Charlie David starred in Dante’s Cove, Mulligans, Judas Kiss and now is at the helm as director and star of the award-winning series Shadowlands.
Charlie David has worked as a host for E!, OUTtv, PinkTV, LOGO, NBC, Fine Living and Slice Networks. According to many directors and producers that have worked with him, Charlie David is as humble and kind as he is talented. The entertainment entrepreneur has been referred to as “an amazingly talented and creative entrepreneur”, “a consummate professional”, and “a pleasure to direct, a natural, very telegenic host, and a true gentleman.”
What was your inspiration for these three stories?
Charlie David: I’ve always loved Greek and Roman mythology and really used that passion as a springboard to write my book of short stories, also titled Shadowlands.
And in terms of cinema I appreciate a well crafted anthology film. I saw Wild Tales by director Damián Szifron and it was so incredibly well done. It inspired me to revisit my stories in Shadowlands and re-imagine them for the screen.
Why did you opt for this triptych style of presentation?
Charlie David: I’m sure the rule and magic of the number three has been ingrained in many of us from a religious standpoint – every major religion has numerological references and ‘3’ being ever present among them.
I think it’s also inherent to human psychology to understand that there is a natural order to the number three. Our modern and ancient story structure is most often presented in a three act structure – whether that’s television, film, books or other media.
There’s something innately satisfying when that triptych structure works – it leaves us feeling a sense of completion. And when it’s not followed, that’s often when we walk out of a film or set down a book once finished reading and feeling complacent, unmoved or unchanged.
The playwrights in Ancient Greece wrote for their audience to experience catharsis, they wanted to invoke an emotional response in the people watching because that’s how to incite change. An emotional response will provoke conversation after you leave the movie theatre, turn off the TV or put down a book.
To me that is our goal as creators – to leave our audience moved, educated, and emotionally open. In ancient Greece they held a large festival called the Dionysia and three full days were devoted to the performances of three playwrights – each presenting a set of three tragedies.
My inspiration for many of the Shadowlands stories both in the book and the TV miniseries were these ancient myths. Though I’ve told them in modern settings, I still wanted to honor as many details as I could from their story roots and that included their presentation in a tragic trilogy.
What’s the connection between the three stories that form Shadowlands?
Charlie David: Shadowlands is an anthology style series that explores love in three separate stories – a couple renegotiating a relationship, a narcissist grasping to comprehend it, and star-crossed lovers mourning its loss.
The series begins in 1928 with Alex, a plastic surgeon hell-bent on perfection, hosting a house party with an assortment of colorful guests. Amid romantic misfires it becomes apparent that the only person Alex is interested in is himself.
Fast forward to 1951 and a gay military couple exploring the idea of opening their relationship while on a remote camping trip when they encounter a mysterious stranger.
The stories conclude in 2018 with a painter who in mourning the loss of his lover, becomes obsessed with creating a realistic painting of him. The resulting piece is so beautiful and life like that he is drawn under its spell.
What does Shadowlands tell us about love?
Charlie David: Love to me is like the face of God or of the unknown. It’s a multi-faceted diamond and each way you turn it in the light you will see something different.
In Shadowlands I’ve explored three stories of characters gazing into different sides of this multi-faceted diamond. Each of them is seeing and experiencing love, the loss or expansion of love in a different way. Just as I hope each person who watches the show will see aspects known and unknown to them reflected back.
The first story, Narcissus is really about someone who has not exercised his emotional toolbox enough to comprehend empathy and love – like many of us in our youth.
The second story, Mating Season is about a couple negotiating the often prickly subject of non-monogamy or polyamory. Is it possible to fully love another but also have room in your heart to expand beyond the traditional norms of our society? Does the addition of new experiences diminish the already present love in a relationship or can it multiply it?
The final story, Pygmalion Revisited is about the tragic loss of love – something that all of us will face in life whether it be a family member, friend or lover.
What was the production process? How long to write? How long to film? Was it difficult to find the locations you needed?
Charlie David: I wrote the Shadowlands book over the course of a year. The adaptations for screen took another year in writing amid doing several other projects. Pre-production including financing, development, casting, and all the other myriad jobs that go into prepping a show took another 6 months. We filmed a total of 20 days. Editing and post production was 6 months.
The locations were challenging to find. I had a vision in mind and if you have a massive budget that’s one thing – you can just go into studio and build sets until you get it right. But that wasn’t the case here.
I had restrictions based on my funding that required I shoot outside of the Toronto studio zone, in fact at least an hour’s drive outside Toronto in any direction so my scouting consisted of a lot of road trips to various other cities and towns in Ontario to try find what I was hoping for.
