In the Narcissus episode of Shadowlands the story circles around 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.
Charlie David: Tell us about the Narcissus story in Shadowlands. What were the main challenges and fears you had in creating the role of Alex?
Sean C. Dwyer: In the first episode of Shadowlands, ‘Narcissus’, my character is self-obsessed, perfection-obsessed and pursuit-obsessed; a constant search for the ideal in himself, his creation and his work.
My main challenges were creating a realistic character who is already nearly at the peak of his insanity; we see him for one evening, the last evening of his life, and everything that he has been and has become must be present in his current being. I wouldn’t say I had any particular fears- I was far too excited, stimulated and jonesing!
Kato Alexander and Basil Hendy as the Bunny Boys with Alex (Sean C. Dwyer) in the Narcissus episode of the gay TV series Shadowlands
Charlie David: How much of yourself goes into a character when it’s as unhinged as your role of Alex in ‘Narcissus’?
Sean C. Dwyer: Certainly a lot; as an actor – you yourself are the clay, the canvas and even the array of tools used to create the character. Even any kind of influences or inspirations used to develop the character are filtered through your own perspective.
At the same time, the interactions with other characters, the thoughts of the director… and then a lot of the technical aspects in production do a lot to create the character, the editing, the sound… all determine how the audience receives the character and that, ultimately, is what the character will be!
Charlie David: How much were you able to relate your own experiences to create the character of Alex in Narcissus? And how much did you have to research or imagine?
Sean C. Dwyer: This character is particularly insane, particularly driven and particularly fatal; he is ready to draw blood, ready to draw his own blood in his pursuit… I actually do have a lot of all of those things in me on some level; I have drawn my own blood in strange pursuits; like a wart I had for a good long while that just got too irritating and I literally cut it out of me… losing blood made me feel like “why are we putting things in ourselves to get high when we could take things out of ourselves…”
I didn’t really follow that thought up with consistent practice, ha. I also feel pretty crazy sometimes, and I’m not the only one, and I drive forward with my goals and pursuits rather relentlessly… at the same time, there was most definitely a need to imagine what cutting oneself would literally be like, where someone’s mental state would fully have to go to get there… would he be happy, sad, angry doing it…. the most important connection ultimately, was that there is a lot going on in our minds and it comes out sometimes smooth in precise speech and action, and sometimes very rough.
Alex (Sean C. Dwyer) and Fly Fisherman (Jim Garrow) in Shadowlands ‘Narcissus’
Charlie David: The stories in the Shadowlands TV show were inspired by the Shadowlands book which was inspired by Greek mythology. What was your experience in creating a remix of an ancient classical tale like Narcissus?
Sean C. Dwyer: I am familiar with the old stories, and I looked at Narcissus specifically for this project, and strangely enough I had a few projects with this character and concept going on in the last little while, so research overlapped and even performances fed each other.
And then the Berlin 1920s context gave a lot of space for exploration of course. Acting is all about building up a big pile of knowledge and experience and then throwing it carelessly up into the air, hoping that some of it sticks, but ultimately striding through the aftermath like you own the place.
Charlie David: What aspects of the Shadowlands TV show are you excited for an audience to experience or discover?
Sean C. Dwyer: There are many aspects! Twisty endings, unexpected turns, artistic pleasure, emotion, passion, taboo-testing and pushing the envelope. I hope that the audience will come with us on our downward (and all around) spiral and be inspired to get dirty!
Alex (Sean C. Dwyer) in his dungeon in Shadowlands ‘Narcissus’
Charlie David: Each story or episode is unique and has its own world of characters, time and place. And yet there are connections between them. Were you aware of these connections while filming or was it a surprise to learn later?
Sean C. Dwyer: I became fleetingly at first and then more and more aware of them… I think it works as it happened… like you think you are the center of the universe and then you learn progressively that there are worlds beyond you and then that you are interconnected with those worlds in a larger world or plan.
