Robert Downey Jr. (Iron Man, Sherlock Holmes) may have been the face of the MCU since its inception, but his most recent project as a producer is actually a DC Comics adaptation. Sweet Tooth, which launched on Netflix last week, is based on the 2009 comic book of the same name by Jeff Lemire.
The world of Sweet Tooth is inhabited with human/animal hybrids, which meant that a lot of research went into the animals featured in the series and the hybrids’ senses. To ensure that the creative team nailed the creatures’ mannerisms, RDJ brought them onto his own personal petting zoo and worked with them during the process.
We learned about the zoo and the care that went in to explaining the differences between certain animals when we spoke with the team behind Sweet Tooth, including writer Beth Schwartz, comic scribe Jeff Lemire, and director Jim Mickle.
We also had the opportunity to speak with Christian and Nonso (interviews can be found here and here), but this chat focuses on what writer Beth Schwartz says. In addition to digging into how the pandemic affected the production more than the story and the adaptation process, she brought up doing animal research at Team Downey’s zoo, and director Jim Mickle excitedly jumped in to provide more details.
The full transcript for the chat with Beth and Jim is included below, but you can also hear us speak with all five talents by scrolling down to the podcast players at the bottom.
Literary Joe: When you were researching the comic story beats, was there anything that you had trouble translating to the script for Netflix because it was a different medium?
Beth Schwartz: I don’t think so. I feel like we used the inspiration from the comic book, and obviously, the tone is different, but we were heavily inspired by all the characters that Jeff created, as well as the magical elements and the imagination that he uses through Gus’s dream sequences that we tried to bring to the screen. And a lot of other elements, I don’t think there was anything that we felt like we couldn’t do on-screen. We just brought some characters in earlier. We moved around some things to make it feel more organic to our story, but the comic book heavily inspires us.
Literary Joe: Obviously, you did a lot of writing that involved many different kinds of animals. So I was curious about your research process into animals and how deep you delved into those when writing this.
Beth Schwartz: Well, I happen to own my own small little adorable dog who got to go to the writer’s room to meet Jim’s adorable dogs when we had an actual writer’s room when we weren’t in a zoom room, but we had a group of writers that helped in terms of researching different emotions, and we looked at different hybrids in terms of that’s what their superpowers were. And, you know, for instance, Gus’s super hearing and sense of smell. And that’s how we adapted that in terms of what could their animal instincts bring to their characters that people can’t do.
Jim Mickle: Also, the Downeys helped because they have a small petting zoo on their property. There were some animals where they were quick to point out, like, ‘no, actually the difference between an alpaca and a llama is… because we know, we have both. (Laughs)
Beth Schwartz: Yeah, that’s true! They have a lot of animals. (Laughs)
Literary Joe: Since you brought that up, did you spend a lot of time at the zoo to help decide how you wanted to direct the animals on screen?
Jim Mickle: Yeah, because I hadn’t been to the zoo in a very long time. And then when you go to New Zealand because they didn’t have COVID the way that we did, you could actually do things like go to the zoo. And it was actually one of the first things that we did when we landed there. So after however many months of being here and not leaving the house and then suddenly going to a zoo or an amusement park or something. But yeah, I hadn’t been to a zoo in a long time, and I was struck by how much you forget about being a kid and seeing those animals. So yeah, part of it sucks because they’re cooped up, but there’s also something about being that close to some things that are really mindblowing, but it helped us all stay in the world of nature and love of nature and all that.
Literary Joe: Did you have to change anything due to the pandemic, or do you feel like that helped make it easier for it to be translated onto the screen?
Beth Schwartz: Jim actually started developing it in 2016 with the Downeys, and I joined in 2019 after the pilot had already been shot but still pre-COVID. And when I joined the project, we had broken down the entire season and written a few of the episodes before the pandemic had hit. And so we really didn’t change too much; if anything, it gave us a shorthand with the audience, where we didn’t have to convince them too much about this really happening in terms of making it grounded. The biggest change was production. We had to move our production dates later, and we had to change certain scenes to use fewer extras. And in one of our episodes, the setting is on a train. We were originally going to have a passenger train with a ton of people inside, which quickly got turned into a train with cargo instead of people. And so that was probably the largest change, in terms of, it was more about production and not really story-wise.
To hear our full interviews with Sweet Tooth actors Nonso Anozie and Christian Convery and director Jim Mickle, writer Beth Schwartz, and comic book creator Jeff Lemire, click the podcast players below. And as always, be sure to share your thoughts in the usual spot!
This episode features the incredible behind-the-scenes talents that have brought Netflix’s latest DC Comics adaptation, Sweet Tooth, to life. We chat with Jim Mickle, who directed the upcoming series, Beth Schwartz, who wrote the Netflix show, and the creator and writer of the DC Comic series Sweet Tooth which the series of the same name is based upon. The team tells us about their research into animals, spending time with Robert Downey Jr. and Susan Downey at their personal petting zoo, and the process of adapting the pages to the screen.
What a wonderful and touching chat this is. Anyone who is interested in watching Netflix’s upcoming DC Comics adaptation Sweet Tooth when it launches on June 4th will want to hear what the stars have to say. We speak with the main actor, 11-year old Christian Convery, about his starring role as the titular character in Sweet Tooth and the research he did on deer to immerse himself in the scenes.
Nonso Anozie, best known for his Game of Thrones portrayal of Xaro Xhoan Daxos and his roles in Ender’s Game, Cinderella, and RocknRolla also took part, talking about doing his own stunts after six months of pandemic couch-surfing. We also dug into the charismatic relationship between the two actors’ characters and what they do behind the scenes to help build that comfortable comradery on screen in the series.
Sweet Tooth is currently streaming on Netflix.