The hybrid deer-boy, Gus (Christian Convey), has a real sweet tooth. His story is universal though and is highly relatable to anywhere in the globe. Gus forms an unexpected bond with a wandering loner, Tommy Jepperd (Nonso Anoozie). They embark on an extraordinary adventure, something akin to the great epic Mahabharata, through a lush but strangely dangerous post-apocalyptic world. They form an atypical but strangely heart-warming bond. The quest for permanence, relationships, and belonging bind them by a frail thread where “home” and “shelter” no longer exist. The world is in the grips of a peculiar viral illness — an airborne disease “ the sick” alarmingly similar to the Covid-19 pandemic. Thousands of people succumb to it. At the same time, a few hybrid babies are born. Some babies have wings, others have snouts, some look like ferrets, while a few have turtle appendages. There is Gus who is half deer with antlers and deer ears. People are trying to hunt out the hybrid babies and kill them because they think that the hybrids are the cause of “the Sick”.
A parallel story highlights an Indian couple. Dr. Adi Singh (Adeel Akhtar) works with Dr. Bell who has been doing some top-secret research on the virus and has developed unconventional treatments. Rani Singh (Aliza Vellani), Dr. Singh’s wife, is affected by the virus and is being secretly treated by her husband with serum from Bell’s lab. The couple is devoted to each other. They play scrabble and enjoy simple treats like french toast, apple pie, and strawberry milkshake. Adi and Rani keep to themselves to hide their secret but things go awry when a snoopy neighbor (Nancy) comes to their house and tries to figure out why Rani has been avoiding her.
I had an opportunity to interview Candian-Indian actress, Aliza Vellani, for India Currents. I really enjoyed her as Rani Singh — a strong, supportive, resourceful wife.
IC: How and when did you audition for the role as Rani Singh?
AV: I auditioned for Rani at the beginning of 2019. Reading the audition scene, I immediately fell in love with her warmth and strength towards Dr. Singh. Because this was a new character, it was great to read the Sweet Tooth comics after I realized I was cast as Rani Singh.
IC: Have you read the comic book?
I got the chance to read the comics after I found out I would be working on the series. Because Rani is a new character, I got to dive into the comics and simply explore the world as an outsider. Jeff Lemire’s work is so captivating that you almost forget about how dark the comics truly are because of how rich the story is, as it unfolds.
IC: How long did the production take?
The show has been in the works for quite some time. For filming, the first episode was over a few weeks back in June of 2019. When the pandemic started to unfold in 2020, we had to start production later on in the year to film the rest of the season in New Zealand. It took a lot of incredible work from the production team and we managed to complete the first season from August to December of 2020.
IC: How did you feel during the process?
AV: It was so surreal and wonderful to be working with such an incredible team. Right from the beginning, you could tell that Team Downey wanted to create a beautiful story with a heartfelt message. During the filming process, we truly became a family which is more than anyone can ask for in this industry.
IC: Special moments while filming?
Working on Rani’s wardrobe was truly such a beautiful experience. Amanda Neale and her team took so much time and care into really bringing these characters to life. What was so wonderful was Amanda’s attention to detail, especially when focusing on the cultural details of the Singhs, even 10 years after The Great Crumble.
IC: Best and most challenging moment?
AV: Episode 5 — What’s in the Freezer? was both one of my favorite and most challenging episodes to film. I mean, we are literally wrapped in chairs and surrounded by fire! The stakes become so incredibly high at that moment as Rani and Dr. Singh think their lives are over and we had to dive into a very heavy place emotionally as actors to show the love the Singhs have for one another. They truly are each other’s ride or die.
How did your culture impact your role?
AV: Looking at my relationship with my own culture as a South Asian Canadian, it was wonderful to be able to explore that through another character like Rani. Especially in a story where society as we know it no longer exists, it was beautiful that we were able to show an Indian couple still trying to maintain that connection to their culture and faith.
IC: Any message for Indian Americans?
AV: Keep going! Whatever you are doing, whatever passion you are trying to pursue, whatever barrier you are trying to overcome, keep going. This road isn’t a straight path and everyone’s journey will be different. But, by continuing to live your truth, you are inspiring someone else to do the same. The road is also very long, so make sure to find moments to enjoy along the way.
How long can they hide her and where? Does Gus reach Colorado? To find out the answer to these questions and enjoy the amazing cinematography, I recommend you watch Sweet Tooth Season 1. Season 2 is coming soon!
Monita Soni grew up in Mumbai, India, and works as a pathologist in Alabama. She is well known for her creative nonfiction and poetry pieces inspired by family, faith, food, home, and art. She has written two books: My Light Reflections and Flow through my Heart. She is a regular contributor to NPR’s Sundial Writers Corner.