In the end I’m super happy with our locations and there really are so many inspiring places. More often than not, even when I didn’t find the perfect match for Shadowlands, I’d find myself feeling the inspiration for other stories in these smaller cities and beautiful landscapes.
What was the casting process?
Charlie David: I worked with Jason Stroud from Fade to Black casting and we saw a lot of actors based in Toronto. That’s one of my favorite parts of the film making process. As an actor myself, working as a producer and director has given me so much insight into production.
I can’t tell you how many times you have really equally talented people as options for the same role and it comes down to the most inane things – a comment on hairstyle from a network exec, height matching with another actor, the list goes on.
If you’re an actor reading this, please just keep bringing your authentic self to the work and when you’re done the audition leave it at the door. There are so many factors that come into casting that are absolutely subjective. The toughest lesson an actor has to learn is to not take the rejection personally, to disintegrate the ego – there’s going to be a lot of rejection no matter who you are – most of the time it has absolutely nothing to do with you.
That’s why I think actors are some of the craziest people on the planet and why I love them so much. They pay for ongoing classes, they spend hours memorizing and living other people’s words in preparation for auditions, they drive all over town repeatedly to go to job interview after job interview, they are constantly physically and emotionally scrutinized. Most have multiple jobs to simply juggle the demands of living in a major city in order to pursue their passion and the lucky few actually get to work from time to time.
It’s also why I think it’s incredibly important to continue creating scripted content with an LGBTQ+ focus. Most of us within this space are still learning the ropes, we’re still figuring it out because we’re finally getting the green lights and more importantly finally giving ourselves the green lights to actually go out and make the stories we want to make – the ones where we see ourselves and our lives reflected on the screen.
What do you hope that people feel when watching Shadowlands?
Charlie David: Something. Just something! Seriously, I never want to inform or telegraph to an audience what they should feel. My goal when creating is to make you think outside of your comfort zone. I want to push the envelope and as Rumi so perfectly stated, to go ‘Out beyond the ideas of right and wrong, there is a field. I’ll meet you there.’
Who are some of your film heroes or inspirations?
Charlie David: Xavier Dolan. Absolutely. He’s my fellow Canadian director of course and the guy is brilliant. He knows fashion, pop culture, has so much emotional depth and just understands what makes us tick.
I’ve watched and re-watched all his films many times and they never stop teaching me about the art of film-making. When he was making his latest film, The Life and Death of John F. Donovan I was asked to come photo double and stand-in for Kit Harington. I jumped at the opportunity because even though I wouldn’t be acting in the film myself, it was an incredible learning opportunity. I got to be in the room during the rehearsals and blocking with the director, cinematographer and actors.
And since Kit was the lead, his scenes were with Kathy Bates, Susan Sarandon, Michael Gambon, and Jessica Chastain to name a few of the star-studded cast. The film was also shot on film so that was an exciting process to witness.
To see how many hours would go into lighting a shot, the decisions to have a star like Jessica Chastain film all these scenes and then ultimately be edited out of the film, to really know what your vision is so completely and instinctively that you won’t proceed until it’s right.
That’s how Xavier Dolan works and it’s humbling, provocative and just really fucking cool to watch. Obviously I don’t compare the level I’m working at with Xavier’s – they are apples and oranges in terms of budget, scope and talent. I’m just really grateful for the opportunity to witness and work in that arena once in a while as it’s incredibly inspiring.
What next for Charlie David?
Charlie David: A camping trip with friends. I love the great outdoors. 😉 In my work life – there’s always lots of projects on the go. Right now I’m producing a dating show, a cooking show, 2 documentaries and writing my next scripted show. You can stay up to date with me on my social and website.
Marc Devigne is a prairie boy originally from Winnipeg Manitoba in Canada. Marc is a diversely experienced Canadian singer, songwriter, musical theatre performer and actor currently residing in Toronto. He stars in the new TV series Shadowlands.
With a well-rounded experience base that ranges from being a finalist on “Canadian Idol” in 2003, to international touring with various theatre companies and session work as a studio vocalist, Marc Devigne has a strong passion for music and performing in general.
As a songwriter, Devigne has co-penned music with an impressive array of Canada’s leading songwriters such as Stephan Moccio, Amy Sky, Mark Masri, Greg Johnson, David Martin, Luke McMaster and Simon Wilcox. Marc’s infectious stage presence and performance experience have afforded him the opportunity to appear on 2 PBS specials; a Mark Masri PBS special, as well as “Bailamos! Live at the Empire”.
