IN CONVERSATION WITH DYLAN ARNOLD
Interview by Jana Letonja
Actor Dylan Arnold can be seen in the highly anticipated Christopher Nolan film ‘Oppenheimer’, which was just released on 21st July. Dylan has built a strong resume already, including a breakout role on season three of Netflix’s ‘You’. Next up, he’ll be co-starring in Apple Tv+’s ‘Lady in the Lake’ alongside Natalie Portman.
Dylan, you’re starring in the highly anticipated Christopher Nolan’s ‘Oppenheimer’, an epic thriller that thrusts audiences into the pulse-pounding paradox of the enigmatic man who must risk destroying the world in order to save it. Tell us more about the film and how you got cast on it.
Like most things, it started with an audition, with a self tape. I remember being excited that I was even auditioning for a Christopher Nolan movie. That in itself was very cool. But like everyone else who auditioned, I thought it was just for the role of Scientist, and they had us all do the same monologue about how stars die, which was quite interesting actually. I had a lot of fun with it and didn’t expect to hear anything, as you often don’t. Then about two or three months later I got a call that Chris wanted me to come in for a callback in person, which at that point was a total win for me. And then a couple weeks later I found out I got the role. The film is just extraordinary. It’s thrilling and rich and just such a ride. It’s devastating and important. It’s an event that changed the world. And we live in its shadow to this day.
In the film, you star as Frank Oppenheimer, the younger brother to Cillian Murphy’s J. Robert Oppenheimer. What will we be able to see in your character’s story throughout the film?
Something that’s wonderful about the character study of this film is that you are taken through the life of this man, so you really get to know how their relationship develops and shifts over the years. Frank was not originally part of the team at Los Alamos, but then Robert insisted that his brother be brought on despite his communist background. So, Frank came on and helped map out the test site. Both brothers grew up spending a lot of time in New Mexico, so they both knew the territory well. One of Franks’ roles was to plan escape routes should the radioactive cloud drift in a certain direction, which is a fairly terrifying thought.
‘Oppenheimer’ includes an all-star ensemble. Were you star struck getting to work and be on set with all these talented artists?
I was definitely pinching myself on a daily basis. Getting invited to play and work with such incredible artists, that’s something you dream of. On the acting side, it speaks for itself with that cast, but also with the entire crew. You have these incredible costume teams, makeup and hair teams just bringing their absolute best every day. Then all the practical effects, the locations and it all being captured by Hoyta Van Hoytema and being helmed by Chris Nolan is just top to bottom such an incredibly talented and kind group of people. Everyone was extraordinary.
A lot of fans remember you very well from the third season of Netflix’s ‘You’. How has it been being cast on such a popular series?
It was such a blast. I was a fan of the show going into it, so getting to enter that world and be a part of it was very exciting. Everyone was so wonderful on that set and getting to work with all of them was a joy. It’s an adjustment to enter a show that’s already as popular as it is. Everyone has certain expectations and you want to fit into the world as best you can. It’s very cool how much that show means to so many people.
What attracted you to acting in the first place? When did you know this is it, that it is something you want to do as a career?
It’s something I’ve always wanted to do, ever since I was a little kid. I grew up doing community theatre and at some point I realized you could make a career out of it, which just seemed so wild to me. I thought to myself “Why isn’t everyone doing this? It’s so fun”. Clearly, at the time I didn’t realize how difficult of a profession it is. But once I figured out that this is what I wanted to do, I put my all into it. I wound up going to a boarding school that specialized in the arts and then eventually went to University of North Carolina School of the Arts where I studied acting. I put all my eggs in this basket, so I’m thankful it’s working out so far.
Many actors start producing or directing down the line in their careers. Is this something you are passionate about as well and something you’d like to try your hand at some day?
Absolutely. I actually just produced a short film about a year ago and I had never done that before. I just had the best time with it. It was interesting to be on the other side of it. Usually I only have to worry about the acting side, but this time I had to worry about everything else except acting. So that was a change. But I had a lot of fun with it. It’s definitely something I’d want to do again. And directing, absolutely. I think when the time comes, I’ll be ready, but I feel like I want to log some more hours on set before I give that a go. It’s a huge undertaking and I don’t want to take that lightly.
Being in the acting industry means attending many publicity and other events, where you have to walk the red carpet. What does fashion mean to you? Would you say you have a certain style?
My style changes quite a bit day to day. I do think publicity events and red carpets are a fun opportunity to play with fashion and expression. It’s funny, I used to think that all these actors on the red carpet wore their own clothes, so I was always like “How do they all have such amazing outfits?” But for the most part, that’s not the case obviously. Getting to collaborate with stylists and brands is a lot of fun. I haven’t done it too much, but it’s another place to be creative. I like to have fun with clothes and especially when they’re not yours, it makes it feel like dress up. It almost feels like another form of a costume. I look forward to developing my style and collaborating with other amazing artists down the road.
Tell us more about your other passions in life, outside of acting.
I grew up playing baseball, which was another passion of mine. It was either be a professional actor or a professional baseball player. Two of the toughest professions to get into, so I’m glad one of them is working out. I actually just started to play in an adult baseball league in Los Angeles, so that’s been fun to scratch that itch. In addition to that, I really love rock climbing and writing. I love nature. That’s something I’m trying to incorporate into my life more. Living in the city, it’s really easy to settle into a routine and not get outside, but I find that I really am much happier when I immerse myself in nature or even find myself surrounded by a large group of trees.
Next up, after ‘Oppenheimer’, you’ll be co-starring in Apple TV+’s ‘Lady in the Lake’ alongside Natalie Portman. What can you share with us about this upcoming series?
I’m very excited to see that. They’re editing it now, so I haven’t seen anything from it yet, but I’m sure it’s going to be fantastic. It’s inspired by a book of the same name by Laura Lippman, following a white, Jewish news reporter in the late 60s investigating the disappearance of an 11-year-old girl. She winds up putting herself in situations she probably shouldn’t be in. Alma Ha’rel wrote it and directed all seven episodes and she’s just brilliant. I really had such a wonderful time working with her. She really brings out the best in people. Getting to work with Chris and then immediately going to work with someone like Alma feels like I won the lottery. I grew immensely after those two projects. Working with incredible creators and directors, what more could I ask for?
Dylan, these days we see our world facing many challenges and issues. What is your view on this and how do you think you can use your platforms to speak up about those things?
I think it’s important to engage in the conversations. Yes, online, but also in your day to day life. I think sometimes a lot of people feel pressure to speak up and post and repost stuff, and often they don’t know enough about what they’re actually talking about. The nuance of it all. I definitely don’t want to speak up just for the sake of speaking up. For me, I’d rather start by learning for myself and being fully informed before engaging in the discussion. But I think it’s crucial to continue to have dialogues about all that’s happening and allow yourself and others to be wrong and be corrected because that’s how we learn.
THIS INTERVIEW WAS CONDUCTED BEFORE THE SAG-AFTRA STRIKE!