The train has left the proverbial station as star Daveed Diggs leads a murder investigation in TNT’s Snowpiercer. The inciting incident of TNT’s sci-fi series occurs in the upper-class cars of a post-apocalyptic train which circles a frozen and inhospitable Earth.
Diggs plays Andre Layton, a “tailee,” opposite Oscar winner Jennifer Connelly in the long gestating television adaptation of Bong Joon Ho’s acclaimed 2013 film. Diggs rose to global fame thanks to his Tony and Grammy award winning performances as Marquis de Lafayette and Thomas Jefferson in Lin-Manuel Miranda’s Hamilton.
Since then, the versatile actor quickly expanded his repertoire, writing and starring in the film Blindspotting; releasing new content with his band, clipping.; and stealing scenes in ABC’s Black-ish.
Awards Focus spoke with Diggs about tackling the sci-fi series, the challenges of filming the violent scenes, and how he’s keeping productive during the pandemic.
Awards Focus: Snowpiercer, and science fiction projects in general, often have strong social commentary. That’s clearly present with the train’s elaborate hierarchy and class system. Is that something that attracted you to the series?
Daveed Diggs: Definitely. One thing I really enjoy about the show is that it allows you to go as deep into it as you want. It’s tricky to hit the level that the writers intend, as you can get very deep with some of this material. There are so many angles or lenses you can view the show in that can lead to a lot of good discussions with your friends.
AF: Did you see the 2013 Bong Joon Ho film?
Diggs: I did. I didn’t see it until after I had read the pilot, then I read the graphic novel. I like being a fan of things and so if something is based on existing material. Let me see if I enjoy it, then it’s just something else to nerd out about!
AF: Do you draw anything from past performances as an actor, or do you organically create new experiences as you’re developing your characters?
Diggs: I try to build it from the ground up every time, but certainly things outside of character development, like how to behave on set and just things I’ve been learning from working in television.
I’m always thinking about my last experience and trying to adapt to get a performance I’m happy with in every take. In television, you’re not in charge of what ends up on the screen, so occasionally they might pick the take where the sounds came out right, or the lighting looked good. So I’m always adapting to that challenge.
AF: What were some of the more challenging scenes for you to shoot?
Diggs: Definitely the scenes where my character had to physically harm other people. I was really excited to do a bunch of stunt work, not having done that before, and I was good at it, too! However, the really bloody scenes can get very emotional, it’s surprising how much sleep I lost over those scenes… it wasn’t something I anticipated.
AF: Can you share any insight on the cockroach bars and what they tasted like?
Diggs: Hah! Those were gelatin and a bunch of food coloring to make them brown. It’s more texture than taste. They definitely got better in season two; they were a little closer to gummy worms.
AF: Has this quarantine allowed you to take a breath and look back at these incredible last few years, or are you still busy developing material?
Diggs: I’m actually as busy now as I’ve ever been. The last few years of my life I’ve been on set non-stop, so it’s a nice to get back to writing projects and my band [clipping.]. I’m also producing and executive producing some very cool projects. I’m really enjoying being more involved with all of those things, but certainly grateful for the opportunities of the last few years.