CS Interview: Dane DeHaan & Veena Sud on Quibi’s The Stranger
ComingSoon.net got the opportunity to participate in a conference call with Dane DeHaan (Lisey’s Story) and Veena Sud (Seven Seconds) to discuss the Quibi thriller series The Sranger, which co-stars Maika Monroe (It Follows) and is set to air its series finale today!
In The Stranger series, an unassuming young rideshare driver is thrown into her worst nightmare when a mysterious Hollywood Hills passenger enters her car. Her terrifying, heart-stopping ride with the stranger unfolds over 12 hours as she navigates the seedy underbelly of Los Angeles in a chilling game of cat and mouse.
Starring Maika Monroe (It Follows), Dane DeHaan (The Amazing Spider-Man 2), and Avan Jogia (Zombieland: Double Tap), the series is created, written, and directed by Veena Sud (The Killing), who is also serving as an executive producer. This project marks Monroe’s first major TV project after making her TV debut CBS’s Eleventh Hour series in 2011.
Quibi, which is short for “Quick Bites” is streaming service, founded by Jeffrey Katzenberg and Meg Whitman, is set to feature series that run two to four hours in length and are broken down into parts that are no longer than 10 minutes in length.
In diving into its Los Angeles setting, Sud revealed that her desire for the Southern California area was “to show the L.A. that we don’t typically see on the big screen” and that it’s a version of the city that speaks to the “brutality and homelessness and loneliness of Hollywood” that connects to Monroe’s heroine Clare.
“It also speaks to a city that many of us who even live here may not know,” Sud described. “It’s an ever-changing city. I’ve lived here for a very long time now and I feel like I’ve barely even scratched the surface of this megalopolis, so this was my love letter to L.A. It was so much fun to go on location scouts and see parts of L.A. like the underground subway that was around in the 1930s and has been shut down, it was a joy to learn about the scene it was in.”
“It was sometimes hard for me to get to the locations because I’m not from L.A. and I don’t know L.A. that well, I guess when you live in L.A. traditionally you drive yourself to set,” DeHaan laughed. “The locations were obscure enough that sometimes it was, from a practical standpoint, really hard to get there, but once we were there, the use of L.A. in the story is really exciting and cool and we definitely got to go all over and I think they use really good use of the city. I remember hearing Veena say she wanted to use it in like an untraditional way and I think she was really successful in doing that.”
Though DeHaan found some initial struggles in getting into his part in the series, as it “all happened a lot more quickly than I’m used to or even prefer,” the 34-year-old star found that once he and Sud began diving into discussions of the motivations of his character and her vision for the project, it made it easier to “lean into it and have fun.”
“I think one of the fun things about the job of being an actor is getting permission to misbehave, we had a trusting, loving, kind set,” DeHaan explained. “The whole incel aspect certainly is a part of Carl’s character and is not glorify, but it is a really interesting aspect of society and within that it can be really fun to misbehave for a living. I feel like a lot of the characters I play are much more silent than Carl E. and Carl just talks and talks and talks. So the research that came out of it mostly had to do with my conversations with Veena of the why, why is he doing these things which led to conversations about algorithms, conversations about being able to predict behaviors, which is incredibly interesting. If The Stranger was an indie movie, I don’t know if I would have been as into the project as much as I was doing it as a Quibi, because I think she really took this platform and made it work in a way that was really innovative and exciting.”
DeHaan also opened up that though he never really bases his characters on previous performances, be it an adaptation of a prior project or something original as in The Stranger, he did get to witness the debut of a certain notorious comic book adaptation from 2019 that has become one of his favorite cinematic villains.
“I feel like often times villains are the most interesting characters in movies, when we were making this Joker came out and I took a day off and I saw a double feature of Ad Astra and Joker and [Phoenix] had an amazing performance,” DeHaan said. “Heath Ledger also gave an amazing performance, I think of like Jack Nicholson in The Shining. I think those three performances that come to the top of my head are more showy, talky portrayals of the villain and those are the ones that come to mind.”
Sud revealed her inspiration for the series spawned from the “palette” she was given in being offered to create and helm a series for the then-upcoming streaming service and that after getting to meet with founder Jeffrey Katzenberg, the story possibilities began to bloom in her mind.
“He explained it so beautifully to me that all of a sudden it was this revelation that I could play in this totally different storytelling sandbox than I’ve ever been in before,” Sud explained. “Knowing that these would be quick bites of a story and have a cliffhanger at the end would ideal and the screen would be small and therefore would need to be deeply compelling and energetic and high-octane, that’s where I came up with the idea for The Stranger. Another thing I really thought about when coming up with the idea was the election of 2016 and the anger that a lot of women and people in this country feel about what happened.”
In looking for her lead stars, Sud revealed that DeHaan is “an actor I’ve wanted to work with for a very long time,” going all the way back to his role in the 2012 neo-noir crime drama The Place Beyond the Pines, in which she “was just torn up” by his performance and his character’s journey.
“He’s a young, extraordinary actor and when the character of Carl E. was born I knew I was going to shoot for the fences and try and get Dane finally,” Sud recalled. “I was so excited and so lucky that he came on the project. I think what is so fascinating about Dane in this role is he brings so much humanity to the “bad guy.” Carl E. I think is more terrifying because he is a human being who could be appealed to but has shut off that part of himself, and I love those moments where we can see Dane wavering when Maika is trying to appeal to him and just the shutting down was terrifying and heartbreaking and his own fear near the end of the show when she turns the tables on him. Every bad guy that we love, including The Joker, is a person with a broken heart who’s turned deeply cynical and deeply bitter and angry and that’s what Dane brought to the character of Carl E. Maika too, I first saw her in It Follows and Maika is an actress who shows up as the human being. No matter what circumstance or what genre the story is taking place in, she and Dane both show up faithful and loyal 100 percent to that character they’re playing as a human being.”
The Stranger is currently ready to stream its first 12 episodes on Quibi.