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Rosario Dawson, Benjamin Bratt, Freddy Miyares talk DMZ: ‘We really truly became and remain a family’ [SXSW 2022]

Image of the cast of DMZ
Freddy Miyares, Benjamin Bratt, Rosario Dawson, Hoon Lee and Roberto Patino at the WarnerMedia House at SXSW. Pic credit: Mat Hayward/Getty Images

HBO Max’s latest dystopian series DMZ is based on a comic book with the same name. Created by Roberto Patino and executively produced by Emmy winner Ava DuVernay, the show is an emotional journey about a mother named Alma (Dawson) and her journey to find her son amid a war which leads to the demilitarization of Manhattan and the lawless behavior of the citizens left to fend for themselves.

The show stars Rosario Dawson, Benjamin Bratt, Freddy Miyares, and Hoon Lee in leading roles, and premiered its first episode at the 2022 South by Southwest festival on March 13. The series has since released all four episodes on the streaming platform. Read our review here.

Prior to its premiere, the creator and cast held a media junket at the WarnerMedia House venue and spoke about the show’s heavy themes, their attraction to the storyline, and how they “unpacked” at the end of filming. Monsters & Critics had the opportunity to ask the group a few questions during the event.

Rosario Dawson talks about being drawn into DMZ

Rosario Dawson’s Alma is the heart of the series — she is strong-willed and selfless, and driven by the love she holds for her son. Despite the intensity of her life-or-death situation, Alma still pauses to lend her skills to the local, understaffed clinic and other individuals in the underserved community.

When asked about her first reaction to the show’s script, Dawson shared, “I grew up in an abandoned building on the Lower East Side and the experience of community finding a way, regardless of the greater society’s participation or not, and survival, and beyond that, thriving, spoke to me immediately.”

The Dopesick actor continued, “As soon as I saw this, I loved the idea of this woman going into this place that has been completely abandoned and left behind, and that the focus was on the people there [who] decided to either stay because they didn’t necessarily know better, or who couldn’t leave. That meant the community was actually going to look like the community I grew up in.”

Dawson also expressed that DMZ’s representation goes beyond New York City. She expressed it represents marginalized communities on a global scale.

“Looking back at the 80s and 90s, not everybody made it out alive, but there was culture. There is something that’s missing once you gentrify a place, and you mask it with capitalism, there’s something that gets lost,” she said. “It was beautiful to be able to explore what that could look like again.”

“I was very excited to see this version of it because knowing the comic and how dystopian it is… it’s very cynical. I love the perspective that Roberto came to the story, and we know that that’s the backdrop but that’s not going to be the focus. And that continued to compel me reading through the series and it’s pretty powerful,” added Dawson.

Image of Rosario Dawson and Benjamin Bratt
Benjamin Bratt and Rosario Dawson at the WarnerMedia House at SXSW. Pic credit: Mat Hayward/Getty Images

DMZ cast talks about filming experience

While the limited series is packed with intense moments, the cast agreed that it wasn’t too challenging to unpack at the end of the day.

“It’s cliche. People say it all the time, but we really, truly became and remain a family. This guy is a budding chef as good as he is an actor,” shared Bratt, while pointing at his costar Miyares. “He has a pasta-making machine and a pizza maker and would invite us to his hotel room. He’s got video evidence to show you, he rolled out the dough, made it fresh.”

Miyares teased that he still has the videos on his phone, but didn’t disclose whether or not he will share them online.

Bratt continued, “We do home cook meals, and Rosario would have us over to her place for brunch. The intensity of the show is not necessarily the fuse that kind of made that event happen. We all really enjoy each other. And it’s rare. I was sharing with Freddy, don’t get used to alchemy with this group.”

The actor concluded, “And again, I think it goes back to this recognition that the story is about us. It’s rare we can celebrate ourselves and each other in that way. And so the celebration just continues.”

Miyares added his experience. He shared, “It’s an extension of family honestly, at this point. For me, I’m so privileged coming into this industry, being blessed with veterans who are so thoughtful in their work. But beyond that, they’re generous and wholehearted individuals. Seeing, as a young actor, that that is a possibility, it’s a blessing and a curse all the time.”

production still from DMZ
Benjamin Bratt stars as Parco in DMZ. Pic credit: WarnerMedia

Rosario described her experience as “intense but nice,” and shared that she had her godson and a friend staying with her throughout filming to maintain “that family vibe” and her “sanity”.

“What was so nice, again, is the fact that we were all front and center, and we don’t get to see that often,” Dawson shared. “There was no scene or character that was just supposed to be a device, which so often happens on projects I’ve been a part of and watched. It was super refreshing.”

She went on to express that the filming experience was “tough,” citing summertime in Atlanta and COVID-19 restrictions. Despite these challenges, Dawson maintains that her experience was “really good.”

She continued, “We knew we were doing something that was incredibly important to us. And it felt really special the whole way through. I’m glad we could marinate in it. That’s actually one of the silver linings of shooting during COVID. We couldn’t be traveling and bouncing, and going other places and trying to do 1000 things at once. We were really focused and in our bubble.”

However, she gives major props to DMZ showrunner Patino. “It also needs to be said that that energy emanates from the top. As a showrunner, as the author of the piece, he could be as restrictive as he wants because he’s the man in power, but he was so collaborative.”

The showrunner chimed in with “Sundays were my favorite day, because I get a phone call from him [points to Bratt], I get text blasts from him [points to Miyares], I get a 10-minute voice message, I have a conversation with him [points to Lee], literally.”

“So, I’d show up on Monday, and I’m cognizant of how much money we’re burning every hour, how much daylight we’ve got left. If it rains today, we’re screwed tomorrow. What are we going to do? But the one thing that I didn’t have to worry about, which is the most important thing, is these guys, and their lines and their characters. I knew the day was gonna go fine,” shared Patino.

Read our SXSW interview with Ti West and Brittany Snow from X and our review of To Leslie.

DMZ is currently streaming on HBO Max.

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