2013 was a strange, terrifying, and wonderful year; especially for the listeners of Welcome to Night Vale. The radio-show style podcast is best described as indescribable; with its enigmatic and adorable host voiced by Cecil Baldwin and the often perplexing, always fantastic writing of Joseph Fink and Jeffrey Cranor.
The fandom erupted in excitement a couple of weeks ago when Cranor himself announced that he would no longer be lending his voice to Night Vale’s resident scientist, Carlos. Because as he himself put it, “It sucks that there’s a white straight male (me), playing a gay man of color (Carlos).”
The fandom milled about in curiosity about who the new voice of Carlos would be, but it only took a few days for a name to start doing the rounds on Tumblr. Venezuelan-born actor Dylan Marron is a part of the New York Neo-Futurists, the same group that brought together much of the Welcome to Night Vale team. He is also one of the stars of Adam Goldman’s most recent web show, Whatever This Is. After a spectacularly received debut at one of Welcome to Night Vale’s live shows, we simply could not wait to chat with Dylan.
A lot of people are just finding out about you now that you were cast in Welcome to Night Vale and the fandom is dying to know more about you. How did you start off as an actor?
Here’s the thing, I am an only child and when you are an only child you cannot help but learn how to entertain yourself and create worlds and stories and games. I started taking after-school classes when I was in like second grade and my parents are so not what you would call stage parents, which I hated when was younger because if you go to school with any kids who are currently acting their parents are always like riding them hard. So it wasn’t until later that I was like, “Oh thank God I didn’t have stage parents”. They were really terrific at helping me find performing arts programs that I could go to so I could get my kicks out of that and then I would do school plays in middle school and high school.
When I got to college I joined this comedy group- not because I was aiming to do comedy for the rest of my life, but because when I would watch my friends who played sports in high school and the ethos of sports teams what I really craved about that was the sense of a group of people working together for something that they love and something that they’re getting better at every day. I found that in the sketch comedy group that I was accepted to my freshman year of college. It was in that group that I learned how to write creatively, for a community, and for a group of people that you’re getting to know more every day. I was also getting to play with character, and not only characters that are apart from you, but a character that is maybe an extension of you. Through that group, I met my friend Jo Firestone and we wrote a play together called Ridgefield Middle School Talent Night during college.
In doing that with her, I feel we both learned a lot and had to grow up a lot very quickly, and it was through that we realized we wanted to do this stuff professionally and that we had to actually try and push ourselves to do it outside of a college setting. So I took my first semester of junior year off and Jo and I did a little college tour of the play and got to know a few people doing that.
We ultimately realized that we wanted to do different things. She started this very successful career producing and hosting comedy and I realized that I wanted to do a different thing and that’s when I found the Neo-Futurists. With the Neo-Futurists I learned that you don’t have to be funny to entertain people, and it’s a company that so beautifully and intensely honors truth, which I was finding very hard to achieve when I was just pursuing comedy. Don’t get me wrong, I think when comedy is done well it is an ethereal and beautiful art form, but I find that my favorite thing to watch in any genre is when people are honestly just saying something that they feel is so true that the only way they can express that is truth.
I was beginning with the Neo-Futurists when I met Adam Goldman who was the writer and director of The Outs. We had spent that time supporting each other in our separate endeavors and then he asked me if I would be interested in the next project he would be working on and I said of course; so then over the summer I got to play Ari in his show Whatever This Is.
Marron as “Ari” in Whatever This Is
You mentioned a character being an extension of yourself which is similar to something Cecil Baldwin has mentioned before; is that something you’ve experienced with Ari’s character in Whatever this Is?
