Those About To Die Actors Dimitri Leonidas and Gabriella Pession Discuss the Amazing Tech Behind the Epic Show (INTERVIEW)

THOSE ABOUT TO DIE
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In the epic new Peacock show Those About To Die, Dimitri Leonidas plays Scorpus, one of Rome’s top charioteers, and Gabriella Pession plays Antonia, a Patrician pulling many strings in this criminal underworld of ancient Rome.

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We at FandomWire got to speak with Leonidas and Pession about their roles in Those About To Die, what the show has to say about ancient Rome, and filming the show using virtual production technology (like we’d seen in The Mandalorian and Ant-Man and the Wasp: Quantumania). Check out the full interview here:

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THOSE ABOUT TO DIE — Episode 101 — Pictured: Dimitri Leonidas as Scorpus — (Photo by: Reiner Bajo/Peacock)

Those About To Die Interview

FandomWire: We’ve seen plenty of movies and shows about gladiators and charioteers, but I think what makes Those About To Die stand out is that it shows us a side of this that we’ve not really seen before. Why do you think the behind-the-scenes drama of this world is so fascinating?

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Dimitri Leonidas: I think illuminating this particular part of ancient Rome is like looking in between the gaps of the things that we usually see and connecting those larger dynamics together. So you get a kind of middle class of people that maybe get skipped in the usual stories. There’s the sort of middle-level gangster of Rome, and how he operates, and how his system works. The utility of children as almost spies running around the city and reporting through word of mouth and getting that back to Tenax.

For me, that is really fascinating how those guys would have operated in a city like that. It’s a look at both the giant spectacle of these games, the political agenda of the ruling class, the slaves that get torn up in this system, and the people that operate in a sort of middle management layer. And I think that’s such a sort of holistic view of ancient Rome. And it brings things into light that feel new and different. And that’s always fun, I think, for an audience to see the familiar and unfamiliar at the same time.

And who doesn’t want to see a gang operate in Rome? I think that, to me, is just such a cool selling point. As soon as I saw it’s gangsters, but low-level kind of scum gangsters in Rome when they’re henchmen and trying to climb the social level, it was a great pitch for me.

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THOSE ABOUT TO DIE — Episode 102 — Pictured: (l-r) Gonçalo Almeida as Elia, Pepe Barroso as Fonsoa, Eneko Sagardoy as Andria, Dimitri Leonidas as Scorpus— (Photo by: Reiner Bajo/Peacock)

FW: Much of Those About To Die was filmed using virtual production to capture the scale of Ancient Rome. What were some of the biggest challenges as an actor with this style of production?

Gabriella Pession: It was amazing. I remember shooting in Studio 18, where they have this huge LED that’s 180 degrees wide. And there had been some kind of real set built by the set designers — so some of the stuff is real — but then behind there is this program that Roland [Emmerich] was trying. 

Roland, he’s such a genius of technology and everything, so he was trying to explain to me how things work, and I don’t understand anything. “We have this amazing program that is like blah, blah, blah, blah, blah, blah…” And I was like, “Yeah…”

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Basically, what I understood a little bit was that there was this program where they can have like a remote control that is like a drone in ancient Rome, and they can block an image, and then on the display, have this angle that they want displayed on the screen. And then, in front of the screen, you have real things happening — so real horses, real actors, real fruit getting thrown from kids to kids — all live, really happening. But in the background, you have this magnificent portrait of Rome that you’ve never seen before that is through this amazing program.

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THOSE ABOUT TO DIE — Episode 103 — Pictured: (l-r) , Rupert Penry Jones as Marcus, Gabriella Pession as Antonia—(Photo by: Reiner Bajo/Peacock)

So, I think the level of epic shots and stuff that we’re able to pursue today is way higher because the technology knows no limits and is moving so fast. Like I saw some AI in action because I was shooting, and I didn’t realize that on the top of this thing that they displayed, you see tiny little people walking. And I was like, “Oh my god, it’s moving!” and he was like, “Of course it’s moving! It’s Rome behind you, they’re moving.”

Which is mind-blowing. So you’re acting, but behind you there’s like two people selling foods at the market that are not real. It’s bizarre. And then the camera moves because it’s linked to this thing on the camera. I don’t know. So the camera moves, and then the whole kind of world — it’s unbelievable. 

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It has been an amazing experience. I still don’t understand anything about it, but I can tell you it was amazing to work on it.

Those About To Die streams on Peacock beginning July 18.

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Sean Boelman

Written by Sean Boelman

Articles Published: 174

Sean is a film critic, filmmaker, and life-long cinephile. For as long as he can remember, he has always loved film, but he credits the film Pan's Labyrinth as having started his love of film as art. Sean enjoys watching many types of films, although some personal favorite genres include music documentaries, heist movies, and experimental horror.