Netflix’s Sweet Tooth feels precisely like what people should want to watch after over a year of enduring a pandemic. Granted, the show does involve a virus as part of the setup, but what unfolds is an awe-inspiring story that’s based upon a comic-book (which ran under DC’s Vertigo imprint) by creator Jeff Lemire. The show carries a lighter spirit than the comic, but we’ve still got a post-apocalyptic fairytale about what happens when a great sickness (which is poorly dealt with by humans) ends with a miracle. That miracle would be the appearance of “hybrids,” babies who are born half-human and half-animal, and as one might imagine, a certain segment of mankind still does not react well.
Despite what sounds like a downer of a description, the show’s a slam dunk for Warner Bros. and executive producer Robert Downey Jr. Much of the success is down to the central dynamic, a hybrid deer-boy named Gus, a.k.a., “Sweet Tooth” (Christian Convery), and a wandering loner named Tommy Jeppard, a.k.a. “Big Man” (Nonso Anozie). Together, they give off a real odd-pair vibe that’s not unlike what we’re currently seeing in The Mandalorian (i.e., the protector and the scene-stealer with the adorable ears); and the duo sets off on a cross-country quest, which sees them through a whirlwind set of events that neither could have imagined. The episodes demonstrate extraordinary world-building that should lead into future seasons, if the Netflix audience knows what’s good for them.
It certainly helps that Convery (who is only 11 years old with an impressively lengthy list of credits) and Anozie (RocknRolla, Game of Thrones) churn out a chemistry that will keep viewers invested in this show after the season finale. The pair was gracious enough to sit down with us and tell us why this post-apocalyptic series is so unique, and (in a few ways) how the show’s much more than “Mad Max Meets Bambi.”
Your characters are strangers at the beginning of the season. Did you do any bonding exercises beforehand, or let the bond develop on its own?
Christian: We’d never met before! We never even got a chance to say hi! We never talked to each other, that’s it. We never did, and then the first day on set for him, he comes in, and he’s in costume, and we’re just being thrown into a scene, and I guess we just developed a connection on the fly?
Nonso: Yeah, we just clicked. It was interesting. Obviously, with people who you work with, you want to get on with them because you’re gonna spend time telling the story, so it’s convenient for that to be the case. But we genuinely clicked, we didn’t have a chemistry test, we didn’t do any of that. They spent so much time trying to cast Gus and trying to cast Jeppard, and that’s what they had the time to do, to make sure, “These are the guys that we want,” but how we related to each other wasn’t something that we had a chance to do beforehand, because we were in different parts of the world as well. It’s just so amazing that we just came together and kicked. He’s like my little brother, do you know what I mean? My little little brother, so it was easy to me to play a kind-of father figure to Gus. There’s that natural and genuine real connection there, for me, anyway.
The connection feels real, and meanwhile, the comic book has been described as “Mad Max meets Bambi.” How do you think that holds up for the series?
Christian: Uhhhhh, I’ve never watched Mad Max.
Nonso: [Laughs] Whaaaat?!
Yeah, you probably have a few years to go before that’s a good idea, Christian.
Nonso: Oh, I can answer the question. That’s an interesting analogy, and I think there’s definitely themes in both of those films that run through Sweet Tooth. I’ve always been the one to kind-of think that there’s no right or wrong with people’s interpretations, and we’ve done our best job to tell the story. And it’s up to the people at home and all the families who sit down and watch Sweet Tooth and to make up their mind about what they think it is. I definitely feel that there’s something for kids, and something for adults and something for everyone. So, everyone’s going to get a chance to take what they need.
So, if Gus and Jeppard could visit any movie in the world outside of Sweet Tooth, where would you want them to show up?
Christian: I’d probably put Jeppard and Gus into a fairytale fantasy, I’d say something like Peter Pan, I guess?
Nonso: That would be awesome. And I’d love to see Jeppard and Gus as, like, vampire hunters. With utility belts like stakes and all kinds of weapons.
Christian: Yeah, that’d be funny.
Christian, you’ve already been in so many comic book projects already: Venom, Lucifer, and more. Sweet Tooth seems like a natural progression, so how did you react to getting this role?
