Coming off the heels of the Broadway sensation Be More Chill, Troy Iwata is making a splash in the brand new Netflix holiday series Dash & Lily, portraying the endlessly romantic (and lovingly snarky) Langston. While Langston might be serving as love counselor to his sister Lily, he finds that he is finding the ability to normalize his own relationship with his boyfriend for his Japanese family. I caught up with Troy Iwata and we discussed what will most likely be our newest Netflix binge, being a part of the Broadway phenomenon that was Be More Chill and why he is happily putting a fresh spin on the “gay supporting character” that we have grown to love on screen.
Michael Cook: The past year has been so surreal for so many of us; what has it been like for you personally?
Troy Iwata: I’ll say this, it has definitely been a roller coaster of emotions. I think I have gotten very good at doing nothing and being okay with that. I started going to therapy, that is something I have really done. I think all of this downtime is making me think that it is a great time to unpack some things.
MC: Tell me about Dash & Lily; it’s definitely the kind of escapist entertainment we all can use this holiday season!
TI: Dash & Lily is a holiday series, it’s based on a Young Adult novel by Rachel Cohn and David Levithan. It follows the two main characters Dash & Lily through New York City during the holidays. I play Lily’s older brother Langston, who is an immature, hopeless romantic older brother who sets up this extravagant truth or dare-esque scavenger hunt through the city for his sister who wants to find her true love. It’s based off of the book which is now a trilogy, and we are really excited to share it with everyone.
MC: What makes the series interesting is that it features characters like Troy, who is balancing his own real-life relationships as part of the story, rather than making it “the” gay storyline.
TI: Yes and I think that is something that I find really refreshing about our show, the sort of normalcy of everything. Specifically for my character, I thought it was really important to play a queer character who’s main arc was not accepting their queerness or overcoming outside hate from their family or community. Even though that is a very common experience for the queer community, we are more than the struggle. Langston is a fun, quirky snarky person who just happens to be gay and that is never questioned by his friends or family and I think that is an important message of hope for audiences, You will overcome, but you also don’t have to go through that; I feel like sometimes growing up whenever I would see queer characters, every single one of them was a tragic character and overcoming this self-acceptance. I used to ask myself “is this what I am supposed to be feeling?” I mean, of course there were moments of that, but there is so much more. I think it is important to give attention to both.
MC: Were you able to pull from your own personal experiences to add a bit more color to Troy’s own backstory?
TI: I had worked with the writer Joe Tracz on Broadway previously, and while we were working together he told me that he was writing a Netflix show and there was a part that he thought I would be good for. While I have no confirmation that the part was written with me in mind, I remember going in for the audition and reading through the script and saying “this is me to a tee and it is wonderful”. Through the entire process, it was very collaborative. My character mostly spends time in his room and doesn’t really leave. I wear a lot of turtlenecks and robes and just hang out in my room (laughs).
I got to help a lot with how Langston’s room would turn out, so I put a lot of things from my own childhood in. For example, I said he should have a bunch of cross country and track trophies; just second place trophies though, he’s not amazing or anything. There were just little things like that; every gay person that I knew did cross country or track in high school (laughs)! Throughout the process, everyone was very open to tweaks here and there, so I was able to put myself into the character a lot and it made the experience that much more enjoyable.
MC: Be More Chill was a phenomenal theater experience. I think everyone can agree that Broadway is one of the things that the performers, the behind the scenes crew, and the audiences are all missing right now.
TI :Oh of course! People have asked me how I have felt about Broadway being closed right now, and it’s not just Broadway; musical theater actress the country is closed right now. Broadway, is a big part of the musical theater community, but it is not even ten percent of it. I think it is important to realize that there are actors and performers across the country right now that are out of work and that their struggle is valid. It is hard; I have done some online virtual performances, but it’s just not the same.
MC: What was the Be More Chill experience like for you? The show got a massive amount of attention.
TI: It did; it went viral I would say. I didn’t join the show until the Off- Broadway production, and I was an understudy for both Broadway and Off-Broadway. I kind of looked at it like it was the best experience because I got to be part of the show when it was convenient for me and then at times, I was just an understudy. The fans of that show are wonderful and they are so passionate, it is a very unique Broaadway experience. I mean, there are fans, but these people were “stans”! It was super fun, the second that it was announced that I was part of the cast, fans were saying “We love Troy! ” and I was saying “Wait don’t do that yet” (laughs)!
MC: You also were part of a reading of The Brady Bunch Musical. How did that happen for you? Was the Brady Bunch part of your growing up?
TI You know, your guess is as good as mine; they honestly reached out to me & asked if I wanted to be in The Brady Bunch musical and here we are! It was a benefit for the Ogunquit Playhouse; the show was supposed to be part of their season and then the pandemic hit, so it is going virtual. I grew up with the nineties movie version, that was my first impression of The Brady Bunch. Then I would watch the actual Brady Bunch, it would not affect me in the same way; in the seventies they took it very seriously. I remember seeing RuPaul playing the school counselor in the movie and saying “Wow what a beautiful woman!”
MC: What have you done to make sure you stayed creative and inspired during this time in our country?
TI: I think for me personally at the beginning, it was very hard. I never felt more useless because my entire industry was gone. I think one of the first steps is to not beat yourself up for not doing anything. if you are just exhausted and you have no motivation and you can’t do anything that is okay. Take the day, take two days, take a week it’s fine. I think the pressure of being “productive” can really kill it for you. I also don’t think you need to pressure yourself to create wonderful things. Allow yourself to create something kind of crappy. Just so you are in the act of making something. For me, sometimes if I felt stunted, I would just take a shower and sing and perform in my shower for myself like I used to. It would just make me feel better and I would feel some weight taken off. I think another thing is to realize that you do not have to do everything by yourself. I would reach out to a friend and see if they wanted to write a sketch, just so we cold laugh for a minute or so.
‘Dash & Lily’ premieres on Netflix on November 10th
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