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Photo: Amazon Prime Video

Television

Breno Silveira, Flávio Tolezani, and Gabriel Leone on ‘Dom’ and the toll of addiction

We chat with the stars and showrunner of Amazon Prime Video’s latest series, Dom.

Dom is one of Amazon Prime Video’s newest series and it premiered today on the streaming service. The Brazilian crime and family drama is inspired by a true story about a father, Victor, who has spent his life fighting the war on drugs and a son, Pedro, who becomes an addict. They have a complicated relationship but their love for each other binds them despite being on opposite sides of the war.

We recently spoke with stars, Flávio Tolezani and Gabriel Leone, and the showrunner, Breno Selveira, about how they came aboard the project and bringing this very personal story to life. The three also shared what they hoped viewers took away from Dom and their anticipation to learning how the international audience will receive the show.

AIPT: My first question is for all three of you. What exactly about Dom drew you to this project?

Breno Selveira: Hi Gary. This is Breno speaking. Actually, this project has been in my life for many, many years. I heard Victor himself telling me the story twelve years ago. This was a very emotional story in a sense that it was a story that talked about drugs but mainly it talked about, it was seen from a very humane, from inside out, from inside of Victor’s perspective. So, it was a very important story that we should tell nowadays now that we’re living in growing violence and we have the unresolved situation of drug trafficking all throughout Latin America.

I think this is a story with a really interesting balance between the entire adventures and craziness that Victor lived and his human situation with regards to his kid. I really believe this was an important story that we should tell. It is a reading of what Rio de Janeiro is today and the human drama of him and his child. I was very scared in the beginning because I thought the story was very violent but I realized this was a love story. This is a story of love between a family. This is a story that is really important to me.   

Flávio Tolezani: Hi Gary. Well, I believe there is a series of things we can mention but I can list three. First what attracted me at first was how complex the character is. Victor, that is. For an actor, that’s already quite attractive. The second thing was the story. How it’s constructed. Its intensity. How powerful it is. I think the third thing is being with Breno in this project. He so wanted to tell this story and that was so clear when he told me the story. He told me about the script so when you add all those things up, that’s what attracted me and that’s why I’m here today.

Gabriel Leone: I completely agree with Flávio. Right from the start when Breno invited me for a chat, told me about the story. I’ve always admired his work. I’ve always wanted to work with him and when he started telling me the story, I was interested not only in the story but also the characters. The possibility of taking a real character to tell a story that’s based on true facts and to take an in depth look at it.

To bring very important political and social issues to light and, as they always say, to talk about the love between a father and his son. Also, the way Breno told me the story. Shared with me the way he wanted to tell the story, that really encouraged me to want to play the character.

AIPT: This question is for Breno. You have written and directed several television series in Brazil. As the showrunner, did your approach to the series change knowing it would be released in other international markets through Amazon and would have a potentially different audience then what you’re accustomed to?

Selveira: No, actually it was an amazing surprise when [I was told] that this wasn’t going to be restricted to Brazil. That it was going to be shown across the globe. Today, I’m really moved to be talking to people from so many different countries. India, Colombia, the U.S. It’s wild, you know, to have reached this position and I’m really curious to see how the work we’ve done is going to reflect on these places.

I’m very interested in finding out whether if we’re able to communicate to the world through our work. Out of all the series and films I’ve been involved in, I’ve never been in one with such a complex story. Such complex characters. It’s like a web. It happens across a number of years.

The characters, you know they are not lovable at first. They’re quite ambiguous. They have lots of layers. The series allows you to get to know Pedro and Victor gradually. It was almost like a PhD for me to do Dom after so many series. I am actually quite amazed that we managed to get to the end because it was a huge jigsaw puzzle. The script was like a mosaic.

We worked very hard on the script for two years with lots and lots of people, over one group of script writers. I’m happy that it’s reaching the world. I’m curious to see how it’s going to be received. I don’t know if you’ve watched it or not. I’m actually curious to know if you’ve watched any episodes.

AIPT: Yeah, I’ve watched the entire series.

Selveira: Wow! That’s so cool. Very good.

AIPT: It might take place in Brazil but it has a lot of universal themes. I know your main focus is the relationship between Pedro and Victor. I think anyone can relate to that regardless of where they are.

Selveira: That’s wonderful to hear and I’m glad you’ve watched the whole thing.

Leone: I think that’s a factor, I think Breno can speak for himself, but that is one of the main motivations for being in this series. For Amazon to have picked this project to be the first original Brazilian fiction project, and its ability to communicate universally not only through audio and visual but also because of the themes that are addressed by the series.

