The eight-episode mini-series ZeroZeroZero (available to stream on Amazon Prime on March 6th), 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, British actress Andrea Riseborough (who plays businesswoman Emma Lynwood, whose family is in the drug shipping business that she’s looking to step in and take control of) talked about how epic this series was to shoot, the unusual family dynamic, her character’s greatest motivation, why she’d love to continue playing this character even though this was only set to be a mini-series, her insane shooting schedule, and what she’s looking to do next.
Collider: First of all, I have to say that your work in this series is just terrific. This whole story is so fascinating, and these characters are very intense and full-on. Did you know that it was going to be like that, when you signed on to do this?
ANDREA RISEBOROUGH: It’s difficult to anticipate that kind of thing. I knew it was going to be epic because we shot it in five different places in the world. We originally shot in New Orleans, and then we went to Mexico City and Calabria, in Italy. And after that, we went to Morocco, to the desert, and then we went to Senegal. On paper, it already looked sprawling, but I’m not sure any of us could have imagined the beauty of the cinematography. I look at it now and I’m just in awe of what they achieved. Roberto Saviano wrote the book ZeroZeroZero, and he’d also written Gomorrah. With ZeroZeroZero, piecing together as much information as he could, he wrote this literary journalistic novel about the cocaine industry, which is far greater than any of us could comprehend. I just thought it was not only such a unique thing to then put humans in this situation, some of whom are based on the humans in the book, but to put characters inside of that world, to follow the cocaine, almost backwards from where it ends up to where it begins, and to do that with a woman at the head of an organization, it was really groundbreaking and unique. And playing Emma was so freeing. She’s chosen to operate in the world, as a man. The things that she’s invested in are power and respect, and getting as much power and respect as one can is what she goes after. She follows in her father’s footsteps, and she’s seen him do that, her whole life. She’s a very pared down, androgynous, driven, logical, strategic woman.
It’s so interesting that the cocaine itself is really the focal point of the story, throughout the mini-series, and you’re all working around it. Is it an odd experience to be telling a story, where this thing is really the lead at the center of it and everybody else is just revolving around it?
RISEBOROUGH: Certainly, it is its own character. It’s the unspoken baby. It’s the baby that nobody speaks of, but everyone is trying to get it from one place to the next. Really, truly what I should say is that, ultimately, Emma is trying to get it from one place to the next. It’s an almost impossible feat, and she’s frustrated. There are changes that she’d like to make to the business, when her father [Gabriel Byrne] is running it. There is a lack of support that she’s getting from her sibling, Chris [Dane DeHaan], who’s been branded as an invalid in the family and is playing that role, and that frustrates her. She loves her family, very, very dearly, but the strange relationship that they have with the things they do that are unspoken – the cocaine – keeps them feeling detached from what the cargo actually is, that they ship all over the world. It’s also this incredibly precious thing that they must not let fall, at any cost. It is the most important thing in the series, but the most interesting thing about the series is that everybody, through it, is trying to make ends meet. Through it, they’re connected to so many different humans, across the world. You see how it affects every single one of them.
It feels like the best way that we get to learn about Emma is through the dynamic within her family and how she relates to them. What was it like to have Gabriel Byrne and Dane DeHaan to explore that with?
RISEBOROUGH: Wonderful. It was such an extraordinary cast, across the globe. There are so many brilliant actors in this. There are 120 roles in the entire piece, which is incredible. For the core family, it was wonderful working with Gabriel and Dane. There was a tongue-in-cheek, dry humor that we all had, amongst ourselves.
What do you see as her greatest motivation, in all of this?
RISEBOROUGH: She wants power. She wants respect. She wants not to be vulnerable. Her mother died when she was young, and it was an apocalyptic thing for the family. She doesn’t want any part of that. She wants to be impenetrable. She wants to fly. She wants to be respected. It’s very feral and very human.
This has been stated to be a mini series of eight episodes, and that there will be no further seasons of this. Were you aware of that going into this?
RISEBOROUGH: Yes, that’s absolutely what it was, and that’s what it came to me as. Now, I can think of nothing I’d love more than to carry on playing Emma, just to see her fully turn into what she aspires to be.
This is a story without any real moments of lightness or levity. Was this a shoot where you felt like you had to really pace yourself and take extra care, and did you feel like you needed to take a break, once this shoot was done?
RISEBOROUGH: I signed onto this, at the end of 2017. That gives you an idea of how long this has this been going on for me. And I was with that shipment, the whole way. I actually made two films in the middle of making ZeroZeroZero. I shot The Grudge and The Kindness of Strangers during the shooting of ZeroZeroZero, when we were on relocation breaks. When I finished, it was cathartic. I think I grieved it, more than anything. I missed being Emma. And then, I went straight back to work. I went and did a film called Luxor, which was in competition at Sundance just now. And then, I did Possessor, which was also in competition at Sundance at the same time.
Do you know what you’re doing next?
RISEBOROUGH: There are lots of things. I’ll be in the Dominican Republic, at the beginning of [March]. I’m doing a film called Geechee, with a really brilliant new director called Dubois Ashong. He is just really an extraordinary, wonderful guy. I really liked him, and I really think he’s going to make an interesting and unique film. And my company, Mother Sucker, the film company that I have, is about to do our next project. The last film was Nancy, which was also in competition at Sundance, and we’re about to do our next feature. It’s not been announced yet, so I can’t quite say what it is, but that’s really exciting. That’ll happen in New York.
At this point in your life and career, what is it that attracts you to a project?
RISEBOROUGH: Innovation of some sort. I really appreciate when a film is trying to do something that really can’t be defined by one genre, and is authentic and beautiful in its very unique way. Sometimes that means there is no script. I think experimentation is really beautiful, and not something to be overlooked. I want to push myself forward. It’s certainly not the most lucrative path, but it’s incredible to be a part of projects, like Birdman or Nancy or Mandy, that transcend time and live on because they do something a little different.
ZeroZeroZero is available to stream at Amazon Prime on March 6th.