Meeting actors from the other shows who in our show were simply background, using elements from the other episodes in very explicit ways, like humming a song from one of them and turning it on it’s head- but not knowing quite how it passed in the other episode because it had not been shot or certainly edited yet! Very fun and stimulating to be a part of and to integrate into my performance!
Charlie David: 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?
Sean C. Dwyer: It continues to be an important part of society today, certainly; it is absolutely critical to share everyone’s stories together, no less these kinds of stories that can potentially involve absolutely everyone in society in one way or another.
I speak as a heterosexual cis gendered Irish-heritage man, who is very grateful for all of the experiences of open-mindedness and taboo-bursting and even just simply knowing all sorts of people with all sorts of life-experiences… it is the completely necessary response to a lot of the issues going on today; knowing each other, sharing stories with each other, even the dark ones!
Charlie David: What was the hardest scene for you to do in Narcissus and why?
Sean C. Dwyer: I loved it all, I was excited to jump into it all (even into the pool at 5am yes!) and everyone was just so darn supportive and awesome and we were so in this together… I mean the last sequence I was really in the zone and wanted to remain there while made up and between scenes, so I had to ask the Director to convey to the others to refrain from jokes and snickering and chit-chat between takes and everyone was totally cool with that, and we were all back to good, fun times once we were done and I had my face back!
Charlie David: Who is a major influence for you and on your creativity?
Sean C. Dwyer: There are many… perhaps if I have to say one, it would be Batman? I strive to live in that example however fictional it may be; obsession, striving, constant work, costume, seriousness, darkness, running the edge of madness, constant self-improvement and self-less-ness… there are many aspects within him that I have striven to see live in me. Charles Dickens, Data from Star Trek TNG, Robert Zemeckis, Richard Donner and Mel Gibson… the list goes on!
Charlie David: Is there a type of role you dream of playing but haven’t had the opportunity yet?
Sean C. Dwyer: My type seems to be becoming more and more American Psycho, and I am alright with that! It might even lead to playing Batman! (It did for Christian Bale!) I love superheros, and I have played a variety of superheros, but I would like to play an ultra-realistic superhero, dark and brooding. An android… a space explorer… Virgil in an adaptation of Dante’s Inferno… the list goes on!
Charlie David: In addition to acting, tell me about the other areas of entertainment you’re pursuing.
Sean C. Dwyer: Specifically entertainment? Well, that would be writing scripts and directing… I love editing and don’t get enough opportunity to do that. I’m a lawyer, but NOT an entertainment lawyer, as a lawyer it is social justice for me… criminal, youth, family… research for acting perhaps!
I love painting and drawing as well, but those are areas just for me privately; no outside judgement, what I do will be good enough for me and that’s good enough! Entirely my creation, haha.
Sean C. Dwyer in Shadowlands Narcissus
Charlie David: 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?
Sean C. Dwyer: All of these reasons are excellent reasons and most definitely inspire me in various roles, from role to role it can be all of them, a few, just one or none at all. I do want to engage in current debates; like telling marginal stories and including all different types of peoples in the dominant narrative.
To instill hope, but inspire action, to engage in possible worlds as much as in hard reality. To teach and learn, to work through difficult moments in the past… like any experience from a relationship to a hike to a single breath, each is its own! But hopefully everything we do gets people talking, yes!
Charlie David: What’s next for you as a creator/actor/performer?
Sean C. Dwyer: I have a few projects on the go right now, from my own writing-directing for a sci-fi short film to playing Alexander Mackenzie in an Ontario history piece, a few rapists and chauvinists in some pieces and a few good men in others!
I’d like to send out grateful vibes and positive karma to everyone involved in the Narcissus episode of Shadowlands; awesome to see it growing, OutTV and all of the opportunity that it brings to the Canadian industry and the LGBT community; onwards and upwards!
Where can fans find you?
Facebook, Instagram: @seancdwyer
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