The eight-episode mini-series ZeroZeroZero (available to stream on Amazon Prime), the street nickname for the purest cocaine, follows a massive cocaine shipment, as it journeys from the Mexican cartel managing the drug’s production, to the Italian crime syndicate handling worldwide distribution, and then to the American businessmen and women who are controlling the money that is produced. And when just one link in the chain breaks down, an epic power struggle is sure to erupt, resulting in countless lives hanging in the balance.
During this 1-on-1 phone interview with Collider, actor Dane DeHaan (who plays Chris Lynwood, the younger and formerly sheltered brother who’s stepping up and getting his hands dirty in the family’s cocaine business) talked about taking on such an epic commitment with ZeroZeroZero, why he finds limited series appealing, what made him want to tell this story, working with co-stars Gabriel Byrne and Andrea Riseborough to round out the Lynwood family, exploring his character’s Huntington’s disease, and the process of working with three different directors on the series. He also talked about signing on for the Apple TV+ limited series Lisey’s Story, for which Stephen King has written all of the scripts, and the incredibly collaborative experience it has been.
Collider: First of all, I have to say that I thought your work in this series was just terrific. The whole story was so fascinating, and all of these characters are just so intense and complex and interesting to watch. Did you know that it was going to be so full-on, when you signed on to do this, or is that something that’s hard to gauge until you’re really in it?
DANE DeHAAN: It’s hard to gauge. I certainly knew that I would be travelling around the world. I knew about all of the locations and the time commitment. I had like most of the scripts. But especially since I was coming off of things where most of the crazy things that were happening, I was pretending they were happening, I didn’t really fully understand how intense and visceral the shoot would be, for sure.
Was the fact that this would be just a mini-series of eight episodes with no further seasons part of the appeal, or would you have liked to have explored this even further, if that had been a possibility?
DeHAAN: At the time, I was super happy that it was limited. I’m doing another series, right now, that’s just limited to one season. Those are great for me ‘cause I love having the variety of things. Never say never, but if I have the choice of doing one season of something, or having to commit, in advance, to five or six seasons of something, I would always only do one season. Doing these limited series allows me to have variety, in my career, and still do movies. That’s the goal, to have freedom and variety.
When you read this, what was it about the story and the character that most appealed to you and interested you? Were there things that you felt you could bring to who this character is?
DeHAAN: Yeah. Well, I thought, generally, that the story is incredibly fascinating, just telling these three different stories about generally the same thing. The star of the show is really the $60 million shipment of cocaine. The fact that it wasn’t precious about one storyline or the next, and it was truly trying to accomplish something international, and just the scope of it, was very exciting. And then, within that, I just felt that my character, Chris, definitely had a true sense of humanity to him, and he had more going on than just the many challenges that go to cocaine trafficking. It was appealing to me, as an individual character, because of the personal challenge of it, with the Huntington’s disease and this family dynamic, and everything that went into making him a fully fleshed out character, within the grand scope of the series.
Did it feel like a different kind of acting experience, to be telling a story where the cocaine was really the lead at the center of it and everybody is just revolving around that?
DeHAAN: I don’t know if that was the reason that it felt different. For me, it felt different ‘cause I hadn’t done something gritty and real in awhile. And I had certainly never done an action movie. There was definitely a lot of action. It was visceral, violent and action-packed, with car chases, multiple locations and helicopters. I had never really done a movie exactly like that, so that’s probably mostly why it felt different. And then, in terms of the ensemble of it, the real pro of that is that, although we were travelling around the world to all of these different locations, I always had time off, in between, to be with my family, when they were either shooting other people’s storylines, or moving to the next location and setting up. Even though it took a year to shoot, it’s not like I was away from my family. That was the advantage of the cocaine being the star of the show, and the ensemble being built around that.
The way that we learn about each of these characters is really through the dynamics that they have with their families. How did you view that dynamic for your character, and what was it like to have Gabriel Byrne and Andrea Riseborough to explore that with?
DeHAAN: That dynamic was always very well-written in the script. Certainly, I think it’s interesting that the strongest and favorite child is the eldest daughter. That was cool, to begin with. I think it’s cool that ultimately Andrea’s characters is stronger than mine, in many ways. But, all of that was in there. It’s a dynamic that I was into, for sure. The family dynamic and everything Chris has going on, and how everything is treated, and even the presence of the mother, who has died but still has such an influence on the family, was incredibly interesting. And working with Gabriel, it’s the second time that I’d worked with them. I worked, in the beginning of my career, on In Treatment, so it was definitely cool to be back with him, at a very different place in my life. He’s so awesome and so reliable, and just so great to talk to, and he’s so knowledgeable and always willing to share advice and experience. And Andrea is just such a talented actress. She shows up to set, ready to go, and she’s there for you, and she’s talking to you and listening to you. That’s really all that you can ask for, in an acting partner. The family relationship was so well-written, but then to have two amazing actors to play it off of, made it one of the easiest parts of the show to bring to life.
