Really, really dark. Like, really dark. And definitely not family-friendly.” But even as they made it lighter and more fit for the family, Christian still thinks that they managed to retain the dark aspects in the ways that matter. In fact, Jim said that it was the prompt of trying to find a new way to look at the end of the world that led them in this direction. They were looking at how stuff like nature would actually thrive and bounce back, and how we’d probably wind up with some beautiful landscapes because of that, and it kept snowballing. Using Gus as the compass to drive every decision and the point of view of the story contributed to the overall lighter, more magical feel as well.
4) The escape on the train was originally a passenger train, not a cargo train
When asked if there was anything major they had to change from their initial plans due to the pandemic, plot-wise or in other aspects, Beth revealed that the only big change she could think of was the train. In the show, there’s a scene where Gus, Bear, and Jepperd are on a cargo train, initially supposed to be a passenger train, but they didn’t want to take the risk with extras. The train was stocked full with snacks and toilet paper, and Beth said now she can’t imagine it any other way!
5) “Being different is okay”
That’s what Christian got from playing Gus in Sweet Tooth. If you don’t already know, Gus is a hybrid deer-boy, and in the show, he’s always being hunted. Christian wonders why people are always hunting Gus (and the other hybrids) down, just because people are scared to know if the hybrids are the cause of the virus or not. But Christian thinks being different is okay, while Stefania says she admires Bear’s strength, where she just keeps walking, even if she doesn’t know the destination.
6) Bear was challenging to play for Stefania
Speaking of Bear, Stefania found Bear as a character a challenge, because lots of what Stefania felt like she was going through at the time paralleled Bear’s life. Bear had the Animal Army, but it was gone after a while, leaving Bear alone and isolated. Stefania also felt a little isolated during filming, which worked well to play her character, but didn’t work so well for her own mental health. Bear, having lost everything and having to start again, was feeling lost, uncertain, and not knowing her direction. Stefania felt all of that right alongside her character, so it was a challenge for her.
7) There was lots of research involved to play Gus and Bear
Christian said, “I don’t think anyone’s trained and prepared to become a deer before, so getting to do that was pretty hard.” He had to learn all there is about deers, like how deers adapt to their surroundings, their senses, and their reactions, but it was an amazing experience because he picked up lots of fun fact about deer. He also had to do a lot of parkour training. Stefania’s research leaned heavily into the academic side. She did a paper on cultural anthropology at the local university while she was filming, and it was a study of indigenous cultures, and their practices in relationship to the society we’re living in now. That was helpful for Bear, because Bear’s unsatisfied with the way the world has developed, and she believes in a closer relationship with the Earth.
8) The producers hope it’s hopeful
Both Jim and Beth hope that the audience will be able to walk away from the show getting a sense of hope and optimism for the future. As mentioned earlier, they sprinkled bits and pieces of hope and joy in the show, especially through Gus, and Jim hopes that this apocalyptic story gives you a little bit of hope to hang on, or optimism that if we stick through it together, and we’ll get through it. Having actually done the show through COVID-19 and releasing it now, the theme is probably bigger than ever. Beth agrees, and hopes that collectively, the audience will feel a nice escapism when they watch the show.
That concludes the conversation we had, and remember to catch Sweet Tooth, now streaming on Netflix!