Briarpatch - Rosario Dawson interview

Rosario Dawson (Rent, Sin City, Death Proof, Top Five, The Mandalorian) stars as Allegra ‘Pick’ Dill in our twisty new crime thriller Briarpatch.

Rosario Dawson interview

How would you describe Briarpatch?

Briarpatch is a weird, funny and intense wild ride, which makes for a lot of really insane situations. I play Allegra Dill in the show. Allegra is a woman on the hunt and she's completely suspicious. She goes back to her hometown to investigate her sister's murder, while drinking too much and smoking too much - and confronting her childhood friends.

Is Briarpatch a revenge story?

I wouldn't necessarily look at Briarpatch as a revenge story. There will definitely be aspects of revenge that come up as the story unfolds, but this is really a murder mystery. For my character, the show looks at the armour she's put on in life to survive coming from an incredibly impoverished background and a lot of childhood trauma. She's clawed success out of a lot of really trying situations and now she's put to her most incredible test, which involves dealing with the murder of her sister.

What else can you reveal about your character, Allegra Dill?

When you first meet Allegra, she shows up in town and she checks into a hotel - and she thinks she's going to wrap up this investigation within a week. Even as trying and terrible as the situation is, the very first line you hear from Allegra is one that I improvised on the day. When she gets picked up at the airport and her driver asks, "Miss Dill?" She replies, "The one and only." That was my line. Her mother is dead. Her sister is now dead. And this line is a small, immediate window into the mind of Allegra Dill.

Briarpatch is adapted from the 1984 Ross Thomas novel of the same name. Did you read the book when you were cast in the show?

I didn't read the book because I knew the show was adapted and updated. For example, my character is a man in the book. My character is Benjamin Dill in the book and there are no zoo animals in it, but there are in our show. I knew there were some really significant changes. Plus, this is a murder mystery and I love solving puzzles - and I'm very confident in my ability to do so. I really wanted to be in my character's shoes at every single moment, so I didn't want to know what was going to happen next.

Didn't you read any scripts in advance?

I held out all the way until the tenth episode. I wouldn't read an episode until we were about to shoot it. This is a 10-episode show and the story's complete. It's not like you're going to be left on a cliffhanger, so I always wanted to be where Allegra was and I wanted to be with the audience, too. To be honest, I think it helped a lot. I didn't want to be ahead of the story.

You mention there are zoo animals in the show. Were they real giraffes or CGI animals on the set?

They were real. [Showrunner] Andy Greenwald was very particular about that. For some reason, the giraffes were drawn to me on set. Maybe it was my red suit? I didn't have food and I didn't do anything special for them, but I would walk in and this beautiful creature would come to me. It had eyelashes as long as my fingers. I guess the red suit drew it in every time.

What do the wild animals add to the show?

I think the animals add an element that's very clear about how wild this world is. It's very primitive. It's very raw. There's also the idea of vulnerability, too. It was definitely something that added an element of awe, wonder and surprise, because no matter how smart, calculating, manipulative and discerning these folks are, the reality is that no-one can control anything and everything at all times. I think it's great to see that wild aspect embodied throughout every creature we see on-screen. You really understand how wild these animals are and how wild these people are.

The show was shot in Albuquerque, which is a high-altitude city in New Mexico. How would you describe that experience?

I get really serious altitude sickness, so I had to drink a lot of chlorophyll water every single day. I also staved off from drinking [alcohol]. Chlorophyll water is great. It helps you develop more blood cells and more oxygen.

We heard a rumour that you suggested chlorophyll water to your Briarpatch co-star, Alan Cumming...?

That's right. You should've seen the video that Alan Cumming did, because I got him on it. He did a whole video talking about it, which was hilarious. He was like, "Boris Johnson, PM of England: not hilarious. Drinking chlorophyll water and having your poop turn green: hilarious." Of all the people on set, Alan was the one who wanted to live stream everything and put it out there. At one point, we had to say to him, "That is a huge story point. You can't put that online. Take it down!"

What was it like to work with Kim Dickens and the rest of the cast?

Kim Dickens' work is powerful, amazing and profound. I don't normally have the opportunity to be on set every single day on a project, but I constantly had this rotation of brilliant performances in front of me. There were a lot of different locations and different people, including Kim Dickens, Jay R Ferguson, Ed Asner and Alan Cumming, but it was brilliant every single day. Andy Greenwald curated this show to be full of people who are remarkably talented. They are people you love, but they are also really good, really nice, really fun and really interesting people.

What did you enjoy the most about working with this cast in particular?

When you're getting up at six o'clock in the morning and you're working in 100 degrees at high altitude, it would be understandable if people were really miserable - but everyone was super nice. The cast members and crew members were literally saying, "How is this possible? Everyone is talented and great, but also really nice." If there was even a whiff or a hint of a story about someone being difficult or someone not being a good person in any way, shape or form, you wouldn't want them anywhere near your project.

In real life, you're in a relationship with a senator called Cory Booker. In the show, your character is also in a relationship with a senator. Was this pure coincidence?

We shot the pilot in September 2018, but I didn't start dating Cory until October 2018. My character works for a Senate subcommittee. She works for a senator from the state where she was raised, and it was definitely interesting. It brought up a lot of interesting conversations. When information on the show was released, a chief of staff called me and asked, "Is there anything we should be alerted to or made aware of?!"