After his great turn as Raymond Santana in Ava DuVernay’s When They See Us, Freddy Miyares reteams with the filmmaker for her HBO Max limited series, DMZ.
Based on the DC Comics/Vertigo graphic novel of the same name, the series follows a woman (Rosario Dawson) who “navigates a demilitarized zone in a harrowing quest to find her lost son, Christian aka Skel” (played by Miyares). Benjamin Bratt and Hoon Lee are among the other stars. In the series, the U.S. demilitarized zone is Manhattan Island and the residents are there either by choice or force.
The series began production before the pandemic but had to halt things. It was surely a surreal moment to be doing a dystopic show and going through unprecedented moments in real-time.
“Back then, what seemed like an unlikely possibility after the pandemic seemed a lot more probable than we imagined,” Miyares explained in a recent interview with Shadow and Act. “And, of course, this prior to the insurrection and prior to the ongoing war that we currently have going on overseas [in Ukraine]. For me, it was very insightful. Once we finished shooting during the pandemic, I was in New York City and for the first time in my life, I saw New York City as a ghost town. And being that the show is based in New York [and] Manhattan, it was eerie, but also very insightful because here you are in a metropolis that is now deserted. And you quickly imagine what it would be like if this existed for several years time. And then beyond that, going back to Los Angeles, where I was staying in isolation and my character being a recluse, I got to internalize what that felt like, what that would do psychologically to somebody distancing themselves from humanity and how you can survive being stuck in your own thoughts for that distance of time.”
On re-teaming with DuVernay, the actor says he is grateful and that this is one of the most validating things in his career.
“Having someone like Ava, a director that is renowned for her work, trusting me to take on roles such as Skel…he’s incredibly complex and a complicated role to really unravel,” he said. “And for her to call on to me for this role is incredibly validating. And knowing that I have a director that trusts me, in Ava is one of those things as an actor you strive to find because you want to feel comfortable, you want to feel secure in going into something like this, where you’re putting everything into it. Now having this rapport with her, where we can communicate clearly as to what’s working, what isn’t…I think it really helped me, especially in the pilot, where we didn’t really know where we were going with the series.”
Skel goes on a journey through the four episodes and there is a key moment in particular that Miyares says is important.
“I think a quintessential scene that you get to understand Skel is the moment where he’s tied to the water tank and he’s finally coming clean to Alma,” the actor said. “He explains to her that the reason why he’s there in the first place is because he ran away. He didn’t choose to go with his mother. He was thinking about his father who was caught behind. He then divulges in detail how he had no agency because of his mother’s overprotective love for him. That is also a commentary that I think is worth mentioning. Sometimes love can be dangerous or catastrophic, because in the good intent that we have for another person, we might lose sight of their agency amidst it all. And in this case, Alma was trying to protect her son, but in doing that she lost sight of his own agency. She betrayed his trust and sold his father out to the cops, and now you have a son without a father. So he goes back into the DMZ to find his father to try to save his father and then in that, develops the skull that we see here.”
The moment at the end of the series sees the newly, truly reunited mother and son having to say goodbye to each other. Miyares took us through what was going on with Skel at this moment.
He explained, “Alma has come to that realization, that the greatest act of love that she can give her son is that agency to make the decision to make a choice for his life, separate from her. It’s probably the most tragic moment in the series. You see a mother who’s gone through these lengths to be with their son, make the most selfless act of letting him go. In Skel’s mind at that moment, he now knows his mother has allowed him that space and is coming from a true source of love. I do believe Skel at that moment acknowledges that and repeats his love as well for her. He sees her as well. And even though it’s a brief moment, they do have a chance to be with one another, honestly. Then on the other side, there is a man in pursuit of freedom, [with the opportunity] to have a life that he is yet to live with Tenny, someone who he sees the future with. So it’s an incredibly touching scene. The idea behind it is hope. It’s liberation. It wraps it all up nicely to see that in these dark times in this, gruesome world there is a light at the end of the tunnel so to speak.”
Watch the full interview below:
DMZ is streaming now on HBO Max.