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Sweet Tooth Trades Whimsy for Darkness in Season 2, Stars and Executive Producer Say

As the Netflix adaptation of Jeff Lemire's post-apocalyptic comic book matures, so too does Gus. "He kind of evolves from a little deer to a stag," star Christian Convery says.

by | April 25, 2023 | Comments

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In its first season, Sweet Tooth married the post-apocalyptic comic book by Jeff Lemire with an added dose of whimsy to establish the tale of Gus (Christian Convery), a 9-year-old hybrid boy with deer antlers who may or may not save the world. Along the way, he met Thomas Jepperd (Nonso Anozie) — aka “Big Man” — a survivor of a plague that wiped out much of the Earth’s human population. And, as it happens, that disease, known only as The Sick, broke after Gus was born.

Nevertheless, the bond between Gus and Jep was one of the big highlights of season 1, as was the relationship between Aimee (Dania Ramirez), a woman running a sanctuary for hybrid children, and Wendy (Naledi Murray), a hybrid girl with pig features who happens to be little sister of Bear (Stefania LaVie Owen), aka Becky, a teenager who travels with Gus and Big Man for a time.

Christian Convery in Sweet Tooth

(Photo by Netflix)

But as viewers will soon see, season 2 will trade in some of the show’s whimsy and serendipity for more of Lemire’s darkness. Gus, Wendy, and the other hybrids from Aimee’s Preserve are now in the hands of the Last Men, who plan to use them to manufacture a treatment for The Sick. Jep and Aimee, meanwhile, have to find a way to get them out.

According to executive producer and episode director Jim Mickle, the darker tone was inevitable considering where Lemire takes Gus in this portion of the story.

“We are telling a story about kids that are being held captive,” Mickle told Rotten Tomatoes. “There’s a whimsy that can come from that, but you also have to keep the stakes high. So there was a balance that we were constantly finding as we went along.”

Mickle loved getting the chance to make things darker and more complex as both a creator and a fan of the material:  “I think it was part of the goal,” he said.

Maturity is a key theme of the series, right from the first episode of the show, he continued.

“The biggest thing that you learn really is Gus, as a character, has grown up so much since season one, since the beginning of season one,” he said. “And Christian as an actor and as a human being has grown up so much. And so, suddenly, that becomes part of the story.”

Christian Convery (second from right) and Sweet Tooth cast

(Photo by Netflix)

For Convery, part of the process of growing up was getting acclimated with the other children who play the hybrids.

“I’m actually not used to it. I don’t really have siblings, and I’ve never worked with [this many] kids before,” he told Rotten Tomatoes. “And I thought it was so cool. It was their first role for a lot of them. And it was so great to see new actors coming to this warm and happy set.”

Murray added, “It’s been a blast, honestly. We’re like a family, one big happy family.” Although her character, Wendy, already displayed some leadership ability in the first season as more and more hybrids came to the Preserve, Murray noted the second season was a chance for Wendy to “figure out who she is without her mom.”

Christian Convery and Naledi Murray in Sweet Tooth

(Photo by Kirsty Griffin/Netflix)

“She meets Gus, and then they’re this powerful duo and they are helping out the hybrids,” she said. “She’s just on top of it. She’s really figuring out how to be that motherly figure for the hybrids … it’s not like she’s not as joyful, [but] she’s more focused and she’s more dedicated to her family than ever.”

Both admitted they missed their season 1 team-ups — at least a little bit.

“Getting to work with adults is always cool because you get to learn a lot from them because they’re wise, they have a lot of experience,” Convery said. “But it was also really cool getting to interact with the kids because it’s a completely different dynamic.”

Christian Convery and Adeel Akhtar in Sweet Tooth

(Photo by Netflix)

That said, Convery’s Gus will spend some time with an adult. As teased in the previews, he will become something of a fascination for Dr. Aditya Singh (Adeel Akhtar), a scientist whose research into a Sick cure brings him into the sphere of the Last Men and their fascistic leader, General Doug Abbot (Neil Sandilands).

“I take a deep dive — a very dark one — into my origins, with Adi,” Convery teased. “[Through that], we create some type of bond — an unknown bond.”

For Akhtar, forging that bond will still take the doctor into the heart of darkness.

“I don’t suppose you realize how deep in the rabbit hole you’re going until you hit rock bottom maybe,” the actor said. Any hope of Adi having a future for himself or his Sick-afflicted wife, Rani (Aliza Vellani), will require him to ask “pretty important” questions while chasing leads with Gus. And though things will get quite dark for his character, Akhtar remained hopeful, calling Adi’s journey “rewarding.”

