INTERVIEW: Troy Iwata on Netflix’s ‘Dash & Lily,’ His Role of Langston, Pursuing a Career in Acting + Diversity, Representation, and Inclusion in Hollywood
Troy Iwata steals the show and audiences’ hearts in Netflix’s Dash & Lily, which is the perfect show to binge-watch this holiday season.
Dash & Lily is the perfect holiday romance and is based on the book series Dash & Lily’s Book of Dares. Total opposites, Dash (played by Austin Abrams) and Lily (played by Midori Francis), trade dares, dreams, and desires in a notebook they exchange back and forth across New York City, which eventually leads them to discover that they have more in common than they initially thought.
Troy portrays Langston, Lily’s older brother. The character gives much-needed representation to both the queer and Japanese communities. All eight episodes of season one are currently available to stream and enjoy on Netflix.
Read Glitter’s exclusive interview with Troy Iwata below to find out all the details of his new Netflix series, representation in the entertainment industry, Japanese background, theater, and social isolation.
GLITTER: You co-star in Netflix’s Dash & Lily; what was one highlight of that experience?
TROY: Having the opportunity to star in a Netflix show that allowed me to represent my queer and mixed-race background is something very special. I don’t think a lot of people realize the importance of seeing someone who looks like you on TV. When you don’t see yourself represented, it can make you feel less important or even invisible. It can shrink your confidence, your goals, and ambitions because you don’t have a role model that you can thoroughly identify with.
GLITTER: What attracted you to the project?
TROY: Aside from the paycheck and being a lead on a Netflix TV show, I was very excited to be able to represent my mixed-race background and my queerness on a vehicle that I knew would be seen by families around the world. I don’t think there’s enough multicultural representation in the media and in reference to the queer community. I was excited to bring a new character who wasn’t defined by their trauma.
GLITTER: Why do you think this series was so accurate in representation for the portrayal of queer, BIPOC, and mixed-race characters?
TROY: I wouldn’t use the word “accurate” because everyone’s experience within those communities are different. However, I think one thing Dash & Lily does well is that it doesn’t contain our queer, BIPOC, and mixed-race characters in the boxes that a lot of the media does. They’re not overly sexualized, traumatized, or victimized, they’re fully fleshed out people, and their queerness and racial backgrounds are simply acknowledged and celebrated in a non-tokenizing way.
GLITTER: What do you think the entertainment industry needs to work on in terms of representation?
TROY: I could literally talk about this for hours, but I’ll just pick one area. We need more representation behind the casting table. I’m talking writers, directors, producers, casting directors, artistic directors, etc. Until there is equal representation behind the scenes and behind the curtain when it comes to race, gender identity, sexual orientation, and physical and mental ability, I don’t think we’ll be able to properly represent our communities.
GLITTER: The show is based on the book series Dash & Lily’s Book of Dares. Do you feel any sort of obligation to the source material when bringing a character from a book to screen?
TROY: For me, it’s a case by case basis. I’ve worked on projects where I’ve felt the need to do more research than others. For Dash & Lily, in particular, I knew the creative team wanted to bring a lot of myself into Langston, so I didn’t read the book until after filming. I also knew that both Rachel and David would be very involved throughout the entire process, and I trusted they would tell me if I was ruining their dreams.
GLITTER: How did playing the role of Langston implore you to learn more about your Japanese background?
TROY: I was mostly raised by my mom, who is white, so even though I always knew I was Japanese, I never truly felt a connection or had a vast knowledge of where I came from. In my adult years, I’ve been able to do my own research and even go to Japan. Filming Dash & Lily just added to my love and appreciation for my heritage. Our show did a wonderful job of integrating small pieces of Japanese culture and tradition throughout, and it was very special to learn.
GLITTER: Throughout the series, Langston provides hilarious love advice to Lily. What is the best piece of “love advice” you have ever received?
TROY: That you’re not always going to like the person you love and that sometimes you won’t want to be around them and that’s ok, you shouldn’t be. Distance makes the heart grow fonder, and by distance, I literally mean having your own separate lives through work, hobbies, and friendships. You need to have your own fulfilled life so that the time you do spend with your loved ones is precious.
GLITTER: Favorite thing about Langston’s character and/or storyline?
TROY: That he doesn’t struggle with his identity. He’s never questioned by himself, friends, or family, and that he’s never bullied or traumatized in the show. I think queer characters are often shown to be victims of trauma, and that’s the “only” reason we can somehow show their strength. I don’t want to invalidate the queer community’s struggles that we overcome, but we are more than our struggles, and our trauma shouldn’t be used as a narrative crutch. It’s such a hopeful message I think, especially to queer youth, to show characters who just exist unapologetically and are acknowledged and celebrated by those around them.
GLITTER: When did you know that you wanted to pursue a career in acting?
TROY: It honestly just hit me during my senior year of college. I realized I had been putting off thinking about my future, and since I was about to have a musical theatre degree, I figured I might as well go to New York and try. I never really had an “I’m going to be an actor!” moment; it’s always been, “Well what the f*ck else am I gonna do?”
