Soon to be available from Netflix is its latest international offering: Zero. Set in the outskirts of Milan, Zero follows its titular character—a young teen who needs to get control over his new powers of invisibility to save his neighborhood with his new group of friends.
The series offers international viewers insight not only into life outside the idealized tourist spots of Italy but also into the lives of young Afro-Italians. Zero is a series that is often described as timely. Not only does it represent the first primarily black media project in Italy but it shifts away from the more popular Rome to show a life that is more familiar to many young Italians. In Lombardy, the region of Milan, immigrants account for ~10% of the population but are almost non-existent on tv or in films. Immigrant communities have been present for over 20 years and now there is an entire generation of second generation immigrants coming of age in a country that is still struggling to acknowledge their presence.
The show, written by author Antonio Dikele Distefano, is based in part on his novel, “Non ho mai avuto la mia età” which roughly translates to “I have never been my age”. He himself is second-generation Italian, born in northern Italy to Angolan parents.
Distefano recalled in a recent interview with Esquire, “When I was young, there weren't any superheroes of color on tv.” Distefano's motivation for the series came not only from a desire for representation but also in order to show the ordinary parts of life for Afro-Italians. “In Italy, differences are accentuated. It's wrong. We need normality: not exceptionality” he continued.
The series is centered young Zero, who is struggling to cope with the loss of his mother as well as his daily life. The role is actor Giuseppe Dave Seke first major role.
Seke, 25, is the lead in a cast comprised primarily of other young Afro-Italian actors. Seke on the show: "I think that a show like Zero is a great opportunity for all second generation Italians and for all the future stories that will arrive after this series. The world moves quickly. It's enough consider the web or music. From 10 years ago to today there have been many changes. I have two younger brothers, for them it's normal to have a diverse group of friends. It's something in progress that can't be stopped.”
The character of Zero makes new friends with a group comprised of Shariff, Sara, Inno, and Momo.
Shariff is played by Haroun Fall, 25, who has previous experience in film. Fall expressed to Repubblica, “Zero represents an important creation: it's the first time that its possible to see second-generation actors as part of a cast.” His own character, Shariff “is a man between two cultures: Italian and African". "But overall [this project] needed a black writer: if it wasn't Antonio Dikele Distefano writing this story, it couldn't have been told."
Daniela Scattolin, who comes from Vicenza, plays Sara. Daniela is a relative newcomer as she's only been in one other production. She reflected on the show: "These aren't the typical characters. Usually, for a girl of color, there is always the same role: the victim, the prostitute, the outcast. In Zero - no, in Zero finally there is space for dignity and this is something very important. Because it permitted us to show normality."
Momo is acted by Dylan Magon who also works as a musician.
The last of the group, Inno, is portrayed by Madior Fall, a model who has walked for Armani and Dolce & Gabbana.
Shortly before shooting on the series started, COVID lockdowns halted production. However for the cast this also became an opportunity to get to know each other better. The weeks in limbo let them build the same kind of bond their characters enjoyed on screen.
Zero arrives on Netflix April 21st.