Marc Devigne’s infectious on-stage energy is a testament to his broad range of Musical Theatre experience, such as touring with Rainbow Stage, Persephone Theatre, Theatre Calgary, Ross Petty Pantos and Koba Entertainment to name a few. Devigne has also performed as a featured soloist for the Winnipeg Symphony Orchestra and Toronto Symphony Orchestras.
Recently, he has toured extensively throughout North America as a Vocalist for various musical groups, such as the latin-themed cross-over group “Bailamos” and Popera group “Vivace”, of which he was a founding member and director, and displays an impressive ability to perform in almost any genre. Marc’s decade of experience in the Canadian Entertainment Industry has allowed him to develop a deep network of trusted industry contacts and allies, and he has been privileged to mentor with Dominic Denny, former president of Canada’s Songwriter’s Hall of Fame, as well as prominent Entertainment Lawyer, Michael Levine.
With all of this under his belt and the full-force of his rolodex of industry supporters behind him, Marc Devigne is a multi- disciplinary force to be reckoned with, and now focuses on developing his most exciting musical project to date – Citizen West.
INTERVIEW WITH MARC DEVIGNE
Marc Devigne stars at Xavier in episode 3 ‘Pygmalion Revisited’ of the Shadowlands series. In the story a painter (Charlie David) who in mourning the loss of his lover Xavier (Marc Devigne), becomes obsessed with creating a realistic painting of him. The resulting piece is so beautiful and life-like that he is drawn under its spell.
What were the main challenges and fears you had in your role?
Marc Devigne: When Charlie David first approached me with the script, I was nervous at the prospect of playing the role of Xavier. It had been a while since I had been in front of the camera and had never played a role such as this one. It took a lot of vulnerability but I knew it was an important, relatable story of love that can transcend limits and barriers. Everyone can relate to love and loss.
How much of yourself goes into a character?
Marc Devigne: For this specific role, a lot of me went into the character. Charlie and I revisited the script and worked the role of Xavier into a French singer/songwriter artist. The role was adapted to allow me to perform a song in the episode that I believe related beautifully to the characters’ love story.
How much were you able to relate your own experiences to create your character? And how much did you have to research or imagine?
Marc Devigne: There’s a lot out of my own experience that I could relate to role of Xavier. Other than the obvious things, such as singer, artist and love of life, Xavier’s illness was something that I drew from very personal and painful events in my life having witnessed the horrible effects of cancer.
What aspects of the Shadowlands series are you excited for an audience to experience or discover?
Marc Devigne: I’m excited that people get to experience 3 very different stories, styling and feelings with a similar underlying theme.
Romance between men and between women was common place and written about in Greek and Roman mythology. Why is it important to continue sharing these types of stories today?
Marc Devigne: It’s important to me because these stories often times transcend gay or niche themes and storytelling. They are human stories with universal themes that a lot of people can relate to. It’s important for people to broaden their views and I think that by sharing stories where people can draw similarities to their own life or experiences, makes us all one step closer to realize that we’re all humans on this earth living and sharing more similarities than what often times is believed.
What was the hardest scene for you in the Shadowlands series to do and why?
Marc Devigne: Xavier’s “final” scene was definitely a difficult one. It was emotionally and physically draining to stay in that state of exhaustion and low energy for quite a while while we were shooting. Between takes I would remain in character to ensure that the scene remained as truthful as possible. It was also difficult to see my co-actor crying and devastated within the scene. It felt awfully real at times.
Who is a major influence for you and on your creativity?
Marc Devigne: Music constantly influences my creativity. It can affect such a broad spectrum of feelings and emotions.
In addition to acting, tell me about the other areas of entertainment you’re pursuing.
Marc Devigne: Other than acting, I’m currently pursuing Music. I sing with a number of groups and projects internationally. I’m also currently working on my own music and drawing a lot of inspiration from French music. I’m really excited to be releasing my own music that reflects this part of my culture.
With so much going on in the world today, what’s your motivation to be a performer? Do you act to explain? To get away? To move past? To widen our knowledge? To incite a conversation?
Marc Devigne: I do it because I have this innate feeling that it’s what I’m meant to do. Because music and performance are the best and only ways I know how to express myself to a degree that is fulfilling and truthful. It’s my form of creativity, of expression, and hopefully my small piece of contribution to the world.
What’s next for you as a creator/actor/performer?
Marc Devigne: Keep pursuing all venues and experiences that excite me. Creating original music. Collaborating with great creative minds, and hopefully remain inspired and motivated to keep doing what I love. Keep learning and keep creating… those are some of the greatest gifts.
Follow Marc Devigne and listen to his music using the links below: