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Kirby's 'Sugar' character is the 'M' to Colin Farrell's Bond-like detective

Kirby and Colin Farrell's "Sugar" wraps up its first season on Friday. Photo courtesy of Apple TV+
1 of 5 | Kirby and Colin Farrell's "Sugar" wraps up its first season on Friday. Photo courtesy of Apple TV+

NEW YORK, May 17 (UPI) -- Kirby Howell-Baptiste, who now goes by Kirby, says her Sugar character, Ruby, is a complicated and mysterious woman whose professional partnership with the titular detective evolves over the course of the show's first season.

"She is really protective of him. They have a deep, long relationship that is very complex and nuanced. There is a constant ebb and flow of power," the Sandman, Barry and The Good Place alum told UPI in a recent Zoom interview.

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"The way the role was first described to me was 'Ruby is to Sugar what M is to James Bond,'" the actress said. "That really stuck with me because, when you frame it in that context, you know that it's going to be a relationship where she will be sort of his handler.

"But, more than that, she is his friend and the person that he can be himself with."

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Wrapping up its first season on Apple TV+ on Friday, the contemporary spin on the Los Angeles private detective story follows Colin Farrell as the empathetic sleuth, who is hired to find Olivia Siegel (Sydney Chandler), the missing granddaughter of Hollywood producer Jonathan Siegel (James Cromwell).

Smart, organized, impeccably dressed Ruby tries to discourage Sugar from taking the Siegel case. He doesn't learn why until late in the series.

"Going into this project, I knew very little, but what I did know a lot about were the creatives involved in it," Kirby said about the series, which was created by Mark Protosevich. His credits include Oldboy, I Am Legend and The Cell.

"This show was cast by Sherry Thomas, who also cast Barry, and I think Sherry has a really incredible eye and really great taste in the projects that she works on, so that was the first step in sort of piquing my interest."

Kirby said he was happy to hear that Farrell would be star in and executive produce the eight-episode series, as well.

"I've watched Colin for years and I think he has a really impressive body of work, and though no two characters he's played are the same, I think the connective tissue between all of his roles is a sense of quality and a sense of commitment to character," she said.

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"I felt like if this is a project that he chose to be a part of in such a large way, it couldn't help but be really good."

To get into Ruby's head and heart, Kirby first studied her scripts closely.

"What's interesting about playing in this genre of noir is that you, yourself, kind of have to be a bit of a 'script detective' as an actor," she said, explaining how she mined the text for details about the character before letting her imagination run wild.

"You have to take what you have been given by the writer," Kirby added. "It is your job then to imbue them with a sense of self and understand who they are in the larger context of the show."

The series has a unique visual style, moving between color and black and white, and splicing scenes from classic, old detective movies into the contemporary story line.

Even Kirby said she was surprised by how the show looked after it had all been put together.

"The more I work, the more I learn you absolutely can't ever imagine how a show will turn out in the end because there are so many components," she said.

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"Although the cast is pretty huge, we are actually a small part [of the series]. We are sort of a small cog in a large machine. There is a whole life before we get to set.

"There are writers and the show goes into development and has multiple iterations of a script, and then after we do our thing, it goes into editing and color correction and sound mixing. There are so many people who make this show what it is."

The way Farrell's character narrates the action via voice-over also distinguishes it from other series.

"It sets the tone and sets up the genre beautifully from the beginning," she said.

"And, then, having all of the old film cut into it, I think, is masterful and allows people to lose themselves in the genre even more."

While Sugar has a nostalgic, entertaining feel, it also addresses addiction and violence against women -- serious social issues that will resonate with modern audiences.

"The show doesn't shy away from where it is set -- Los Angeles -- and the issues that plague it," Kirby said.

"At the same time, it also retains that sense of classic Hollywood and those iconic scenes and scenery that we have here."

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The show co-stars Amy Ryan, Anna Gunn, Dennis Boutsikaris, Nate Corddry and Alex Hernandez.

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