The new HBO Europe series “The Sleepers” is a six-part spy drama set in pre-Velvet Revolution former communist Czechoslovakia.

Director Ivan Zacharias (“Wasteland”) and actor David Nykl (“Stargate”) joined Variety film critic Peter Debruge to discuss the series at the Variety Critics Corner, presented by HBO Europe.

Zacharias recalled the year that brought the decades-long communist regime to an end. “That was a big year. It was a huge change, when the communist system finally broke down,” said Zacharias.

Zacharias and the show’s scribe Ondrej Gabriel were committed to making the show faithful to real life events, including the language. “This has to be in Czech, because it’s a Czech story,” said Zacharias.

Nykl was excited to take on a role outside of his typical sci-fi and superhero portrayals.  “This is new. This is exciting,” Nykl said. “I think it’s also new for the Czech Republic to have an espionage drama. It’s a great genre.”

Zacharias said he kept in mind both Czech and foreign audiences when creating the show. “It is tricky because you have to deal with knowledge that local audiences know the situation much more than the foreign audience,” he said. “You have to be clever about it, not to be too descriptive for the Czechs, but descriptive enough for the foreign audience.”

Nykl added, “I really do think that there is a universal spy thriller genre that people will recognize, and this is a really original Czech take on it.”

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