GLITTER: What is your favorite thing to do in New York City?
TROY: Stay home with my Nintendo GameCube.
GLITTER: First place you want to visit once it is safe to?
TROY: I would love to sit in a coffee shop, drink an iced mocha (which is basically chocolate milk with a little espresso because I’m a child), and just be there with all the people writing their screenplays about their journeys as a struggling artist, knowing that they’re all essentially writing the same thing, but I support it.
GLITTER: What is your favorite thing about theater performances?
TROY: I’m trying to think of an answer that isn’t “The adrenaline and infectious energy of a live audience.” That’s what literally everyone says. I think there’s something tragically beautiful about the fact that theatre is this family and story that you’re a part of for however long, and then it disappears forever. Only the cast, crew, and audience of one specific night will know exactly how everything felt. There’s something very special about that.
GLITTER: What was the first Broadway play you saw?
TROY: It was Newsies. We took a family vacation to NYC, and my one request to my mom was to see Once. She booked us a room in the hotel right next to the theater where Once was playing; however, she then got us tickets to Newsies—Mom for the win. Of course, we enjoyed it though, dancing twinks with satchels? Sign me up.
GLITTER: You recently played the role of Peter Brady in a benefit reading of the all-new “A Very Brady Musical,” a benefit for the Ogunquit Playhouse. What made you want to be involved?
TROY: True story – I got an email from them asking me to be involved. This was deep into the pandemic, and I hadn’t had a job in 8 months. It was a super cute show with a bomb cast. We all constructed makeshift studios in our apartments and distantly created a full musical production without ever meeting. In the end, I got to digitally meet Christopher Knight, who was the original Peter Brady, which was an honor. I hope I did Peter justice.
GLITTER: Any fun behind the scenes stories you can share from the New Amsterdam set?
TROY: I’ve very much enjoyed my stints on New Amsterdam. I’ve now been in 3 episodes, 1 scene each. I show up, say my sentence, and Janet Montgomery says, “See you in a year!” as I leave.
GLITTER: What is a highlight for you out of your television roles?
TROY: My television career trajectory is as follows: I’ve had one-liners on seven different TV shows. Which includes memorable nuggets like “Do you mind?”, “Watch your step” and “The French guy is missing!” Then I booked Dash & Lily. I will say one of my favorites was for Ray Donovan. The role was “Sexy Prancer,” and they dressed me in a slutty reindeer costume, and I yelled, “Excuse you!” at Liev Schreiber, which I’m sure is now a sexual nightmare that plagues him.
GLITTER: What do you look for in a script?
TROY: The truth is that being an ethnically ambiguous, gay, mixed actor, I feel I have to take all those communities into consideration and decide whether or not the script and/or part of the script serves them in a progressive way. I THEN can have an opinion on the character itself.
GLITTER: Are there any TV shows that you would like to join in the future that you’re a fan of?
TROY: Honestly, any multi-cam sitcom. I love theatre, and I love TV, and I feel as though that’s the perfect combination of the two. I adore the style, as it fits in my style of comedy and performance. It would be a little dream come true.
GLITTER: What has your time in social isolation been like and did you have time to do things you normally wouldn’t be able to do?
TROY: I’m not going to even start; my boyfriend has seen sides of me that I didn’t even know existed. It’s funny how at the beginning of quarantine, I was telling myself, “Stay positive; you have all this time to do whatever you want.” Then simultaneously, all my nuggets of motivation went out the window. This time has definitely forced all of us to take a hard look at ourselves and our relationships. Honestly, my connections with the people in my life have grown, and I’ve had time to do puzzles… twice.
GLITTER: How did you keep yourself motivated and calm during quarantine?
TROY: That insinuates that I was both motivated and calm during quarantine. Honestly, I have to credit a few good friends for reaching out and flat-out demanding we create something together, no matter how stupid it was. Quarantine has been a rollercoaster of emotions for everyone. We were stripped of the distractions we had to not deal with while hanging out with ourselves. Long walks and YouTube have been wonderful remedies for me throughout quarantine.
GLITTER: One show you never get tired of watching?
TROY: That’s So Raven. There are honestly masterclasses in sitcom comedy throughout that show.
GLITTER: Glitter has a celebrity #SelfLoveCampaign. What does self-love mean to you?
TROY: I think self-love can change depending on what you need. We all know about taking time for ourselves to recharge, reassess, and reflect. However, for me, sometimes just reaching out to old friends is a form of self-love, just catching up and laughing through old memories. It’s a great way to remind yourself of the joys you may have been neglecting.
GLITTER: Do you have any new projects coming up that you can share?
TROY: None currently on the horizon, but check out @superpowerlesstv on Instagram. I co-wrote and directed a short mockumentary series called Superpower(less). It’s about a girl who inconveniently wakes up with random superpowers. You can watch the whole thing in 20 minutes.
GLITTER: What are the best social media platforms for fans to keep up with all things Troy?
TROY: My Instagram, which I take both very seriously and couldn’t care less about. @MrTroyIwata