Almost no one could have predicted the unprecedented global events of the past two years, which is why Freddy Miyares is quite surprised by how HBO Max’s “DMZ” has only become more relevant over time.
The dystopian miniseries — in which Manhattan has become a demilitarized zone after a second civil war breaks out in America — comes after two years of a global pandemic that has kept millions of individuals isolated. It’s also debuting amid Russia’s devastating war in Ukraine, which the rest of the world has watched from afar.
“Even now, considering what’s happening on the other side of the world, the effects of war — what happens to a community, to a culture, and how is it preserved? Where do we maintain humanity? The series really does encapsulate that,” Miyares told The Wrap of how the show has proven timelier than he could have imagined. “It’s a beautiful and tragic story, really. But it’s all love, it’s family, it’s hope.”
Miyares stars alongside Rosario Dawson and Benjamin Bratt in the upcoming HBO Max series, which is based off the DC comics of the same name. Miyares plays Skel, the ruthless triggerman for one of the DMZ’s most powerful gangs.
“DMZ” was another Hollywood pandemic casualty, having to pause production for over a year after shooting the pilot at the beginning of 2020. By the time that production resumed, Miyares said he had a new perspective on his character.
“The silver lining in it all was that year in the pandemic — in isolation — really did provide me some chance to reflect and also internalize some of the experiences that I was going through in my personal life,” he said ahead of the show’s release. “You know, the isolation of it all was incredibly relevant to the story. Skel is a pretty lonely character. He kind of wanders that world by himself, really to protect himself and I got the chance to create this backstory that wasn’t really tied to the script, but it informed me of certain tendencies that Skel would have.”
Miyares maintains that he also has executive producers Ava DuVernay and Robert Patino to thank for his intimate knowledge of Skel and his motivations. After DuVernay offered him the role, Miyares immediately joined discussions between the creators, as well as Dawson and Bratt, about the trajectory of the plot and characters. Because of his early input from him, Miyares was able to create a backstory for his character from him that helped him dive deeper into the role.
In Episode 3, there is one scene in particular where Miyares told TheWrap his input directly influenced the outcome. The scene features an emotional conversation between Miyares and Dawson, revealing details about both characters’ past trauma.
“The day before shooting that — it was very bold of me and I would only do that because I knew Roberto — but I essentially rewrote that scene to how I would imagine Skel saying [those things], and I felt it over Roberto,” Miyares said. “He looked over it, and the next day, I got a rewrite, and he had completely implemented a lot of the things that I have suggested, while maintaining, in essence, what he had written, which was so cool, because that was just a direct reflection of my input. I have trusted myself enough to do that.”
While it may have been a bold move to suggest rewrites for that scene, Miyares also thinks that it was quite important, since he considers the moment to be “quintessential” to Skel’s character development.
“That’s when we realize who he really is, why he is who he is, and the trauma [he’s endured]. You understand why he navigates the world the way he does, because of this one scene,” he said. “So I thought it was very important that, given what I understood to be this character, I articulated that as best as I could and the fact that I was able to use in some capacity, my own words to explain that really routed me into that scene.”
Of course, it also helped that he was working alongside an actor as skilled as Dawson. “She just gave me 1,000% of herself. I don’t think a single take wasn’t able to be used for that because we really did put it all out there,” he added. “She is just the kindest, most generous, the brightest light in a room and she will take completely barren, dead space and just bring life into it.”
“DMZ” marks Miyares’ second major television gig — and also his second time working closely with DuVernay. The actor previously portrayed Raymond Santana, one of the Exonerated Five, in the Netflix miniseries “When They See Us.”
Miyares called meeting with DuVernay “the greatest validation in my professional career” thus far.
“I had just recently graduated university. I had been auditioning constantly, never seeing the light of day. And Ava was the first director to really take a chance on me,” he recalled. “Obviously the privilege of having worked with her before, we have that rapport where we can communicate and brainstorm ideas and be collaborative in that process, which is not always the case. It was a great privilege to work with her again.”
He added: “I’m just one of those very fortunate individuals who got to kick start my career with someone like Ava and then she’s opened up the avenues that I would have never even thought imaginable.”
All four episodes of “DMZ” are available to stream on HBO Max.