While the drug trade has been a topic of numerous TV dramas in recent years, from Breaking Bad to Narcos, Sky Atlantic’s ZeroZeroZero stands out as a brutally realistic take on the issue.
The series follows a huge shipment of cocaine as it is transported around the world, introducing us to all the people involved in its journey, from the affluent Lynwood family in New Orleans to a dangerous Italian mafia.
The story is based on a book by Italian author Roberto Saviano, whose research into the illegal industry has been so exhaustive that he now requires around-the-clock police protection.
With that in mind, it seems quite fitting that the producers behind the television adaptation wanted the show to feel just as gritty and real as its source material, a feat they achieved by using real locations all over the globe.
While a large proportion of films and TV series will make extensive use of studio sets or dress one location to seem like another (looking at you, Vancouver), that simply wasn’t considered an option for the team behind ZeroZeroZero.
Executive producers Riccardo Tozzi and Gina Gardini said: “Using the successful production model we created in making our previous series [Prime Video’s Gomorrah], we decided to shoot in the places where our story actually takes place, despite the enormous difficulties we knew we would encounter: colossal shooting schedules divided by continents and countries, hiring various local crews, moving across the globe more than a hundred people and our technical equipment, not to mention the economic investment required for a production this size.
“The only exceptions we made were for the scenes on the cargo ship – shot in the Gulf of Mexico rather than the middle of the Atlantic Ocean – and the scenes in the desert, which were shot all in Morocco and not also in Mali.”
As you would expect, shooting ZeroZeroZero was a massive undertaking which spanned 148 days, three continents and five different countries: Italy, Mexico, Morocco, the United States and Senegal.
In total, the production travelled to 300 distinct locations, hired more than 1,000 crew members and featured 10,000 extras to populate its dark story, with star Dane DeHaan confident that it was worth the hard work.
“Every location stands out,” he told RadioTimes.com and other press. “And I think one of the things I loved about watching the show is that they really took advantage of the locations. When you watch the show, you can tell we’re in the real places.
“Being in the Sahara Desert was an experience I’ll never forget. That’s certainly a place I would never have gone to on my own if it wasn’t for the show. Seeing the sand dunes and the culture and spending a night riding a camel to look at the sunset and camping in the desert was amazing.”
While the most unfamiliar places have naturally left the biggest mark on DeHaan’s memory, the actor says that “all of the locations still kind of haunt me”, including his character’s home in New Orleans, which he had never visited prior to filming.
ZeroZeroZero also stars Andrea Riseborough, Gabriel Byrne, Tchéky Karyo and a large international cast, with six local languages and dialects spoken across the eight-episode season.
ZeroZeroZero premieres on Sky Atlantic at 9pm on Thursday 4th February and will also be available to stream on NOW TV. While you’re waiting, check out our TV Guide to see what’s on tonight.