Daniel Zovatto Wanted to Keep Ramon’s 11:11 Mystery a Secret — Even From Himself
by Ashley Morton
HBO: How much explanation did creator Alan Ball give you ahead of time about 11:11?
Daniel Zovatto: I wanted it to be as mystical and weird as possible so I opted to not know much. The conversation was more about his backstory, and I feel like that was all I needed from my end because that’s where Ramon’s story starts. The rest is just unfolding in front of him.
HBO: What felt like the biggest challenge when it came to playing Ramon?
Daniel Zovatto: It’s a tricky thing to play mental illness, or being connected to a higher sensibility. I wanted to come at it from a sincere way, starting with fear of not knowing what’s going on and then maybe coming to accept it. I didn’t want to overdo it.
I focused the most on Ramon’s relationship with Henry. Ramon feels like he doesn’t have the ability to talk to somebody, and that’s why Henry becomes so important. Henry is also an outsider, and he doesn’t want to put a label on anything; he just wants to help and hear Ramon out.
Both Andy [Bean] and I are straight men, but we wanted to create something that was very real. There are so many ideas of “what it means to be gay” and we just wanted to make sure our relationship seemed like we could genuinely fall for each other. Andy is the first man I’ve kissed, and I feel like I waited for the right guy, but man, he’s got a very manly Viking beard — it’s a lot of hair to kiss.
HBO: Why is their camping experience in “It’s Coming” so special?
Daniel Zovatto: When you spend 12 hours a day in front of a computer, that can become your world. You just start eating chips, drinking, smoking weed and not showering. You stay in this dark room, sleep until 3 pm, and forget there’s an outside because it’s so comfortable inside. Henry knows Ramon needs to see the outside world because right now, Ramon’s consumed with what’s in front of him. So for Ramon, it was an eye-opening experience with this beautiful guy. It’s a whole different reality.
HBO: Does the fact that Ramon might have a mental illness make him feel like more like an outsider within his family?
Daniel Zovatto: Exactly. Ramon mentions shadows following him, and that was added after Alan [Ball, the show’s creator] and I discussed the backstory I had thought up for Ramon. He was this kid who has always been adept to these sensibilities; he’s always felt wherever he goes, “Something happened here.” He’s always been very intuitive, very connected. Throughout his life his siblings probably made fun of him, but it was very real to him, and when this big event happens, it’s the last straw.
HBO: Why does Ramon connect more with Kristen than his other siblings?
Daniel Zovatto: Kristen is a very open 17-year-old. She is very curious, and she’s green and naive, but it allows her to not have judgment, and just be. We talked about the idea that she was the first person Ramon told when he came out because she’s somebody who is just going to be like, “Oh cool, who do you like?” It’s a very open and honest relationship.
HBO: How does Ramon feel about how his parents are handling everything?
Daniel Zovatto: Tim [Robbins, who plays Greg] and I created a relationship where there’s mutual respect but separation, since we’re completely different people. But with Audrey [Holly Hunter] I was the mama’s boy, so for her it’s devastating. She doesn’t want to lose her son like she lost her brother. And she’s a little bit too much — she can’t be the mom looking through the window. Ramon feels she’s blinded by her reality with her brother Ike, but deep down he knows she just scared and wants the best for him.
HBO: What do you have in common with Ramon?
Daniel Zovatto: I like to paint and spend a lot of time doing art. For me it’s about hearing yourself, and putting it out there as art. It’s like a therapy thing. I feel like Ramon does the same with his video game; it’s what he’s been seeing and dealing with, and what he’s been dreaming about.
If you see his room, [Production Designer] Suzuki Ingerslev really nailed it. It’s all drawings. And I got to do a few of them myself, so I felt like it was my room; that was my life, those were my drawings; those were my dreams; and his game is all of that put together.