• Dane DeHaan as Chris in ‘ZeroZeroZero’. (SBS)Source: SBS
The star of the gritty saga about the global cocaine industry reflects on reuniting with Gabriel Byrne, bonding with Andrea Riseborough, and the classic Hollywood role he's hankering to tackle again.
Stephen A. Russell

4 May 2020 - 1:41 PM  UPDATED 14 May 2020 - 4:20 PM

If you think the nest of back-biting vipers in Succession are the very best kind of bad people on TV, then wait until you meet the Lynwoods, the Leyras and the La Pianas. The twisted dynasties of ZeroZeroZero, they are the bent pillars of a brutal international cocaine-dealing industry, and they put the Logans to shame.

Packed with Machiavellian twists and a Game of Thrones-like disdain for its key characters’ survival, ZeroZeroZero is adapted from the Roberto Saviano novel by Leonardo Fasoli, Mauricio Katz and Stefano Sollima – all of whom were heavily involved with TV show Gomorrah

The Leyra brothers are the producers, and their tentacles reach into corrupt pockets of the Mexican army. The Italian La Pianas are the buyers, attempting to shore up their crumbling gangster empire. All this puts the Lynwoods slap-bang in the middle, connecting the dots via their dubious shipping enterprise.

Chameleon-like, Andrea Riseborough’s Emma Lynwood is the chosen scion of Gabriel Byrne’s unforgiving patriarch Edward. She runs the outfit ruthlessly (while rocking a stark-haired androgyny). But it’s the oddly vampiric charisma of Kill Your Darlings and Valerian star Dane DeHaan, as her younger brother Chris, that anchors the twisting plot. Chris is perfectly willing to stay in his sister’s shadow, until he is thrust into the heart of darkness, when things turn awry as he accompanies a shipping container loaded with blow.

“The overall ambition of the project was really exciting; filming all around the world in several languages, telling this international story,” DeHaan says over the phone (in simpler times before the COVID-19 pandemic). “I was looking to do something more gritty and real, and Chris was really cool to play. It’s a thrilling, dangerous show, with every episode like its own little movie, and Chris is just one part of this equation.”

The storyline throws DeHaan into some hair-raising scenes. “There was certainly a lot of stuff we did that felt like, ‘Wow, I hope this looks as real as it feels, because it’s actually pretty scary’.”

Chris also has to contend with the rapid onset of Huntington’s disease, a genetic disorder resulting in physical and cognitive impairment. “I think playing someone with a disease, where the show isn’t actually about the disease, is a really cool idea, and something we don’t see a lot of,” DeHaan says. “He’s caught up in a situation that’s bigger than what’s going on with him personally, which just becomes another obstacle in trying to figure out how to save his family’s business.”

ZeroZeroZero involved the sort of shooting schedule generally associated with a new James Bond movie. “I don’t know how the world would feel about an American James Bond, but it was pretty cool to shoot in New Orleans, all over Mexico, Senegal, Morocco and Italy,” DeHaan chuckles at the comparison. “The location work plays a huge part in the project, because it’s visually amazing to watch.”

DeHaan and co-star Riseborough (Battle of the Sexes) bonded big time as the criminally compatible siblings. “She’s just so talented and had to go through a lot of crazy stuff on the shoot too,” he reveals. “She always shows up ready, and it was so nice to work with one of my peers who is also a classically trained actor.”

It was a grand reunion, too, with In Treatment star Byrne; DeHaan played one of his patients in psychotherapist drama. “I got my start working with Gabriel and, in a lot of ways, that’s what I credit my entire career to, because it’s such an amazing opportunity for a young actor. He was always so there for me, so caring and thoughtful, and it was incredible to reunite with him 10 years later. I have a special place in my heart for Gabriel.”

After a short stint on True Blood, DeHaan kicked off an extended big-screen run with Josh Trank's dark superhero tale Chronicle (2012). He assumed he was unlikely to go back to TV, but streaming services have changed the game since then, attracting Hollywood A-listers. “I was pretty hesitant to dip my toe into it even, like, five years ago,” he recalls. “Now it’s become inevitable. That’s what people are watching. What’s exciting is the amount of high-quality stuff that’s being produced. For me personally, that just means more opportunity.”

ZeroZeroZero was a game-changer for DeHaan, but the role that has stuck with him most is that of ill-fated icon James Dean. He played the Rebel Without a Cause star in Control director Anton Corbijn’s Life, opposite Robert Pattinson as celebrated photographer Dennis Stock.

“That was a huge challenge and I’m really proud of that film,” DeHaan says. “It’s also a role I’d love to have another shot at, because I feel like now I’m at a place in life where I understand him, in a way. I put myself under so much pressure in that situation, and it’s one role I would like to have another shot at actually.”

He may have competition, bizarrely, with Dean himself, some 65 years after the then 24-year-old died in a car crash. A few days before I speak to DeHaan, The Hollywood Reporter broke the story that Dean would be digitally resuscitated for upcoming movie Finding Jack, adapted from the Gareth Crocker Vietnam vet novel. “You know, that’s such a weird thing,” he muses. “Maybe you’ll see him for, like, five seconds. I just don’t know how to feel about it ’cause I don’t know what it means.”

DeHaan’s available if the filmmakers change their mind. “There’s just this feeling in me that I would like to give [playing James Dean] another shot. I feel like I would go in with a wisdom that I didn’t have before, because I was kinda young.”

ZeroZeroZero premieres on SBS on Thursday 14 May at 9:30pm. Episodes are available at SBS On Demand the same day as they go to air. Here is episode 1:

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