Sweet Tooth: Is Tommy Jepperd Based on a Real Football Player? Is Greenville Guardians an Actual Football Team?

An unlikely friendship develops between two people completely different from each other in Netflix’s ‘Sweet Tooth,’ and it forms the heart and soul of the story. The duo in question is a 9-year-old boy named Gus and a man named Tommy Jepperd. They come across each other in a post-apocalyptic world where almost all humans have been killed by a deadly disease, and a new species of part-human, part-hybrid babies is taking over the world. Gus is a hybrid, and Jepp is a human who used to hunt hybrid kids, although completely unwillingly. At first glance, their meeting appears to be a recipe for disaster, particularly for Gus, but Big Man’s heart is melted by the boy. Interestingly, his character is inspired by another comic book character.

Tommy Jepperd is Inspired by a Popular Marvel Character

The character of Tommy Jepperd is entirely fictional and was created by Jeff Lemire for the DC comic book series, ‘Sweet Tooth,’ which serves as the source material for the Netflix series. The character, like mostly everything else in the comic books, is fictional, but while sketching out his story, Lemire looked towards Marvel’s Frank Castle aka the Punisher. He wanted the same vibe for Jepperd that Frank Castle has. Both the characters share a similarity in the background where they have lost their families, and their grief turns them into a completely different person. They are also physically intimidating but have the air of being “tired of the world” around them. Pitted against Gus’ endless, innocent hopefulness, this vibe creates a brilliant contrast and works wonderfully to set up the relationship between the characters.

image Credit: Matt Klitscher/Netflix

While bringing the story to the screen, the writers made a couple of changes in Jepperd’s background. In the books, he is a hockey player, but in the series, his background is set in football, with the Greenville Guardians (that team that Jepp played for before the world fell to the Sick) equally fictional. In both cases, Jepperd remains a force to be reckoned with, and aligning with him proves fruitful to Gus, whom Jepperd slowly grows fond of. As much as Gus and Jepperd love each other, with the latter ready to follow the boy to the ends of the earth, actor Nonso Anozie was told by the director, Jim Mickle, to keep his emotions in check and never actually show the soft spot his character holds for the young hybrid.

The idea behind this direction was for Jepperd to be aware that Gus being around him is quite dangerous. Jepp doesn’t think very highly of himself, especially since the death of his family, and believes that Gus being around him might prove fatal for the latter. He also seems adamant about dropping Gus to the next location and parting ways with him as soon as possible, but he eventually ends up going with him all the way. This warming up to Gus appears slowly and the developing bond between the duo becomes the beating heart of the story.

For Nonso Anozie, playing to Jepp’s strength as well as his vulnerability was exciting and one of the best parts about bringing the character alive on the screen because he wanted to relate that conflict within the character to the audience, knowing that this struggle is what makes him all the more believable to the audience. Sure enough, the actor embodies all of Jepp’s complexities incredibly, showing us how no one is either good or bad, and people are more complicated than what appears at first sight. Focusing on both the good and the bad of his character, especially concerning his past, adds the factor of redeemability to him, which further makes him more human and hence more relatable to the audience, making his relationship with Gus one of the best things about the story.

Read More: Sweet Tooth: Why Does Gus See the Deer? What Does the Deer Symbolise?