All About 'The Night Agent' Star Gabriel Basso

·7-min read

The Netflix star talks to PEOPLE about his role as Peter Sutherland, preparing for the action series and his acting inspirations

Dan Power/Netflix
Dan Power/Netflix

Gabriel Basso is a scene-stealer in Netflix's latest action thriller series The Night Agent.

Based on the novel of the same name by Matthew Quirk, the series follows an FBI Agent named Peter Sutherland (Basso) who finds himself in the middle of a "fast moving and dangerous conspiracy that ultimately leads all the way to the Oval Office," per Netflix. The series created by Shawn Ryan also stars Luciane Buchanan, Hong Chau, D. B. Woodside, Fola Evans-Akingbola, Eve Harlow, Phoenix Raei, Enrique Murciano and Sarah Desjardins.

Speaking with PEOPLE, Basso says he was first drawn to The Night Agent after hearing Ryan's vision for the series.

"What made me want to do it was talking with Shawn and hearing how grounded he wanted to make it," he says. "I don't like when violence is sort of romanticized and made to be this like, 'Oh, I'm smoldering through a punch.' So I'm glad that his vision for this show was really grimy."

No stranger to acting, Basso first got his start with minor film roles in 2007, before his breakout roles in Showtime's The Big C and J. J. Abrams' science fiction adventure film Super 8.

Most recently, he gained critical acclaim for his role as J. D. Vance in Hillbilly Elegy, based Vance's 2016 memoir of the same name.

From his acting inspirations to how he prepared for The Night Agent, here's everything to know about Basso.

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He got his start as a child actor

Two of Basso's first film roles were in 2007 when the St. Louis native was a teenager. He had minor roles in Meet Bill starring Aaron Eckhart and Alice Upside Down starring Alyson Stoner before moving to Los Angeles to pursue a career in acting.

However, Basso tells PEOPLE that he eventually got "overwhelmed with the lack of sovereignty" in the business and "being pulled in all different directions."

"Fatigue was a big thing for me," he adds. "Creative fatigue, but also, just everything felt like a pseudo experience. I wanted to play football, and they said, 'Well, you could be in a football movie and you can score the winning goal.' And I was like, 'Yeah, but that's a pseudo experience. I don't get to actually do the thing.'"

"That's a big emptiness a lot of people who are child actors who remain in this business face," he says, "is looking at all these preconceived ideas that people have about them, that they're badass and they can fight if they're an action star — and they've never been in a fight before."

He continues, "There's just hollowness in there of knowing that about yourself, but then having people tell you that you're a badass and there's this voice that's like, 'No, you're not.' That's what I was afraid of experiencing. So when I quit, I did it as much as I could."

Hillbilly Elegy was his big return to acting

Lacey Terrell/NETFLIX
Lacey Terrell/NETFLIX

After taking a hiatus from acting, Basso says a friend of his convinced him to give it another go and set him up with one of his agents.

"When I met with my now-agents, they told me they weren't going to represent me because it had been seven years since I had done anything," he recalls.

"They didn't know if I could still act or not. But they set me a meeting with Carmen Cuba, who was the casting director for Hillbilly Elegy. That was my first [return to acting], and then it snowballed from there."

He didn't read The Night Agent novel to prepare for his role

Despite the Netflix series being based on a book, Basso says he didn't actually read it to prepare for his role. "I was told not to," he reveals. "Because it was so different … I was just told to take each script as it came in."

As for how the book compares to the show, Basso says Ryan and the writers wanted to make everything very "character-driven" for the screen. "A lot more emphasis is put on the characters and what they're going through and how the situation affects them as opposed to the overarching sort of freedom that Quirk probably had in the novel."

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He didn't want his The Night Agent character to feel like a "superhero"

In forming his character, Basso says he talked a lot with creator Ryan, who he says was "most adamant that it remained as personable and real as I could make it."

"So I was always trying to check myself before scenes to make it fresh for people," he says. "I think having Peter remain a person throughout the show and not become a superhero, where nothing can affect him and phase him was a big thing for Shawn and me."

He did most of his own stunts for the show

Dan Power/Netflix
Dan Power/Netflix

The Night Agent features a lot of action-packed scenes, many of which Basso filmed himself. "I did all the fighting," he reveals. "But if it ever got down to some really gnarly stuff, [stunt performer] Matthew Mylrea would step in and do some line rigging and falls."

Some of his biggest acting inspirations are Richard Burton and Clint Eastwood

When it comes to his own acting inspirations, Basso says he has always enjoyed Richard Burton and Clint Eastwood's roles, and how "genuine and grounded" their characters felt "regardless of the circumstance they were in."

"You never got the feeling that they weren't real people going through that," he adds. "I thought that was kind of special, that you could have somebody in such terrible fight choreography, but it doesn't feel ridiculous watching it. You're like, 'Wow, I'm somehow invested in this.'"

In addition to Eastwood, Basso adds that he'd love to work with legendary actors such as Anthony Hopkins, Nicolas Cage and recent Oscar-winner Brendan Fraser.

"Working with one of the older legends would be pretty cool, just from before the age of social media. Getting to talk with some of [them] about the business … just to hear and learn from them. I think there's a lot of arrogance in youth now where younger people think they know a lot more than older people, and I don't believe that. I think we have a lot to learn. Learning from these people is something I'm excited about."

He'd love to get into directing

Speaking of his career aspirations, Basso says he'd love to potentially direct one day. "I'm writing a bunch, but directing was always cool to me," he says. "Directing something that I've written would be really cool."

He thinks his The Night Agent character should eventually die

Dan Power/Netflix
Dan Power/Netflix

The Night Agent is filled with many twists and turns in the first season, but Basso thinks a potential second season should have the biggest twist of all: His character's death.

"I think he has to die to remain fixed in his morality and values," he explains. "I think that's a collision course for making an enemy of the government and their willingness to bend morality. To me, fighting an entity that has limitless resources, is a losing battle. Having the willingness to do it is an admirable trait, but that would lead him to a sort of death."

The Night Agent premieres on Netflix on March 23.

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