The Herald on Sunday
Why Sweet Tooth is the story of hope and positivity you don’t want to miss
James Brolin, Christian Convery and Nonso Anozie tell Georgia Humphreys about their post-apocalyptic fairytale following a young ‘hybrid’ deer-boy
When you hear Hollywood’s Robert Downey Jr is attached to something, you know it’s going to be good. Indeed, Sweet Tooth – the series The Avengers star and his wife Susan have worked on as executive producers – is currently ranked number one on Netflix around the world.
So, what’s it about? Well, based on the DC Vertigo comic books by Jeff Lemire, the eight-part fantasy drama is set 10 years after “the Great Crumble”, when a cataclysmic virus wreaked havoc on the world.
It led to the mysterious emergence of hybrids – babies born part human, part animal – and it’s not known if they are the cause or result of the virus.
Regardless, many humans fear and hunt them, which brings us to the main character of the show – a sheltered hybrid deer-boy named Gus (Christian Convery) who, after a decade of living safely in his secluded forest home, unexpectedly befriends a wandering loner named Jepperd (Nonso Anozie). So begins an extraordinary adventure together, as they head across what’s left of America in search of answers, facing complex dangers and enemies, and meeting allies along the way.
Here, we chat to Convery and Anozie, plus the show’s memorable narrator, James Brolin, to find out more.
One of the reasons Sweet Tooth works so well is the fantastic rapport between Gus and Jepperd. And it turns out the actors who play them only met the day before they started filming.
“We had no chemistry read, we didn’t do a table read, but as soon as we met, I loved that we had instant click and connection,” enthuses Canadian Convery who, at just 11-years-old, gives an exceptional performance. I really felt like that helped bring out the best in our relationship in the show.”
“We’re both gamers; we both have Oculus Quest VR machines,” adds Londonborn Anozie, 42. “And Christian’s mum, Lisa, is really, really good at getting the whole cast together off-set, whether that’s dinner, she took us to pottery classes, we did painting classes, like the whole cast together.
“One of the things that people seem to keep on mentioning is that our relationship seems real. That’s because it really is. He’s like a little brother.”
LA native Brolin, 80, has had an impressive career as an actor, producer and director, including roles in films Traffic, Westworld and Capricorn One. But Sweet Tooth is his first time working as a voice actor, and it all came about because he’s a friend of the Downeys – and they only wanted him for the role.
“I auditioned for vocal gigs – never got one,” says the star, who has three children – including actor Josh – and is married to Barbra Streisand, his third wife.
“And now, suddenly, I’m flavour of the week, got my second one [vocal gig] and people are talking about doing others.
“People tell me I have a recognisable voice, but obviously wasn’t recognisable enough to hire before,” he elaborates. “So I feel like I’m in a new area, and that I can tweak and refine it in areas that I don’t even know about yet. The voice is the best tool to unlock you.”
He confides that he noticed how “rickety” he was in the first episode.
“And then, as the show went on, I got more solid about what I was saying and maybe I began to subliminally understand the direction of the show. But I like playing in the dark, in a way.”
One thing that Convery thinks fans and viewers and families should take away from the series is “a message of hope, because
Sweet Tooth is a tale of two friends going on an adventure, about hope and positivity”.
“During a dark time like Covid, you need that hope and optimism to push through it,” he continues.
Also, he notes there’s the idea that “being different is OK” which Anozie agrees with.
“I think it helps us put an eye on society – as to how we focus on the outsider, the minority, the person that’s different,” follows the actor, whose breakout role was the lead in King Lear with the Royal Shakespeare Company. But it does it without focusing on any of the social groups that we have in our present view.”
Gus is obviously different from other humans, and Convery admits that portraying being a deer was tricky.
“I had to do tons of research about deer, how they move, react, and I really had to constantly be aware that I am a deer, that I have heightened senses and antlers. And I’m always thinking about that stuff during my scenes. That was one of the biggest challenges of getting to bring Gus alive.”
Brolin has been in plenty of films involving speculative sci-fi, conspiracy theories, and shady governments. Does it surprise him that, this many years on, these are still topics in things like Sweet Tooth?
“Shady governments – I mean, that’s my favourite subject anyway,” quips the star.
But in speaking about the more “weird” themes, Brolin brings up the subject of the two “clone dogs” he and Streisand have.
“My wife was so in love with our little dog that we had for 11, 12 years, that she had the vet take a little sample and then later on said ‘I’m gonna do this’ and you hope to get the same dog.
“They called up and they said ‘Your litter has just been born. There are four dogs.’ So anyway, we ended up with two puppies. They’re just the greatest. We’re just crazy about them.
“The world is changing – what a phenomenon. And art depicts reality many times. I think we have the same thing with Sweet Tooth – that it’s predicting possibilities. Who knows – every day is a thrill on this Earth.”
Sweet Tooth is available to watch on Netflix now.