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Photo: Amazon Prime Video

AIPT: This question is for both Gabriel and Flávio. Both of your characters serve as the main driving force of the series not only looking at their relationship together but how they become involved in crime from their respective sides. What was your favorite part of your roles that you enjoyed exploring? What did you find most difficult in portraying Pedro and Victor?

Tolezani: I think, Gary, that the most exciting part is right off the bat, you know, from the first episode. Those two worlds come together when Victor goes to the favela to get his son in the funk party. That’s like an explosive, dangerous mix because what Victor does there is unthinkable. It’s unthinkable for anyone who has the least bit of fear because it is a very dangerous situation. When that comes together, that is very exciting because these opposing worlds as you said, they come together right there.

The father and the son, Victor and Pedro. When they’re together, those two worlds come together too but that’s in a more intimate setting. And what we see there is the relationship of love and affection but not in that scene right from the start. That’s what Breno shows you that this series is going to deliver. It’s not just about action but their willingness to resolve their relationship.

Leone: Both main pillars of my character, Pedro, are this conflict between this bright charismatic captivating young man who became addicted to drugs. Goes into crime. Has a really deep dark side. A heavy side. So, to answer your question, we chose, in the series, because it’s such a heavy series and addresses such heavy and deep themes, Dom’s bonding dynamics, especially during the robberies, for the characters to have fun while they’re doing it. To provide a certain comic relief even if they are committing crimes. And obviously, some crimes, as you have said, you’ve watched the whole series, some of them have consequences.

It’s interesting because this series doesn’t show us having any kind of glamor. No not at all. They have fun together but we never forget it’s a crime. They’re doing something wrong. That interaction with my fellow actors during the robberies, they were fun. I think everybody enjoyed it who was on set. Then Pedro’s other side, which is his drug addiction. This hole that’s caused by drugs in users and those around users, were the toughest, most painful scenes to shoot.

Especially when Pedro realized what the consequences of his acts were. I have many different scenes with Flávio where we’re looking into each other’s eyes after something that Pedro had done. Something that was unthinkable and often driven by his drug addiction. So, it was more than physical pain. It was the emotional pain. How much you have to give emotionally to shoot these scenes. And they’re all highly complex as well.

dom 1
Photo: Amazon Prime Video

AIPT: I guess finally, for all three of you, what do you hope viewers take away from Dom after finishing this first season?

Selveira: I think that this is a series that we have to think about it. It’s not a series that we’re talking about drugs. I know there are a lot of series about drug trafficking as well. I hope that as Victor wanted and when he told me this story, this series can lead us to think about all the policies. Brazil, nowadays, you should know, is an extremely violent country. So somehow the series shows where we deviated from the path of righteousness.

When Victor was diving and the cocaine package fell on his head, that was the first delivery of cocaine in Brazil in 1973. We understand that the money of drugs, it twisted many things. It corrupted many things. It infiltrated politics in Brazil and it victimized a lot of families. Somehow, I think when you’re watching this series, not only are you having fun. You’re suffering. You’re crying.

There are spectacular scenes of action but you have a small message here which is you shouldn’t fight drugs with violence. There’s a lot of difficulty actually for Pedro himself that he couldn’t win over his addiction. The series shows the entire arc since the beginning to the end and how Pedro had no way out. All the characters, they choose in the series what they want. This is beautiful because it comes from a real story and it was incredible to have it in the series.

Leone: The big merit of our series is to not have any type of morality underlying this. It’s a story based on real facts. There are reports about that; some superficial and some sensationalist reports. Nonetheless, we try to deepen and show how evermore complex this story is. Specifically, beyond the political panorama of Rio de Janeiro that mirrors other countries, or other countries in Latin America, but specifically talking about the dynamics and the family relationship of somebody that is a drug addict without judgement.

Without morality and showing the different facets and consequences that drug addiction generates into a person. One of the biggest merits, is as Breno has said, is to make us think somehow generally with empathy. People that might have gone through that or they know somebody, I think that this is the point where the series communicates with a more universal public.

Tolezani: Exactly that, Gary. This is what they say. It makes us think that this needs to be solved. And here, it’s something that’s exposed in this area. The series exposed this without judgement. There are several points that you show and in many of them, we can act. Maybe here, we can demonstrate that what we’re trying to find with drug trafficking are not working at the state level.

Dom is now streaming on Amazon Prime Video.

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