INTERVIEWED BY SAN SAN ONGLATCO
In this Interview, 13 Reasons Why actor Devin Druid opens up about growing up having EDS (Ehlers-Danlos-Syndrome) and dealing with school as a young actor in Hollywood. He talks about acting, 13 reasons why, his favorite superheroes, gaming and music.
Hi Devin, how are you doing today?
Hey, I’m doing great. How are you?
I’m good. Any plans for the summer?
D: Oh man, I dunno, I dunno. It’s summer now. It’s June. I just did E3, E3 week was incredible. I’ve been dying to go since I was like 12. I tried to go to last year but we started shooting season 2 in June and I couldn’t make it, unfortunately. But this year was amazing, I got to go to so many events. I got to go to some incredible parties, saw Deadmau5 perform, saw Logic perform, met a bunch of incredible people. We have a season 3 coming up. I dunno when we’re gonna shoot. Hopefully, we’ll start sometime this summer. So yeah, I’m just gonna try to relax and work on myself in terms of industry and bettering myself as an actor and working on my craft.
That’s good. So, what’s life like now? Post season 2 and after the shocking finale.
It’s been great. I’ve had great experiences. I mean, I know that the show is definitely controversial, especially with the ending. It’s diverse and people have subjective opinions about it. But the thing that’s really been incredible for me, specifically having this storyline this season, is having the people that are reaching out to me on social media. People send letters to my managers and are even going to my website and sending emails. People are messaging and saying things like - I’ve been through the same things that you’re character’s gone through and while it was tough to watch, I feel so...they feel so comforted knowing that their stories are being told and being talked about; rather than stigmatized and continued to be ignored by the media and by society as a whole who really doesn’t like to talk about these things happening, in general. Especially not with cases of men being sexually assaulted.
Your character Tyler has been through a lot this season, how did you prepare for this season and the scene in particular where you get sexually assaulted?
A lot of my preparation is character study and thinking about what they’re going through and how that would take a toll on them. Even as a child, I was taught to be an empathetic human being. Empathy I feel like has been a key for so long. If someone is able to take a step back and put themselves in that another person’s shoes- that kind of helps us all to understand each other. I feel like understanding and open communication in conversation is the key to ending a lot of those issues. So for me as an actor, that’s a lot of my character study - is how can I best portray this character? A lot of research - watching documentaries about teens who have been bullied or kind of lean towards making a tragic decision resulting in some violence and things like that.
For the assault scene at the end, I actually got on the phone with actor, David Morse, very well known for portraying on TV a character who was one of the first on TV characters who was a male character that experienced sexual assault. So, I talked with him and he gave me a lot of great resources, and a lot of great things to think about, in terms of what a male character also has to think of. Because as a society, especially these days, there’s this sense of toxic and fragile masculinity. So much of society has said that a man is supposed to be a protector. He’s supposed to be able to prevent these things from happening. What happens when you’re not able to? We’re looking at a society that also says men can’t get raped. What happens when someone says you can’t have something happen to you and it does? What does that do to you? How does that break you down? What happens afterwards? A lot of that type of study was what went through my mind for that scene specifically.
With the me too movement and the victims of sexual assault moving forward, do you have any message for any teenager out there who is a victim of sexual assault?
More than ever with the #MeToo Movement, we’re seeing so many young people speak out and have their voices be heard. I think it’s important for us to continue these conversations about sexual assault, about gun violence and gun violence in schools, these conversations about mental health. I think those are what’s making the changes right now. And so those people are heroes and are inspirational. I look up to them so much. I guess the only thing I could really say is “Thank you for being as strong as you are. Thank you for sharing your stories with us and allowing us to hear your voices and make these changes happen. I really think it all starts with them.”
What was school like for you?
Middle school is an incredibly confusing time. You’re starting to go through puberty, you start to really notice these different cliques throughout the school system. You’re starting to decide what type of person you wanna be and look forward to what you wanna be in the future. A lot of people think you don’t really have to worry about that til you’re in high school looking at college; But with this gifted program that we had, we then had to think about if we wanted to go to a specialty center for high school or something which would then lead to college. So, we had to think of these things way earlier.
During this time, we also realized that my family had a genetic disability called ehlers-danlos syndrome. There’s a bunch of different types. It’s genetic. We have hyper mobility type and it’s basically a collagen deficiency. So, our body produces faulty collagen which then leads to weaker joints which leads to hyper extension or over rotation of certain joints or loose gums, loose tissues.
So you had this in middle school?
So I started to...because of puberty, I’m growing so much. So, all my symptoms just started to manifest. So, in the 7th grade, I woke up one morning and I just had this incredible pain shooting throughout my groin and the outside of my right hip. I went to the doctors, they didn’t see anything. X rays didn’t see anything. This was like for weeks. I wasn’t going to school cos’ I could barely walk.
There was just so much pain and finally they did an MRI on my hip and they found out that I had a tiny little tear and they were like this shouldn’t be hurting him that badly but because it is, we’ll go in and fix it. They realized in surgery that all of my cartilage was torn out of my hip. So, my bones were basically grinding on each other. So, they had to cut and cauterize all my tissue and you know kind of fix everything. After that, I’m feeling so much better and I’m still working on homebound throughout school. I went back to school finally and it’s the end of the year.
