Any Wednesday's Shane Dean Speaks!

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Returning home for many veterans has never been easy. The transition back after what they’ve seen can haunt and impact their livelihood to the point of homelessness, drug abuse, and suicide. From the difficulties of speaking about one’s wartime experience to the presence they carry, Any Wednesday helps us bear witness as the story of an octogenarian with dementia crosses paths with a PTSD stricken homeless veteran after her choir practice and forges a bond transcending race, status, and appearance.


How are doing today, Mr. Dean? 


I’m great, man! How’s it going with you? 


I’m good. Alright, How was it getting into character for someone who “dreams while awake”? 


It comes with research. A lot of research and developing a backstory for your character. For me, that’s my process: to create a backstory and research on what type of character I’m playing. Once you get all that together inside of you, you have something to pull from because you invested in this whole background. That’s where that comes in. 


Getting into character has to do with the homework (chuckles).


C’Mo has strong symptoms of many veterans we’ve seen around America once they’ve returned from war. What type of research did you delve into to become him?


I’d say it’s a combination of a few things. I researched with actual videos like TED talks with segments with veterans speaking to audiences. I watched a documentary with James Gandolfini called Wartorn (HBO)You get a chance to see and hear from veterans of their war experiences and how they affected them. 


One of them, in particular, was an artist for the army and his job was to draw the things that he saw. He showed one of his drawings and it was of a bomb going off around a group of ten men around a tree. One of the guys had his whole bottom half blown off! His torso was hanging on two branches in a tree and he had a look of horror on his face while the other men looked at him with all this blood. I went “Man!” And this is just a drawing! On top of that, there are about 22 suicides every day from vets. I didn’t know this and when I found that out, I knew this was a serious topic. 


I didn’t have any problems pulling from it and hearing all these veterans talk about their experiences and going through the lower-income areas. I walked through poverty and to be a part of it by smelling it and it’s a different energy with people who are homeless. It’s not just poverty. It’s drug addiction, too! 


After my co-star had fractured her hip, we were delayed shooting for 3-4 months, this gave me plenty of time to study and prepare. The C’Mo character is for all the veterans out there. I became an advocate for it now. 


Wednesday is the motif stuck in C’Mo’s mind like a bad day while Agnes loses hers over time but remembers it is choir practice. When you read the script, how did that speak to you?


First off, Allie (Light) put it down. It spoke to me because the film was written very poetically. I’m a fan of that! The film captured me in a lot of ways and It made say “I need to get this role, man! I need to do this thing and speak it that way!”. For C’Mo, it was a few things: he had a bad deal that was going and then to flip and have him say that was his lucky day or going into the army and getting out of the army. It throws all of this together. It’s dynamic and I was lucky to engulf and become him. 


I imagine directors, Allie Light and Patrick Stark, were careful to pace the story around you and your co-star, Mary Black. Did you gravitate towards the story because of the similarities both characters share regardless of age, race, and class or were there more you found in the story?


Oh yeah. Mary is wonderful. Wonderful. She’s a great listener and speaks a lot without saying anything by her expressions and her energy. She helped me to carry out the performance that I did. A lot of it goes to her, for sure! 


With Mary, I already had respect for because she had pretty extensive work. She was in Superman for crying out loud and is the head lady in this area for her type, so I knew she was coming from a special place. Her as a person, we connected. It’s weird two different people from two different places. I’m from New York. She’s from Canada. We meshed as if we’d known each other for 20 years or something. 


She’s not that type of person on screen! How she plays her character in the film is not her. She’s a young soul! God does wonderful things. We got a chance to see at the Mill Vally Film Festival and we both didn’t even realize on the day what was going to come out.


The bond formed throughout the story is beautiful especially when C’Mo has his shock with the thunder. What did it take to pull out an emotional rush? 


I’m glad you caught the chemistry between us. We weren’t allowed to interact with each other at all! After we met, it was like we had already been dealing with each other. 


It was purposefully done so we could have more of the natural feel of C’Mo coming from off the street because I was in my full attire when she saw me and she was in hers when I first laid eyes on her. Patrick (Stark) was really on me for that and didn’t want me to interact with her at all. I thought it was cool! 


For me, I also kept going back to those videos and that artist! I placed myself in that picture and pulled a lot from it. That was improvisational when I’m saying the lines and went there saying to myself “How would I be in this situation?”. I know people who have been involved and had things taken away. I went there with that! 


My favorite line in the story:


You can’t remember and I can’t forget.


It’s a beautiful motif between Agnes and C’Mo on many remembers and has groundbreaking meaning, but when you read it and spoke it, what did it mean to you?


If you can’t get rid of something as traumatic, that’s a living hell. That’s truly a disadvantage to be in or whatever else in life could be bothering in quality of life. Fortunately, for actors I know, meditation is huge for us. 


We’re trained to wash our brains through meditation. It’s not for everyone but the journey I went on and where I came from was practice for me. Also, yoga is a big help. It took a few weeks to ‘wash’ C’Mo off of me. I took the time for this. If you aren’t accustomed to doing this and depart the character, that’s your quality of life diminished right in front of your eyes. You don’t know what it is doing. 


Knowing both of them came from two different places, by the end of it, our characters were missing each other. We knew what each other’s issue was and once it was done, she was missing me and I to her. 


It’s fascinating to see the veteran side of C’Mo take stage when they are at the convenient store. There’s plenty of judgment calls and moments people can have in public. Have you seen this happen in front of you?


Oh, of course! There’s a lot of prejudice in the world from minor to huge stuff. I’m always watching from a distance. That’s my job to create characters. Sometimes, my personality will come from watching how a person will walk or how they express their feelings through sighing. 


I watch everything. I’m a detailed watcher by mannerisms and stuff like that because it’s an endless thing when it comes to creating our characters. 


Fun question: Which actor would you celebrate your birthday with and why?


I’d have to go with actors from Mt. Vernon. Since I’m from Mt. Vernon, I’ll go with Denzel Washington and JB Smoove! 


Wonderful! It was a great pleasure speaking with you and thanks for your time. Good luck with your future endeavors! 


Any Wednesday written and directed by Academy Award and Emmy Winner, Allie Light alongside Patrick Stark currently is making its way around the festival circuit. The film is under consideration for a 2020 Academy Award. 

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