Sweet Tooth team reveals how they tackled prosthetics, pandemics, and casting
The Netflix adaptation of the comic strip Vertigo by Jeff Lemire, Sweet tooth, is one of those rare adaptations that manages to capture the spirit of the source material, while also adding new material to the narrative that fits perfectly. If you’ve read Lemire’s graphic novel, you’ll be familiar with subtle expansions and augmentations. And if you’ve gone neat, then you might be curious about how much material from the book appeared on screen and why.
SYFY WIRE is here to answer some of your questions as we zoomed in with Executive Producer Susan Downey, Executive Producer / Showrunner / Director Jim Mickle and Executive Producer Beth Schwartz to ask them why they decided to rely on Practical puppets for the majority of hybrids, how they decided to handle the pandemic storyline at the heart of the comics, and how their unexpected casting choices made the series better.
*** Spoilers for Sweet tooth Season 1 – Don’t read if you don’t want to be spoiled for specific story elements. ***
On how they approached the pandemic scenario in a COVID reality:
Jim Mickle, showrunner: “The pilot was finished before COVID. It was done in 2019. What was interesting was when I reread the comic in 2016, so much of what Jeff was writing was happening in the real world politically. And then all of a sudden the pandemic aspects came true too. And that’s just the starting point of a completely different story and that’s the story we wanted to tell. Looking at it in 2016, I think the comic was so fresh when i read i remember [thinking] the apocalyptic storytelling has moved on so quickly all of a sudden, so if we do this as an individual adaptation, we’re actually going to feel the tropes of what you know. And the series should feel the same as the comic book. The idea for the storybook dystopia really came from the thought of Gus as the main character, and everything in the story being through his eyes. “
Beth Schwartz, Executive Producer: “I will add that in terms of balancing with the virus and what was going on in the real world, basically we took the entire season off before the pandemic happened. But when we got to the post -production, we had been through the pandemic. It actually allowed us to cut some things off because there is a shortcut now. As we all know what it’s like to wear masks and go out in public with masks, so we don’t have to tell a lot of that story because everyone knows what it’s like. We were able to cut some things, even from the pilot, that we felt we didn’t need to tell this history, because we had all lived it. “
Choosing to bring hybrids to life with prosthetics and puppets instead of full CGI or VFX characters:
Mickle: “Come to think of it, in terms of realism, I think that was my concern. You don’t want to do that and it’s just a green screen and a shiny CGI world. At the same time, I was falling in love with Jim again. Henson, puppets, animatronics, and this world, so I felt like if we brought that handcrafted feel to that le the show and brought the practical work into Gus’ ears and it’s all done. on set. It was just the right way to tell Jeff’s story.
And I remember thinking, there’s no way we can do [Gus’ ears] move. And then talking to Justin Raleigh from Fractured FX, who did our effects, they said, “I think there’s a way to fake that so that we can use the remote controller.” I kept thinking it wouldn’t really work, but we’re going to go this route and we can fix it later. And we had almost nothing to fix later, which is exciting. And that was cool because on set you had a puppeteer who often sat next to you at the monitor and watched. He could anticipate where Christian (Convey) was going to go emotionally or in performance or even with slight tics. [The puppeteer] has a slight delay in what he does, but he’s able to work with Christian almost like music and it was really amazing. And well done to Christian for taking care of this all the time because [the rig] is there and it always makes noise when it turns. He does these really tender scenes and he literally has radio control motors stuck to his ears. It was a process but Grant Lehmann, our puppeteer, was just amazing and he did it effortlessly. “
On weaving comic book characters into the series’ narrative in unexpected ways:
Mickle: “There are things that are textual [from the comics], which is fun. But I think the advantage we have is that there are a lot of great characters that Jeff has that don’t show up until # 20 and I didn’t want to wait until season 4 to meet Dr. Singh ( Adeel Akhtar), for example. We’ve brought some of these people forward and all of a sudden you can tell their origin story. In the comics, you meet people like Gus meet people. We had the benefit of meeting people whenever we wanted, which means you have to create a world around those characters. And it got really fun, to start putting them together with the elements from the book and finding connection points to get back to the comics. Hopefully it looks like the comic, but through a slightly different lens. “
