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Daveed Diggs on the action and art in “Snowpiercer”

“Snowpiercer” is both the name of the tv show premiering on Sunday, May 17th as well as the train set in a dystopian world living through a second ice age. Inspired by the 2013 movie of the same name, this futuristic thriller-drama follows the survivors who live on a train that circles the globe. Daveed Diggs talks about his character, doing those action scenes, and the power of good science fiction.

Each class firmly tucked into their place, the front of the train for the luxurious and wealthy first class, to the last cars in the tail where people are struggling to survive. This is where the audience first meets Diggs’ character, Andre Layton. In his former life Layton was a detective but now finds himself in the back of the train. When something happens that requires his unique skill set becomes very useful on the train.

Daveed Diggs at San Diego Comic Con Photo: Jamie LeDent Photography

One of the many challenges working on a new tv show is the pace of the filming (about 10 days power episode) and that there are only a few scripts available at the start. Diggs says he was learning about his character as each new script appeared.

Everybody is learning about their character as they go. It ends up being a conversation between the actors and the writer’s room, as scripts come out. Everyone in this has lost someone, especially for those in the tail. Figuring out how Layton is coping, how much forward-thinking does he do, how much does the detective work that he does inform him of those decisions?

We had a lot of things to think about. That’s one of the things that is so tricky about learning those things on the fly; you don’t always have time to internalize those things you just hope that you do. At least for me.

Along with helping explore his character Diggs was excited to jump into the action sequences. Daveed Diggs action star sounds pretty good, right?

There is so much action. I always fancied myself an action hero despite there being no evidence that would be the case. I was very excited to jump into these things.

I spent a lot of nights being very sore and we had an incredible stunt team that was very good at making us look like we are amazing. We also had great standings and stunt doubles when we needed them. My stunt double was actually such a good actor that actually I contemplated not showing up. We looked very similar so I was like “Well, you could have cast him and he could have done it all by himself”. Our stunt team was amazing.

While the show isn’t shot on an actual train or with train dimensions, the space of the set provided another challenge to the action.

There’s not a lot of room for the fights to be beautiful out of necessity. There is so much to adapt; the choreographer would work so hard to structure this fight scene and then they’re shooting and the camera can’t see it. So then the stunt team was also adapting all of the time on the fly.

Like a lot of actors, I was so excited to do all these fights, but some of those were long days. At the end of the season I was like, can he just be sitting behind a desk in kind of an advisory capacity?

There may be action and adventure, but Diggs says that this shows’ exploration of class warfare, political survival, and social injustice allows the audience an opportunity to really think about those issues.

In all good science fiction should have some way of examining our present which is why we do it. So if you’re dealing with class, you have to think that there is a responsibility to trying to allow us to look at ourselves in a different way. The metaphor of “Snowpiercer”, the basic storyline of class structure allows us to look at the idea of class and look at it from different angles and turn it over like a toy train set and that’s very useful. I think that’s what the show is able to do is start there and go even further and it allows us to examine ourselves but with proxies.

That’s what art is for, to put all the weight of examination on somebody else who isn’t even a real person but you still get to experience and empathize and feel the things they are going through and hopefully learn some things about yourself as well.

See Daveed Diggs and the rest of the cast of “Snowpiercer” when it premiers on TNT on Sunday, May 17th at 9pm. Check your local listings for channel and showtime.

You can explore and learn more about the train and its many cars on

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