Brilliant new horror 13 Sins sees Mark Webber playing a man caught up in a warped reality game show where he must complete 13 gradually more nasty and insane challenges to win his way out of the debt filled life he has fallen into.
The excellent Devon Graye plays Webber’s mentally impaired brother Michael a complex character whose involvement in the deadly and disturbing game throws everything into turmoil.
We were lucky enough to talk to Devon and discuss 13 Sins as well as his work on Dexter, his views on our fame obsessed culture and find out what he would make the 14th sin given the chance!
Devon Graye Interview
Although this is an awesome interview please beware there are spoilers ahead.
Love Horror: How did you get into acting?
Devon Graye: I’ve always been interested in telling stories. As a little kid I would dictate scripts to my mom on the computer before I knew how to read and write. Acting was a way I could be a part of telling a story at a younger age. I grew up listening to radio plays and so at first I wanted to get into voice acting. I found a voice agent in San Francisco — where I was living at the time — and that quickly morphed into going out on auditions in front of the camera and for the stage. I began taking acting classes at the American Conservatory Theater and it was there that I really discovered my love for the craft and an understanding of it.
Love Horror: Many people know you as the teenage Dexter from several episodes of the amazing series. What was it like working on the show and portraying a younger version of a character another actor is also playing?
Devon Graye: “Dexter” was a fantastic, albeit intimidating, experience to have so early on after arriving in LA. I hadn’t done a lot of work in front of the camera so every day felt like acting boot camp. I was still so green and trying to find my footing and confidence. I had no idea what Michael was doing with the role since it was still the first season, so I just sort of did my thing, trusting that the two would match up. I’m incredibly grateful for that opportunity because it really did shape the trajectory of my career.
Love Horror: How did you get involved in 13 Sins?
Devon Graye: It was an audition just like with most projects. I was coming off “American Horror Story” where I got to play such an intensely complicated character and I had all this fuel ready to pour into another one. I read the script in one sitting — which is rare for me — and by the last page I thought I’d be the luckiest guy around if I actually got to be involved somehow — another rare thing for me to feel.
I read for Daniel and he worked with me a lot, which as actors, is the best thing you can ever hope for in an audition setting. Even if I don’t end up booking the role, if the director or casting director plays with me, throws out ideas, suggestions, improvements, I feel like it’s a success. For the “13 Sins” audition I spent the entire morning in character and wardrobe for Michael. I went across the street to Costco and interacted with people in the parking lot as him. It was a good way to shake off any nervous jitters and help convince myself that I was him before entering the room in character.
Love Horror: Were you aware of the original version at all? And what do you think of remakes in general?
Devon Graye: I wasn’t aware of the original until well into production. I think Mark (Webber who plays the lead) might have mentioned it to me. I still haven’t seen it. Guess I need to get on that. And remakes aren’t a bad thing if the quality of the film isn’t sacrificed. It is very hard to make a good movie, remake or not. So many integral things have to fall into place for it to work, and half the time you don’t know if you’ve done it until you put it in front of an audience. I think you have to look at making a remake like you do any other film. Who are these characters? What makes them interesting? Are they based in truth? What is the story we’re trying to tell? Story is always the key. Everything else around it is there to support it and flesh it out to its fullest.
Love Horror: Michael is a complex and complicated character. How did you go about shaping him?
Devon Graye: I think first and foremost, it was always very important to make him a well rounded human and never slip into characature land. I watched a lot of documentaries and read a ton of books to help build his exterior and his little habits and ticks. But when it came to his over-all essence and soul, I had to pull from myself. As an actor, our most powerful tool is ourselves. People often think that acting is about becoming somebody else, but I think it’s about revealing our true selves beneath the skin of someone else. In many ways, Michael is me as a little boy. His desires to be heard and respected and treated like an equal. They are needs on the most primal level that we all have faced. His developmental challenges are just a small slice of who he is and in playing him, I couldn’t let them define him.
Love Horror: The film has a brilliant cast including Mark Webber who plays your brother along with Tom Bower, Rutina Wesley and Ron Perlman. What where they like to work with?
Devon Graye: The majority of my scenes are with Mark and he and I went through an extensive rehearsal process where we really got to know each other on a deep, familiar level. He has such a delicate presence, in the best of ways. The amount of palpable vulnerability he exudes is one of the many thinks that makes him so watchable and relatable to audiences. Daniel (Stamm the director) knew that the character of Elliott needed to have that and I think Mark is phenomenal in the role. He’s also just a really fun guy with a big heart.
I was very lucky to get to work with him and get to know him. Rutina and I had worked together before so she was my New Orleans buddy during location downtime. Tom is just an old pro and I learned a lot from watching him. He’s also a very kind, open man. And Ron just exudes cool. He’s incredibly kind and down to earth. From the first table-read, he was very complimentary of my work and gave me a massive boost of confidence to take into shooting.
Love Horror: 13 Sins seems extremely relevant as a commentary on our culture’s obsession with reality TV and finding fame and fortune at any cost. What is your take on people’s obsession with celebrity and their desperation to become famous?
Devon Graye: It’s like a disease, isn’t it? I think people just want to feel important, like they matter and they need other people to tell them this on a regular basis. That’s why things like Facebook and Instagram have caught on like wild-fire. It’s all about validation. How many likes can I get? Being rich and famous is just the ultimate version of that. It’s human nature to seek that out. The sad thing is, after being in this business for almost ten years, I can say from my own observations, the rich and famous are still craving that next fix of validation no matter what level they’ve reached. It’s a never ending spiral. Yet, it’s just SO enticing, right? (Laughs)
Love Horror: How many of the 13 challenges do you think you would be prepared to do? And if you could add a 14th what would it be?
Oh man, that is a very good question and I would love to say that it would stop somewhere around taking a dead-body to a coffee shop, but I’ll probably never know if that’s true. And since the 13th is already pretty awful, thinking up a 14th is challenging. Eating your family member after you kill them? Oh god, that’s disgusting. Now you know my sick, twisted mind.
Love Horror: What is your favourite horror film and why?
Devon Graye: The world of horror is still super new to me and I have a lot of catching up to do, but I think my current favorite is J.A. Bayona’s “The Orphanage”. It’s a beautiful film and just as psychologically disturbing as it is visually. Belen Rueda is masterful in it.
Love Horror: What’s next for you, more horror I hope?
Devon Graye: Well, acting is a never ending game of hurry up and wait. I have two other films out this year — “Last Weekend” where I play a New York Opera singer opposite Patricia Clarkson and “The Discoverers” where I play probably the last teenager I’ll ever be allowed to play, the stoner, artist son of Grifin Dunne. Your guess is as good as mine as far is what’s next.
That’s one of the funny things about this business: you can do a ton of work and you still have no idea if anyone will ever higher you again. I say funny because we play pretend for a living so, really, all you can do is laugh…or hope that someone calls you up asking you to eat fly.
Love Horror: Thank you for your time and your answers.
Devon Graye: Thank YOU for such great questions!
13 Sins is out now and the trailer is below. Read our review right HERE