Well I’ll tell you what, to be totally frank, right as we were starting filming I was like, “Oh my God, I don’t know how to play a character anymore.” In the Neo-Futurists, we famously do not play characters; that is what we’re known for. When we are on stage we’re ourselves and we’re not going to pretend that we’re anyone else. So here I am pretending I’m someone else, and I think the thing about that is that when you’re playing a character like that you just have to access what is true for them and if you want to apply that in the Neo-Futuristic way that I have begun to think about character is that you can’t help but bring yourself into every role that you have, and I was asking myself things like, “How does Ari walk how does Ari do this?”.
There’s this scene in an episode of Whatever This Is where Ari is hyped up on caffeine and just rants while sitting in a van. Shooting that was the day when it all clicked. I said to myself, “I am a Neo-Futurist and I’m going to do this as a Neo-Futurist would. I’m not going to pretend that I’m out of breath and hyped up on caffeine.”
That day was particularly hot in New York so I asked Adam and he allowed me to run around the block before every take. I ran around the block like three times. That coupled with the fact that I had been sent the wrong script for that monologue and I suddenly had to learn all of these lines was the best thing that could have happened. Under the duress of that day I had to quickly learn this slightly different monologue, we had been up at four in the morning in a very early shoot, so I was super exhausted and super hopped up on caffeine and then I got to run around the block, and so because of subjecting myself to all of those things I could feel the way my character would feel. So that I think is my only context for playing a character and letting it be an extension of yourself, you have to put yourself in their place.
I understand that you know the Night Vale team via the Neo-Futurists. How did they approach you about playing Carlos on Welcome to Night Vale?
They approached me directly which I was completely flattered by. I love all of those guys and it’s funny, I was a Night Vale fan before that was even on the table, I was listening to the podcast and I was just enjoying it like everyone else does.
So when they asked me to play the role of Carlos I was like, this is huge! Because I know how important that is, I see all the fanart and also I’ve been listening, you know? So it’s different from them coming to me and saying that they’re starting a new character named Carlos. I wasn’t there from the beginning, and in considering that and taking on this huge honor I also ask myself how do I honor the truth of Night Vale? So it’s kind of like stepping into this very precious and important character to the Night Vale community and I’m super aware of that.
The great thing about Carlos being recast is the representation aspect that Jeffrey and Joseph are taking into account. You don’t see that a lot, creators who are not minorities recognizing the need for representation. I know as a Latina that meant a lot to me, how did you feel about that?
I felt the same way. Joseph and Jeffrey are so beautifully conscious of that, and it’s just so rare to have people be this aware of how important representation is. But for two straight white guys to be this aware of it is so awesome. I wish so many more people were like that.
I was so touched by what Jeffrey said, because I was that young Latino queer kid who would look up at movie screens and Google celebrities – and I’m not, by the way, calling myself a celebrity I’m just someone who you might Google. So I would look people up and I would never see a reflection of myself, and God it sucks because what you are subconsciously told is that there is not a place for you. It’s like you can try and do what you want but people who look like you and people who talk like you don’t get to do this stuff.
I’ve seen fantastic reaction to your casting; have you felt some of the fan love personally?
I feel that the reaction was really positive, and I’m very touched by that. I think it’s really nice that they were able to see that as a Neo-Futurist I’ve worked with Cecil, and Jeffrey and Joseph before and for some fans that was a way to ease me into it. But I was still nervous, you know? Because people love Carlos and also I love Carlos! I want him to be who he should be and the fact that I have been accepted into that and accepted by the listeners and the people who this podcast is for, that means more to me than I can express. That means that, sure Jeffrey and Joseph offered me the part of Carlos, but it felt like I was only on a provisionary period until the listeners approved. Fans are such a huge part of it, so you just hope that you are what they want, so to have seen that reaction on Tumblr and having felt that reaction at the live shows it feels like now I actually have the part.
Really, at the end of the day I would have loved to have seen Cecil and Carlos when I was a kid, or when I was a teenager. Or who am I kidding, I would love to see Cecil and Carlos now! So to be a fan of what you’re doing I think is so important to your work, and I feel really fortunate that I get to be a fan of the work I’m doing and the character I play.