Heavy in music and emotion, creating “Sound of Metal” meant finding humor between cuts. The cast and writer-director Darius Marder opened up about the process to Variety film awards editor Clayton Davis during the Variety Streaming Room.

“Olivia’s got an amazing way of being able to crack hilarious jokes between scenes and then like just drop back into a scene,” Riz Ahmed said of co-star Olivia Cooke, who plays girlfriend Lou to his Ruben. “I don’t know if she does it on purpose or not, but it’s an amazing thing.”

“Sound of Metal” follows heavy metal drummer Ruben when he loses his hearing while the couple is on tour. He and Lou, the band’s singer, must part ways when Ruben joins a deaf community for recovering addicts and must learn that deafness is not a handicap.

“[Darius] asked a lot from us, and I think to be in that space constantly even when you’re off camera, I think it would’ve worn us out because it’s such an emotional [experience] and you have to save some of that emotion for when the camera’s rolling,” Cooke said.

Not only does Ruben have to cope with losing his hearing (compounded by his history with addiction), but his relationship with Lou—and their strong codependency— is changed forever.

“It was just harrowing because [Riz] just became this little boy that just like, ‘Help me,’” Cooke said. “It’s like a mother with a child, and the child breaks her leg or is going through some pain, and you just want to take it away.”

On-set antics to lighten such intensity even included a wrestling match between Ahmed and Marder, who noted having fun between the serious moments is essential in filmmaking.

“Sometimes, the only way to put a director in their place is by physically fighting them on set,” Ahmed joked. “I feel like I would’ve done better if Darius hadn’t strategically forced me to lose so much weight for the role.”