He's Shared 'Every Single Word' — But It's The Silence That Rings Louder

He's Shared 'Every Single Word' — But It's The Silence That Rings Louder

10:34am Jul 12, 2015
A screenshot from Enough Said shows actress Anjelah Johnson-Reyes, the only nonwhite actor in the 2013 hit starring Julia Louis-Dreyfus and James Gandolfini.
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Until recently, Venezuelan-American actor Dylan Marron had been known best for his performance as Carlos the scientist on the horror-comedy podcast Welcome to Night Vale. Lately, though, he's been getting just as much attention for Every Single Word, his new Web series highlighting Hollywood's lack of diversity.

"From a really young age, I was really into acting," Marron tells NPR's Arun Rath. "And I would sometimes get meetings with agents. And I'm in high school at this time, and the agents would keep telling me the same thing — which is they weren't sure how many parts there are out there for me, and that I'd never play the romantic male lead."

Marron, also a writer and director, decided to use the tools of the trade to teach Hollywood a lesson. In Every Single Word, he started posting his own edits of well-known feature films. He cut away everything but the words spoken by a person of color.

One of his montages, from the 2013 hit Enough Said, is 46 seconds long.

"I remember watching [the movie] and I was like, wow, this is not at all told through any kind of lens that has much empathy for people of color," he says. "You know, the only [nonwhite] speaking character is the maid Cathy. It felt like the film was so unaware of itself. It's a really, really sweet, well-made film. I just think that is when it's so insidious, when it's in these really well-told stories that we can totally forget what kind of coding we're absorbing."

His edit of the 2014 movie Noah, starring Russell Crowe, is just 11 seconds — of background music and silence.

"Yeah," Marron says, "that's it. And that's a Biblical movie, that's a Biblical adaptation."

Marron says the response to his project has been gratifying, especially from those close to him.

"I think one of the most heartwarming reactions that I learned about is my fiancé, his sister has a 12-year-old daughter and her name is Hannah, and Hannah is white," he says. "And she was showing these videos to Hannah, and she was talking to her about what it means.

"And to learn to unpack that as a 12-year-old is a huge, huge thing. So, the fact that these videos are maybe impacting really young minds to be more aware of this stuff, especially young, white kids who have the privilege of not even being aware that race is a thing — you know, that means the world to me."

As a kid, he didn't have that privilege. "I'm a brown person living in America," he says. "I have been aware that I'm different ever since I was really, really young."

But he's also proved the agents he met in high school wrong. "It's funny," he says. In Welcome to Night Vale, "Carlos the scientist is the main romantic interest, and that's an interracial, queer love story. That's amazingly cool — and sadly, you know, very exceptional."

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Transcript

DYLAN MARRON: I'm - I'm a brown person living in America. I have been aware that I'm different ever since I was really, really young.

ARUN RATH, HOST:

Dylan Marron is an actor, so Hollywood's diversity problem is a drag both personally and professionally.

MARRON: From a really young age, I was really into acting, and I would sometimes get meetings with agents. And so I'm in high school at this time, and the agents would keep telling me the same thing, which is they weren't sure how many parts there are out there for me and that I'd never play the romantic male lead.

RATH: So he used the tools of the trade to teach Hollywood a lesson. He started posting his own edits of feature films, cutting away everything except every single word spoken by a person of color. Here's his treatment of the Wes Anderson movie "Moonrise Kingdom."

(SOUNDBITE OF FILM, "MOONRISE KINGDOM")

ANDREAS SHEIKH: (As Panagle) Sixteen-and-a-half, sir.

I guess we're going to miss the hullabaloo after all.

She's too scruffy for me.

RATH: One kid, three lines, five seconds. You get the point. Dylan told me the first film he cut together was the Julia Louis Dreyfus romantic comedy "Enough Said."

(SOUNDBITE OF FILM, "ENOUGH SAID")

ANJELAH JOHNSON-REYES: (As Cathy) You like the counters clean?

You know what, Mrs. Sarah? I find new crap everywhere, and you think I know where to put it?

MARRON: And I remember watching it, and I was like wow, this is not at all told through any kind of lens that has much empathy for people of color. You know, the only speaking character is - is the maid, Cathy.

(SOUNDBITE OF FILM, "ENOUGH SAID")

JOHNSON-REYES: (As Cathy) You people disgust me, but you is nice, Mr. Will.

MARRON: It felt like the film was so unaware of itself. It's a really, really sweet, well-made film. I just think that is when it's so insidious is when it's in these really well-told stories that we can totally forget what coding we're kind of absorbing.

RATH: Let's play another one because they're not all that long. Here's every single word spoken by a person of color in Darren Aronofsky's 2014 biblical epic "Noah."

(SOUNDBITE OF FILM, "NOAH")

RATH: That's it.

MARRON: Yeah, that is it. And that's a biblical movie. That's a biblical adaptation.

RATH: Dylan, I'm wondering about your intended audience here. I mean, is it for people of color to laugh, or is this wanting white people to watch this and think oh - oh, I get it?

MARRON: I mean, it's both. I think one of the most heartwarming reactions that I learned about is my fiance - his sister has a 12-year-old daughter and her name is Hannah, and Hannah is white. And she was showing these videos to Hannah, and she was talking to her about what it means. And to learn to unpack that as a 12-year-old is a huge, huge thing. So the fact that these videos are maybe impacting really young minds to be more aware of this stuff, especially young, white kids who have the privilege of not even being aware that race is a thing, you know? That - I mean, that means the world to me.

RATH: So Dylan, have you gotten the chance to play a romantic lead yet?

MARRON: I - I mean, it's funny, you know, I don't know if you're a listener of "Welcome To Night Vale..."

RATH: Yeah.

MARRON: ... But Carlos the scientist is the main romantic interest, and that's an interracial, queer love story. That's amazingly cool - and sadly, you know, very exceptional.

RATH: That's Dylan Marron. You can watch his Every Single Word videos at everysinglewordspoken.tumblr.com. Dylan, great speaking with you, thank you.

MARRON: Thank you so much for having me. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

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