Snowpiercer’s Daveed Diggs Reveals What Went Down On Set And More!

“It’s a real family vibe.”

“I was sort of just always around the arts and when I started sort of ‘dipping my toes’ into trying some of those things, it was pretty clear that that’s what I wanted to do in some way or another,” remembers Daveed Diggs, actor and star of Snowpiercer, TNT’s new adaptation of the French graphic novel La Transperneige.

Starting with audio-based skits that he did with his brother and taking part in school plays, the actor and musician ultimately made these passions his career — first creating music and doing experimental theater, then eventually taking the Broadway stage. For his first-ever Broadway show, Daveed ended up being involved in nothing less than highly sought-after show Hamilton. He says doing the big musical hit didn’t feel much different than anything else he’s done before, though he admits that this was the one opportunity that opened up a lot of doors for him. “That’s the real difference between pre-Hamilton and post-Hamilton,” he remembers. “Pre-Hamilton, I was doing all the same shit I’m doing now, but I didn’t make any money doing it, and post-Hamilton and I do all of those things for money.”

The Hamilton ticket became the real currency that has effective in bringing on all sorts of features and opportunities — Black-ish, Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt… “It was like a trick that they used to allow me to sit down with a lot of people who have become great friends and collaborators of mine,” he smiles. Then, there was film.

Diggs went on to write and produce Blindspotting — a tense and witty comedy-drama film that he worked on with his collaborators Rafael Casal and Keith Calder. Fast forward to spring of 2020 — the creative is gearing up for his latest TV gig titled Snowpiercer that launched May 17th on TNT. A spin-off of Bong Joon-Ho’s cult hit movie that bears the same name, this project is a sci-fi series with a detective story element. 

In anticipation of the upcoming release, VMAN called Daveed, who is currently spending his time socially isolating in California, to ask a few questions about the release. We’ll let Daveed take it from here:

VMAN How did you get involved in this project?

DAVEED DIGGS I just got sent the script for the pilot and really liked it—really liked the character, really liked the world… And then I went and watched [Bong] Joon-ho’s film. And that was really exciting and cool, I was excited to just be able to explore that world — so I said ‘yeah!’

You know, it’s a tricky thing to say ‘yes’ to a TV show because you’re potentially signing up for a very long time. You don’t know how long it’s going to last, but you’re potentially signing up six-seven years of working on the same thing. I was nervous about what to say ‘yes’ to, and there were a few offers from TV series that had come my way around that time. And ultimately, this just felt like the one that had the most to explore and um, and yeah. And that was right — there’s been a lot to explore, even though it’s not out yet.

I love science fiction in general, as a genre, and it had a little detective story element. I love detective stories. And I just like [Andre] Layton as a character; I think his background as a Chicago homicide detective was really interesting to me, I’ve never gotten to play a character like that. There are so many surprises in it, and it’s always fun as an actor to have surprises. The whole thing was exciting, it seemed like I was going to be able to have fun there for a long time.

VM You have worked on this project for three years, right? Did it change you in any way throughout this time?

DD I don’t know what I expected, but it’s been an amazing thing and I’ve learned so much. TV is really hard. It’s really hard to do well and it’s a grind, you know… Long hours, and for a long time. Things are changing so fast and you have to just sort of adapt to a lot of moving pieces — these things are just part of the game. But everyone working on it, which is so great. 

I had great people around me and literally, everything about it was surprising to me because I’ve never done it before and I didn’t know what to expect. But it has been a wonderful few years.

VM What would you say was your favorite thing about this project?

DD Definitely the cast, I have so many lifelong friends from this now. The whole crew, really — part of the reason why I wanted to get into arts when I was young is that you end up being really wonderful people when you do that. Not every project is like that, but with this one, everybody working on this was truly such a good person, really taking care of each other. Some days, you are having a bad day and there is always somebody there to cheer you up, your castmates or the incredible crew that was working on it. You get to know everybody really well because you spend so much time with them, and it was great to have all of these new family members.

VM What kind of shenanigans did you guys get into on set?

DD If Michael O’Malley was on set at some point, everyone would be singing a song that he made up. That’s Mike on set — he’ll just start making up songs and eventually, everybody on set is singing it. That’s always a good Mike moment… I remember trying to teach Mickey [Sumner] how to walk cooler (laughs). Not in the show — her walking in the show is great for her character. I just mean like, I was trying to give her some lessons on how to have a cooler walk. 

Everything Alison Wright does in front of the camera is perfect and so funny. Every time she was on set, we would have the bashing uptakes because we’re just watching her be amazing. Jennifer [Connelly]’s family is super important to her, and sometimes her daughter would be on set who was just such a Ray of light and would help direct scenes and give you notes if you ask. She’s super smart and she’s been on way more sets than I have, so she was actually a good person to talk to. It’s a real family vibe.

VM What have you been up to for the past few weeks?  

DD A lot of development stuff, like writing a lot with various writing partners and working on developing our film Blindspotting for TV, making a lot of music with Clipping… Just a lot of the things I don’t usually have time to be really present in the creation phase of, but I now have time to do that, so it’s actually been kind of nice. I’ve been thinking a lot about the way to intentionally structure my life whenever we are in the next phase of this, whatever the next phase of is looks like.

VM How are you planning to spend the rest of this quarantine?

DD I guess that depends on how much longer it goes on. Nobody knows really what’s coming, so I’m just taking it one day at a time. I’m trying to do all the things that make me happy. I’m eating a burrito right now — love burritos, they make me happy. I’m writing as writing a script, listening to music really loud. All of those things make me happy — more important than productivity right now is the self-care element of it. 

We don’t know how long this will be going on. Stress can really make you feel sick or can affect your mood or your ability to keep going. I’m just a big fan of anything anyone’s doing to relieve stress for themselves and to have a positive outlook on everything as often as you can. And then being okay with the days when you’re sad — some days I just get really sad and that’s alright to try to be at peace with those.

VM What are you going to be working on next, what’s to come? Music, film, theater, something else?

DD All of the above! We had to cancel or at least postpone a big tour of my band [Clipping]. I was really excited to do that, and I think it’s going to be a while before you can have concerts like that again. Even when the economy sort of opens up, I don’t think we’re gathering like that for a long time. But I will be very excited when we are doing that again because I do miss performing live and being in big groups of people way too close together.

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