(L to R) Nonso Anozie and Dania Ramirez in Sweet Tooth.

(Photo by Netflix)

Away from the Last Men–occupied Preserve, Aimee and Jep must learn to deal with one another if they have any hope of saving the children.

“First of all, [they must] try to trust each other and rely on each other and realize that they can both actually be a good team,” Anozie said of their initial goals for the season.

“I know I was able to really tap into the vulnerabilities of who [Aimee] was, how she can see the vulnerabilities within [Jepperd],” Ramirez added. Those vulnerabilities will definitely be on display and, perhaps, explained to some extent as the season progresses.

“There are moments that you could tell she’s trying to figure out a way to open up or for him, for Jepperd, to open up so that she finds herself in a place of wanting to have a connection with another human being,” she said of their ever-evolving dynamic.

But for Aimee, leaving the Preserve also reveals some unexpected strengths as well.

“She changed her path in life because of the kids,” Ramirez explained. “And losing them gives her the strength, the will, the want to want to be out there, because it’s all about getting them back.”

“I don’t think she’s thinking of herself at all in those situations where she’s out there in the real world,” she added. “I don’t even think she’s thinking of The Sick. She’s thinking, How can I figure this out?

Anozie called working with Ramirez an “amazing experience” and something different from creating the father-son relationship between Gus and Jepperd. “Working with another adult as an actor is a beautiful thing, too,” he said.

Neil Sandilands in Sweet Tooth

(Photo by Netflix)

The beauty of Sweet Tooth is tempered, though, by the shadow of its antagonist faction. The Last Men have the hybrids and control of the Preserve. And as viewers will quickly learn, General Abbot has a plan for both. Beyond that, the season also gives the group a greater focus with Abbot getting more screen time and more interactions with the characters. Also, his underlying rhetoric will provide certain parallels to modern day extremist groups.

“Season 1 obviously had a lot to do with the pandemic,” Mickle said. “And I think as we were getting into the beginning of [season 2], it was really like, ‘What’s it look like after a pandemic is over?’ Not that it’s ever really over, but what does it look like as you start to transition out of that?”

The producer felt if the Last Men were going to be Sweet Tooth’s equivalent of Star Wars’ Stormtroopers or “Indiana Jones’ Nazis,” the show would need to get into their mindset and reveal what is “attractive about that to somebody that might join [them].”

“You just suddenly start to go in and think, ‘Who is the Abbot and how does he reach people and how does he inspire people?'” he added. “And you suddenly look up and go like, ‘Oh wow, we’re actually touching on some history here.'”

George Ferrier and Stefania LaVie Owen in Sweet Tooth

(Photo by Netflix)

That sense of history touches on Becky’s story for the year as her attempts to find Gus and Jep lead her on perilously journey of her own. According to Mickle, that path will position her to learn some of the lessons Gus discovered in the first year: not everything in the world is black and white.

“You realize she’s been a pretty sheltered person, and she’s come at it from the other side where she’s just hated anything that is not her,” he said.

“For Becky, it felt like there was an opportunity to show her that the world isn’t simple, and that felt like a nice way to challenge that character with something new,” he added.

Sweet Tooth. (L to R) Marlon Williams and Neil Sandilands

(Photo by Netflix)

Another new element for the year, despite making appearances in the first season, is Abbot’s brother Johnny (Marlon Williams) — who we suspect will be a breakout character thanks to his season 2 contributions. Like his comic book counterpart, he will be something of a mystery until a key moment. Mickle even mentioned not being sure about Johnny until he read “The Ballad of Johnny and Abbot,” issue #34 of the Sweet Tooth comic that gave the necessary context to the character. “[It] informs everything before then,” Mickle said.

Nevertheless, Mickle developed the character in a different way, crediting Williams with “a huge part of that.”

“We brought him in season 1 for a couple of scenes and a couple of episodes, and it was kind of like, ‘I really like him, but we’ve never really seen him on screen or what he can do,'” the producer recalled. “There was just a humanity to him, and a kindness and a sweetness to him, and a peculiarity to him that was so good and so watchable that grew really quickly. So great example of just a great actor inspiring a great role.”

(Photo by Netflix)

The expansion of character, theme, and tone was a welcome challenge for Convery, who appreciated “diving through these layers” in the story and within Gus.

“It was such a great acting challenge,” he said. “I feel like over the course of the season, he kind of evolves from a little deer to a stag.”

Sweet Tooth season 2 debuts this Thursday on Netflix.

86% Sweet Tooth: Season 2 (2023) premieres on Thursday, April 27 on Netflix.

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