Christian: Soooo when I got the role, I was so excited. I was screaming and jumping up and down on the bed, like constantly. And then I got to researching, and then I realized, “Oh wait, I just remembered that Sweet Tooth is a comic book!” And I never really was into comic books or graphic novels at the time, but then I was like, “Mom, can we please order all the comic books for Sweet Tooth!” And she was like, “Yeah, because you got the job, sure!” We ordered them all, and I just read them over and over, like, five times. That’s when I really started to get into graphic novels and comic books more.
And Nonso, you’re known for roles on high-profile shows like on Zoo and Game of Thrones. How did you create a character with an ambiguous background and who we don’t know much about?
Nonso: I really do feel like Jeppard is a very straightforward character for me. I would just approach it like I do most things. I break down exactly what the character does and what’s written about him and what he says, and that kind of gives me all of my objectives and what I need to do to play the character. What excites me about Jeppard, though, is that he’s a bit of an outsider. Like, I think everybody’s their own outsider in this world, because we’re in a world where there’s no law and no government. To survive a day, you pretty much have to do the worst things, the most despicable things that you never thought you were gonna be capable of doing. You have to lie, cheat, steal, and kill to be alive in this dystopian nightmare in the story of Sweet Tooth. That’s gonna have some way of shaping the character that you build, but I think somewhere deep inside, there is a good part of Jeppard, and I think Gus brings it out, and their relationship together is definitely what shapes and helps to reveal more of Jeppard’s character.
Christian: And on that note, because Jeppard is really tough on the exterior and doesn’t like to show fear or anything like that or be a people person, I would say, I think that Gus is really chipping away at the exterior and getting to his heart and on the inside, I feel like he’s giving Jeppard hope, and he’s giving him inspiration and positivity and energy. I also feel like could take away from the show hope and positivity in a dark time, and that it could bring us hope and positivity.
We definitely need that these days, no doubt about it.
Christian: Yeah, exactly! Because currently during COVID, we need hope and positivity that we’re gonna get through this, which we will.
Nonso: Absolutely, and I think it’s key to remember that the original story of Sweet Tooth was created over a decade ago, so it’s kind of coincidence that the two stories, in terms of the fantasy that we’re telling and the real-life that we’re living, they actually match up. But it’s definitely a beacon of hope in this time that we can overcome anything.
Christian, can you tell me about those deer ears that you wore? They looked so realistic, the way that they moved with you.
Christian: Basically, I have a skull cap that goes on my head, and the ears or attached to that, and they’re remote-controlled by a puppeteer who sits at the camera and watches me move, and he can move the ears to that, basically. So, all I can say is that it’s teamwork, so we’re both working together to make them move as best as possible.
I enjoyed the minimal CGI here, for sure. Also, what do you both feel that this show brings to the post-apocalyptic genre that other shows do not?
Christian: I think that this post-apocalyptic, sci-fi fantasy adventure of a story between Gus and Jeppard will bring a completely new vibe to any movie/TV show that you’ve ever watched. Because first of all, in some movies, there’s some virus that sends the world into chaos, but this story is so unique because of hybrids. I don’t think that I’ve ever seen that concept in a movie or a TV show before. There’s that whole new element about how these new people work together. I think that it also brings a new story about family, friendship, hope, and positivity all into one big, eight-episode season.
Nonso: Yeah, I think what’s unique about it, well, there are many things. One thing is it reminds us sharply about the world that we’ve been living in for the past year even though it wasn’t intended for that purpose. It serendipitously ended up that way. I feel like it’s a dystopian drama and a comedy and there’s satire, and it’s a bit sad, and it has these happy moments that are uplifting, and the whole family can watch it. Now, I love Mad Max, but the whole family can’t watch Mad Max, and I feel like Sweet Tooth is unique in that sense, that it presents really difficult topics in a way that, and it honors the story of the original comic books, in a way that the whole family can watch, and that’s quite unique.
Let’s do one final question. What have you guys been watching during the pandemic?
Christian: I’ve just been binge-watching every good show I can find on Netflix. That’s all.
Nonso: I just binged-watched Shadow and Bone. That was fun.
Christian: Oh! I started that but didn’t finish it because I found another good show. I’ve been watching everything.
Nonso: The great thing about Netflix is that you can start and stop things whenever you want, and there’s such a variety of TV shows, so there’s always something new. And hopefully soon, Sweet Tooth is gonna be up there.
Oh, it’ll slide right into the Top 10 list.
Christian: It’s so cool!
Netflix’s ‘Sweet Tooth streams on June 4.