On adding new characters like the Anderson family in “Sorry About All the Dead People”:
Beth Schwartz, Executive Producer: “When we aired all the episodes, we knew we talked a lot about who the world was. How does this virus affect different types of people? And for the first people Gus meets, he didn’t see anyone. , so we mostly wanted him to see his first family because that’s what he ultimately wants. And that’s how we created the Andersons. It’s funny. We wrote this before that. pandemic to happen, because we talked about what if there is this family where the pandemic actually brought them closer? They never got to see their kids because they were at work all the time. And that’s what happened in real life. Come to think of it, it’s still crazy to me, which is why we picked them to be the first people we meet at the outside the fence. “
On casting choices like Will Forte (like Pubba), Nonso Anozie (like Tommy Jepperd) and Christian Convey (like Gus):
Mickle: [Will] knew the door was wide open and [the role] could be as much, or as little, in the future. And it also had to do with how much he loved us and vice versa. I think for me the casting of Will – probably more than any other decision – led to the tone of the show. Originally, he was written to be an ordinary man, much more standard. And again, when [casting director] Carmen (Cuba) came up with her name, it was like, ‘I love Will! It’s perfect!’ And that spills over into every decision. Suddenly, if he’s our version of what a normal guy is, it just makes all the other creative, slightly skewed decisions in a really great way. “
And Nonso was Carmen. She just read the pilot, had no idea where the character had gone, and the first thing she said was, “I think it’s Nonso.” I was like ‘Okay’ and she was right. The character is truly an archetype. Jeff writes in archetypes. And you say, ‘Well, we’ve seen the Clint Eastwood version. what this look like?’ And then you meet Nonso and he brings a physicality that you never dreamed you could find anywhere. But then he also brings this incredible soul and weight to everything he does. It’s not what you originally imagined, and that’s what makes the series special, leaving you open to those decisions. “
Susan Downey, Executive Producer: “When you throw kids you always cast a really wide net. And sometimes they’re professionals, sometimes you go to local schools and try to find the unknown. We did it with that. We were very early on. on Christian, so we almost thought, “It’s too easy.” Literally, we all fell in love with him, so we thought, “Are we doing our due diligence?” So we just kept looking. which was already in progress, we completed it, but we always came back to Christian.
He’s got the two things you really want, especially when you’re doing a TV season, and he’s at the heart of it all. One, you need him to embody the character of Christian. He has that sense of curiosity, that unwavering hope and optimism, and that on the one hand he is quite wise beyond his years and on the other hand, there is something very innocent about him about himself. time. He was perfectly Gus in all of these ways. Second, practically speaking, we also shoot a lot with a child, so you have limited hours. You need a kid who is a pro. It was one of the considerations we had. We thought that was a real advantage, is that he’s going to come in, he’s going to be a professional, he’s going to know his lines, he’s going to hit his marks. There is efficiency here. Obviously, talent is the most important, but it’s a very nice element to bring as well, and he brings them both in spades.
Mickle: “He’s also very funny. Linda Moran, my partner, emphasizes that Christian understands what is funny about him, which is not always the case with actors. Sometimes, especially with comedy, you have to guide him. towards what they can do. And Christian actually has an innate sense of what makes him funny, which is amazing. It allows us to lean into humor in a way that we know he would be able to. make it work. “
Schwartz: “I remember production was pushed up because of COVID, and Christian’s mom would send us all of her videos of him doing parkour, playing guitar, and practicing just as we might ask. for his role. He was really ready and very focused to start work. “
Downey: “We hope it finds a large following and people like it as much as all of us, and that Netflix decides to keep telling the story. We’ve certainly had some nice character growth over the season, but it there is so much there is still a lot to do. We have had some amazing mysteries all along, some of which have been answered, but many of which make you lean in, so if we get the chance we would love it and the earliest would be best. “