How was it to figure out how to portray his disease? Was that very detailed in the script, or did you spend a lot of time working to figure that out?
DeHAAN: When I found out about the disease, what was important to me was to portray it as accurately as possible, and that just meant doing as much research for it as I possibly could. That involved meeting with people that had the disease and reading all of the books that I could about the disease. I found this really amazing documentary, called Huntington’s Dance, about a man that has the disease chronicling his day to day life, as the disease starts to overtake his body. That was incredibly powerful, especially from the mental standpoint of what he was going through. It got to the point where I had exhausted all of the research I could do, and I became, in many ways, the most knowledgeable person about the disease, on set. So, towards the end, as the disease is really starting to take over, I became very vocal about the things that were happening and that I wanted to happen to him, to make sure the symptoms were correct and they weren’t being sensationalized. I did make a lot of changes, towards the end, just to make sure that the things that were happening were as accurate as possible to what would be happening to somebody with this disease, at that time.
What do you think his greatest motivation is and what drives him?
DeHAAN: In a lot of ways, he’s a victim of his circumstances. He’s been babied and kept in a cage from such a young age that, in the beginning of the series, although he wants to be part of the family business, he’s also accepted his fate that his father doesn’t want him to be. Ultimately, he knows that his time on earth is limited, but he loves his family and he knows his family has a legacy to uphold. That’s what it becomes about. Especially by the end of the series, he makes incredibly selfless decisions, in order to save his family’s business. I think that happens because he knows his time on earth is limited, but that the Lynwood business couldn’t last forever.
You had three different directors on this – Stefano Sollima, Janus Metz and Pablo Trapero. How did that work, with three different visions? Was this shot in blocks with each director, or was it more about shooting in each of the countries?
DeHAAN: For myself, it was pretty blocked out. I can’t speak for the entire production, but I can tell you that, for me, I shot, more or less, sequentially, except I ended in Senegal, which was not last. I started working with Stefano in New Orleans, and then I moved on to my work with Janus in Mexico and Morocco, in the desert. There was a lot of back and forth, but it felt blocked. They all definitely worked in different ways, but each episode of the show, to me, seems like its own individual movie, with the locations being different and what’s happening being different. We weren’t just back in the courthouse or the living room. We were always somewhere different, and everything that was happening was different. So, as long as I had a strong voice about my character and keeping it consistent, because all of the episodes are like their own individual movies, it was fun to be directed in different ways. It became one of the many challenges of the series, but it was one of the rewarding ones, for sure.
You’re also doing Lisey’s Story, which is a Stephen King story where Stephen King has written all of the scripts. How exciting is it to read and bring to life scripts that were actually written by such a visual storyteller?
DeHAAN: It’s been really great. He’s on set a lot. He’s very into what we’re doing and the experience. It’s also fun to help to sometimes craft it with him. He’s writing extra things. Pablo Larraín, the director, has a very clear vision, and there’s a real collaboration going on that wouldn’t be possible, otherwise. He’s such a big deal that what he writes is so holy that, in order to really collaborate or change things sometimes, it feels better having him there and having his blessing and knowing that he’s happy with it. It’s been really fun. It seems like we’re making something really cool.
What is it about that story and character that made you want to be a part of that?
DeHAAN: I think the director is really cool, the DP (Darius Khondji) is cool, the material is cool, and the other actors are amazing. It’s also definitely something different from what I’ve done before, which is always something that I’m looking for. And it shoots in my backyard. It’s shoots in a studio that’s five minutes from my house. So, after travelling around the world for a year, it’s nice to be five minutes away when I go to work.
One of the cool and interesting thing about Stephen King characters is that it seems like, no matter the character, there’s a little bit of hero and a little bit of villain in pretty much all of them.
DeHAAN: Sure. We’ve been doing some really interesting stuff, for sure.
At this point in your life and career, what is it that attracts you to a project and gets you excited about the work?
DeHAAN: It’s always different. Certainly, if I read a script and it’s the best script that I’ve ever read, and it happens to be directed by a first-time director and there’s no one else attached to the movie yet, I’ll still wanna do it, just because of the material. But on the other side of things, if I have an opportunity to work with someone that I’ve always wanted to work with, that’s another great reason to do things. It’s all so circumstantial, and it’s all a balance of challenging myself, in different ways, playing different kinds of characters, and doing different genres. With material, I’m doing limited series for the first time, but I’d also like to continue to do indie movies and bigger movies, and all different kinds of things. To continue to grow, as an actor, is ultimately my main goal. And then, within that, there are just so many factors that can come into play that it’s hard to say exactly what I’m looking for, at any time, ‘cause it’s so circumstantial.
ZeroZeroZero is available to stream at Amazon Prime.