The school basically took me aside and said, look, you’ve missed too many days of school. We had this thing in place called 504 status which basically means the school has to recognize my status as a twice exceptional student and make sure that they’re doing whatever they can to support me with my disability. Basically, I was doing all of the homework they were sending home with me, but all the other work I hadn’t done yet were going in as zeroes.
So, my grades were dropping. And so they decided you’re no longer up to snuff in this program anymore. So, they kicked me out. I was so demotivated by that. So, middle school was where when things started to take a dive. 8th grade, I hated and didn’t wanna do it anymore.
Did you go back to regular middle school?
I went back to regular middle school after that. And I was just so unmotivated because of what had happened previously. I wasn’t sleeping well at night. And because of my disability, I would end up rolling over my hands while I was sleeping and I would wake up with dislocated fingers. It would be incredibly painful. I ended up fracturing my T3 vertebrae and spine. I was in a back and neck brace. I tore my hip again or pulled something. I ended up missing a lot of school in 8th grade. We were about to go on vacation and ready to go visit my grandparents in Florida, and we got a call from the school. Yeah, well, he passed but we’re failing him because he missed however many days and this was when I started acting. My mom figured, you know what? We’re gonna homeschool. I was able to work at my own pace. I graduated high school when I was 16 which was great for me because then I was recognized as a legal 18 by SAG so I got to work more. It was incredible for me. It was like a weight was lifted off my shoulders now that I wasn’t told constantly by a system that you’re not good enough, we don’t think you can do this.
What’s your favorite teen movie?
Does Spider Man: Homecoming count as a teen movie? I’m such a huge nerd. I’m such a huge Spider Man fan and I think Tom Holland does it so well. I was 4 years old when Sam Raimi’s 2002 Spiderman movie came out and I went and saw it in costume. Growing up Spiderman was my guy. I would watch the animated series and I would get the comics because for me that was something I could relate to.
Peter Parker, you take away his spider powers and he’s a nerdy kid dealing with growing up. He’s dealing with puberty, responsibilities of managing school, social life, and home life, trying to get a job. He’s trying to get the girl. Those were things I could relate to growing up and that I could see myself in and was inspired by that sense of responsibility. What do you do when you have this ability?
How do you unwind? What do you do for fun?
I play a lot of video games. I’m a big gamer. Like I said, we just got finished with E3 which was an incredible experience.
So, what are you playing right now?
Right now? My friends and I are getting back into Competitive Overwatch now that Brigitte is finally being nerfed out a little bit. My buddies and I are really enjoy PubG. I know Fortnight’s on the rise. We played a lot of games of that. I grew up playing a lot of Call of Duty when I was younger. So, that first person shooter aspect is just something that I’m familiar with which is why I think that PUBG is more my speed other than fortnight. Big Gamer. Like I said, I love comic books. I try and see all the comic book movies when they come out. I just saw Infinity War and Deadpool 2.
Who’s your favorite Marvel Character?
Spider Man. Easy. Easy.
Who’s your favorite DC character?
I’m partial to Robin and Kid Flash. But specifically Wally West, Kid Flash and Tim Drake’s Robin.
I also wanted to say, in terms of what else I do in my off time, I started making music over the summer, too.
Do you write your own music?
I do. Yeah, I write my own music that I kinda keep to myself. There’s like a handful of people that I share my music with.
What kind of music?
I don’t even know. I don’t know how to describe it.
What instrument do you play?
So, my songs always start out with piano. Just base chords. Those are the base of the song. Always, piano, drums, then a bassline. Then I layer it with synthesizers and plucks here and there, sometimes. And then vocals. And then, yeah. I don’t even know what to call it.
I enjoy it. It’s fun. I was inspired to do that over the summer. That was one of the things I would do when we were doing the season. It was my first time living alone for that amount of time. So, I was feeling really lonely and I had to deal with a bunch of health issues. I was kind of down for a little bit. I was inspired by my favorite band, 21 Pilots. I watch a bunch of interviews with them and just the way they talked about music; the way of being able to in a sense tell your story, a way to express yourself through music in ways I hadn’t thought about. So, that became what I did.
If you were a book, what book would you be and why?
I would be a book that nobody has read yet and has no ending. I’m working on it.
Is there a cause or charity that you support?
Yeah, absolutely. Justin and I went to the Children Mending Hearts which is a lovely foundation that’s working with anti-bullying. Also, a good amount of the proceeds from the Season 2's Soundtrack are going to the Suicide Prevention Line and the Trevor Project. Those are two organizations that we work really closely with very often.
Working with a lot of organizations, I know Alicia Beau and Justin Prentice who play Jessica Davis and Bryce Walker respectively, do a lot of work with sexual assault campaigns. They were part of the inaugural Teen Vogue Summit last year where they talked with survivors and about the experience of spreading that.
The show is always trying to work really closely with 1 in 6 which is a non-profit organization that spreads awareness and resources for men who have been sexually assaulted. It’s incredible that when you hear that statistic people go “This doesn’t happen”. The tragic thing is that it does. I think that’s an incredible thing to be thinking about. The spreading awareness of it.