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Why Damson Idris Calls Anthony Mackie His Big Brother - Exclusive

Outside the Wire, Netflix's new near-future action/sci-fi picture about a disgraced drone pilot and an android tracking down a doomsday device, was released on the service last week and quickly rocketed up the charts. Looper recently had a chance to interview Damson Idris, who co-stars as Lt. Harp alongside Anthony Mackie as prototype combat android Leo. Naturally, we had to ask him about working with Mackie.

"Anthony Mackie, above all things, is like my older brother," says Idris. "I call him and nag him more times than he wishes. But just coming into an action film for the first time, given the smaller parts that I've played in the past, it was beautiful to have someone above me to take me under their wing." He describes Mackie as a fun co-star and a consummate professional. "The way he operates on a set and his relationships with the crew is infectious. He's so passionate about the work he does."

The persona most people see of Mackie on talk shows — energetic, smiling, joyful — is real. "He's always goofing around, he's always playing jokes. He smokes probably about a million cigars a day. He's a character in itself, man." The two bonded on off days, as well — there was a bar named The BOB near their hotel, and Idris jokes that "they probably wanted to build a statue of me and Anthony Mackie when we were leaving, because we were there so much."

Mackie's also been an inspiration for Idris in another way. "To see him off the 70-plus movies he's done in his career to still be happy? Lets me know that I could be happy in the future too. And one thing that isn't spoken of a lot is a lot of people in this industry aren't happy."

Androids don't sweat

That's not to say Mackie doesn't take his job seriously. Idris highlights his co-star's skills with action and improvisation. "It truly is something to marvel that he can completely switch a scene and turn it on his head, make it greater," Idris raves. "I was always taught that acting is reacting and he is a giving actor, and that's the best compliment that he could ever receive as an actor." He says that Mackie has "no ego" and is dedicated to making everyone on set comfortable.

There were, of course, difficulties. During Outside the Wire's action scenes, both actors would obviously sweat. Idris wanted his sweat to look great on camera, to help emphasize Harp being out of his depth. Mackie, however, plays an android. "So the whole time his makeup lady would come over and blow the sweat off him. He's like, 'I'm playing a robot, I can't sweat!' Meanwhile, I'm telling my makeup lady, 'Hey, put that [Vaseline] on! Make me as shiny as possible!'"

Mackie didn't just star in Outside the Wire – he was also a producer. We asked Idris if he had to interact with Mackie in two different capacities. "Here's the thing — he wouldn't let me. He would not let me and that's because his main focus was protecting us actors, as a producer. He was heavily involved in the script as were many of us, but at the same time, he was almost a bridge between the actors and some of the creators who might not be on set every day."

Outside the Wire is streaming on Netflix now. Stay turned to Looper for more exclusive coverage.