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Echo 3 cast on building complex relationships in a geopolitical thriller

If there’s a writer who understands geopolitical thrillers, it’s Mark Boal. The journalist-turned-screenwriter penned two of the most successful geopolitical thrillers of the 21st century, The Hurt Locker and Zero Dark Thirty. Boal’s accolades include Oscar wins for Best Original Screenplay and Best Picture on The Hurt Locker and a nomination for his screenplay on Zero Dark Thirty. Now, Boal is bringing his geopolitical prowess to Apple TV+ with the new series Echo 3.

Created by Boal, Echo 3 revolves around the relationship between three family members: Bambi (Luke Evans), Prince (Michiel Huisman), and Amber (Jessica Ann Collins). Bambi and Amber are siblings, Amber and Prince are married, and Bambi and Prince are military comrades. When Amber, a gifted scientist, disappears near the Colombia-Venezuela border, Bambi and Prince head to South America to rescue her by any means necessary. Based on the Israeli series When Heroes Fly, Echo 3 applies a cinematic experience to a thrilling television series that spans two continents.

In an interview with Digital Trends, Evans, Huisman, and Collins discuss their complex relationships with each character and what it was like to shoot on location in the jungle.

A woman and man embrace and dance in a scene from Echo 3.

Note: This interview has been edited for length and clarity. 

Digital Trends: I was reading the notes for the show, and Mark said that every character has their own agency. You can’t tell between the heroes and the bad guys. Michiel, how did you apply that ambiguity to your character?

Michiel Huisman: Well, what I tried to do is really focus on my character and my character’s desires and needs and flaws. I always loved that these characters are so complex. They are decorated war heroes, but they have many flaws. And in the case of my character, it’s not one flaw — it’s quite a few. So you focus on what your character needs, and the problem between these three is what makes it very interesting.

Jessica Ann Collins: Yeah, and I think as human beings living inside of moments and things like that, it doesn’t just have to be one thing. Dualities exist. It’s so amazing that Mark was able to show that on screen so well with all of the characters. It is a very fascinating piece of the show.

The show is a very exciting thriller. There’s a lot of action and adventure with these great set pieces, but the heart of the show is the relationship between your three characters. Luke, how did you make the relationship the focal point of the show? 

Luke Evans: Well, now you’ve seen it, you know that we are only sort of together for the first episode. There was a very serious responsibility by all of us, including the director and writer, that we built and established, very quickly, the history between us on screen. I think we did it, but it was a challenge because you get a one-hour episode before we are torn apart, and whatever that bond was has to be so established and real and visceral in a few scenes. We then spend the next nine episodes fighting to save it. Luckily, I’m working with two incredible actors, and we all knew that we had to prove that bond to the audience, but we did.

Each relationship we have =- you with him, me with him, all of us together, you with me — they’re all different. They are very different, you know, the dynamic between all of us. As soon as it was established, I felt like, yeah, now I believe that these two men will do what they’re about to do to save this woman. That’s important. I think it’s very important to these establishing scenes. Sometimes, they can be, “OK, we need to know that they’ve got a history,” but it was imperative that we made sure that it felt as real and as deep as possible.

A woman sits at a table in a scene from Echo 3.

Mark has crafted so many of these geopolitical thrillers. As someone who knows this landscape so well, what was it like working with him? What was Mark’s process like?

Collins: He shows up with all of himself. He was there every single day, every single hour, every single minute, doing quality control with his integrity and his mindset. It was an amazing experience working with someone who takes his work seriously.

It was a long shoot on location in the jungle. You could sense the authenticity. It’s not in front of a green screen or on a stage. What was the shoot like in these real, authentic places?

Collins: It’s wild when you spend a week scaling an actual waterfall in the middle of nowhere with all of the creatures and bugs. Nothing can replace that. That was as real as could be. I was really hanging from those places, and I jumped off of that ledge.

Evans: Even some of those journeys to set, let me tell you, I’m like, “Are we going to even make it to this location? Who the hell found this place?” I mean did they send him out, and he came back three months later and was like, “I found this giant rock in the middle of the jungle. We’re going to use it. I don’t know how we’re going to get there.”

Collins: I actually think that Mark did that, multiple times. He was like, “You know what? I went around hiking and I saw this amazing spot.”

Echo 3 — Official Trailer | Apple TV+

Evans: And then thinking how are we going to get 200 people, camera crews, walking down this cliff face in the middle of the dense, wet jungle surrounded by poisonous snakes? That’s what we did every day. We had one episode where we went to work in giant speedboats at dawn. We would be on a speedboat in the dark, and by the time we got to the island that we were working on, the sun was rising. Do you remember those days?

Collins: Oh, god.

Evans: We’re like, “What a job this is.” It was very special.

The first three episodes of Echo 3 are now streaming on Apple TV+. Stream new episodes weekly on Fridays.