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13 Sins – A Conversation with Devon Graye

12 July 2014

Here at The Fan Carpet we have been complaining for years that seven deadly sins are simply not enough. Since Christopher Nolan fed us the drug of escalation with The Dark Knight Trilogy, we have mutated into modern day Oliver’s… And yes we dare to ask for more! So you can imagine our reaction when along came Daniel Stamm’s 13 Sins – a delectable helping of nearly double the original tally.

Following on the heels of the home entertainment release The Fan Carpet‘s Paul Risker had the opportunity to put some questions to actor Devon Graye who took us from youthful inspiration to the near future in which he touched upon acting across theatre, film and TV, his susceptibility to horror, the importance of comedy, what piqued his interest in 13 Sins and what it says about the horror audience.



Why a career as an actor? Was there that one inspirational moment?

I remember my grandma coming over after she’d seen a tour company production of “The Wizard of Oz.” She brought with her the Playbill for me to look at. I was pretty little, about five, and I think she thought I would be interested in the colourful pictures. Instead, I spent at least an hour looking at the black and white headshots of the actors. I asked my mom to read me each and every bio, and I remember her telling me that these people were actors for a living. The idea of that was so mind-bending to me at five, the fact that people got paid for playing pretend, and so the seed was planted.


As an actor can an interest in a project be pre-dominantly driven by story or must it always be a mix of character and story?

For me, it always starts with the character. I get excited when the complexity of a character hits me within the first several pages of a script, and usually around that point the rest kind of slips away, and the arc of that individual becomes the story for me. Our job as actors is to create real-life, flesh and bone human beings from words on a page. Some writers make it very easy on us and the character sort of just leaps off with everything already built in, whilst others leave lots of room for interpretation and expansion. But I can always find something about a character that clicks with me since I am a human being playing a human being, and the human experience isn’t as vast as we like to think.


Having done theatre, film and television, how do you compare and contrast the three mediums?

There is some quote I’ve heard floating around that talks about how film is the director’s medium, TV is the writers and theatre is the actors. I think that’s true. With theatre, what the audience sees each night rests solely in the hands of the actors, and where they are at in that specific moment. Of course the rehearsal process cements a lot of it, but the momentary impulses of an actor can take over, and once it’s done, it’s done – there are no second takes in theatre.

In contrast the final product of an actor’s performance in film and TV is always manipulated through the eyes of the editor, as it should be to best serve the story. I have never been a series regular in a long running TV series, so my experience with film and TV has been very similar. I’ll come in and do an episode or two of a show, but typically the character is finished within a few months, as it is with a film. In theatre, the character lives with you for quite a bit longer.


Can you remember the moment you first discovered the horror genre?

In a Blockbuster movie rental store as a little kid. I walked past the VHS cover of “Hellraiser” and had nightmares for weeks. The horror genre is still relatively new to me. I have a very over-active imagination and it doesn’t take much for me to spend months obsessing over, and being terrified by something I’ve seen. I don’t get scared when I’m watching a horror film, but it plagues my sleep for a good while afterwards. Part of being an actor is momentarily believing that something made-up is real. Sometimes the momentary part lasts longer than a moment – it’s a curse as much as it is a gift.


When you first read the script for 13 Sins what was the appeal of both the character and the story?

The story gripped me immediately. Each character was very specific, and the adventure Elliott goes on had me wildly flipping through pages right up until the end. The character of Michael was very endearing, and his desire to fit in and be taken seriously really resonated. But probably the biggest appeal was the prospect of getting to work with Daniel Stamm. I have thought he was a genius ever since seeing “A Necessary Death” and to get to work alongside him was an opportunity I didn’t want to pass up.



Comedy is an important element within 13 Sins in that it offsets the horror. Do you think comedy and horror complement one another or do you agree with those who argue that comedy undermines the intention of horror, and so the two should be kept separate?

I think comedy is ALWAYS important, no matter what the genre. Life is funny and therefore humour resonates with us and can really ground something if it’s done right. In 13 Sins the humour serves to let the audience in just that fraction more. As humans, we tend to laugh when things are familiar to us and remind us of our own experiences. The humour just adds that extra layer of relation as Elliott is thrown into the crazy whirlwind of the game.


13 Sins and the horror genre in general expose the cruelty of the audience. Naturally we expect the inevitable – often bloody mayhem to ensue, and yet we encourage the characters, in this case Elliot from the very beginning to play along with the challenges knowing all too well the dark depths this will lead him into. What do you think this says about the audience? Does horror offer us some kind of cathartic experience?

I think people in general, no matter how squeaky clean and wonderful they may be have a dark side. Horror allows for the exploration of this side with no consequences. A story like 13 Sins takes an average guy and plunges him into a set of extraordinary circumstances, thereby allowing people to live vicariously, questioning their own choices as they watch his. It’s self-exploration disguised as escapism. I think people crave that to some degree.


In 13 Sins Elliot and Michael whilst manipulated or pressured are still given a choice. In your opinion how important is it to give the characters a choice rather than no choice? Does choice allow for a more morally interesting story?

Everything is a choice in life. Circumstances are often out of our control, but choosing how we face certain things is a universal experience. I think every story has to be about people making choices. Even robot movies — at some point the robot always develops to a place of thinking for himself and deciding how to proceed. There is no struggle otherwise, and struggle equals story.


You continue to do short films, the most recent Eden directed by Sean Willis. What are your thoughts on the place of the modern short film?

I love short films and I think they’re incredibly difficult to pull off. The hardest thing to do is to tell a well-rounded, impactful story within a 15 minute window. Short films are how many amazing directors get their start. It allows for so many valuable experiences to take place on a smaller level with less at stake. I also just really enjoy watching them — the good ones. It’s an art-form all on its own.


Having spent time in both the U.S. and the U.K., have you perceived a difference in the American or British audience’s response to film?

I don’t know if there’s too much of a difference. I will say that the rating system seems a bit better in the UK. In the states nudity and sex is heavily suppressed and violence is almost glorified. Film and TV shows in the US can show a heap ton of gore, but the minute you show a breast, the rating goes up. I don’t think that’s the same in the UK. There seems to be more of a balance.


Looking ahead to the future, would you at some point look to move onto the other side of the camera to write and direct? If so how valuable will the experience of being in front of the camera be in helping you to take this step?

This is a wonderful question! And yes, in fact I currently have something very exciting in development. I can’t talk about it a lot just yet, but it’s something I’ve written that looks to be going into production in the near future. I say “looks” because this business is so fickle and things fall apart all the time, but so far, this process has been promising. I love writing and I truly feel that my acting has been made better by my writing and vice-versa. I think that most actors make solid writers. We have to understand humanity on such a deep level and therefore know how to tell compelling human stories. This is a subject I could go on about for hours, so I had better stop here. But yes, I’d like to get my feet wet in every aspect of the industry if they’ll have me.