Colin Farrell, Kirby + Amy Ryan on Subverting the Noir Genre With ‘Sugar’

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After more than two decades of experience starring in Hollywood blockbusters, Colin Farrell has developed a litmus test for picking projects. “When you read something, either there’s an instantaneous leaning into it or a leaning away from it,” he says. 

One that passed the test: Mark Protosevich’s noir series “Sugar,” which premiered last month on Apple TV+. Farrell stars as John Sugar, a private investigator on a mission to find a Hollywood producer’s missing granddaughter. 

He and his costars Amy Ryan and Kirby (formerly Kirby Howell-Baptiste) sat down with Backstage to talk about their work on the show.

“At the center…was this character who was counter to…noir characters that are embittered, or tired, or jaded, and they have a very cynical look or cynical perspective of the human condition because of all the cases they’ve been involved with, and cases they’ve been exposed to,” Farrell says. “John Sugar was quite the opposite. I thought there was a gentleness at the core of what ultimately becomes quite a violent tale.” 

For Kirby, a big part of the appeal of “Sugar” were the other performers attached. “I’m an actors’ actor. I love actors, I love watching people work, choosing different roles, seeing their range,” she says.

She was also intrigued by the writing of her character, Ruby. Unlike your typical manager of an international PI network, Kirby says that “Ruby is actually quite gentle, quite fluid, and quite soft in her power.” This gave the actor leeway to reshape the “rigid and coarse” detective archetype. “I think your job is to present [your character] in a way no one has ever seen before and you’ve maybe never felt before,” she explains.

Since there’s a late-season twist that’s keeping viewers guessing, the actors are being careful not to reveal too much. “People are trying to get information out of me. I won’t tell,” Ryan says. But she does leave us with one clue: “All the characters in this show—we’re not just there to forward a whodunit. You think we’re something else, but we flip that on its head pretty quickly.”