TV

Troy Iwata Brings Queer Christmas Cheer to Netflix’s “Dash & Lily”

The out actor dons his gay apparel in Netflix's new holiday series.

Hope your hot chocolate is piping and your halls are decked, because Netflix is ready to queer up your Christmas.

The streamer just debuted Dash & Lily, a new series is based on the beloved Young Adult series Dash & Lily’s Book of Dares by David Levithan and Rachel Cohn. The holiday-themed rom-com follows Dash (Austin Abrams) and Lily (Midori Francis), two New York City-based teens who fall in love as they tell each other their deepest thoughts, hopes, and fears. The catch? They only communicate by writing in Lily’s red notebook.

While the main storyline follows Dash and Lily, Lily’s gay brother, Langston (Troy Iwata), also has plenty of screentime. In addition to giving helpful advice to his sister about her potential romance, Langston has a relationship of his own with his boyfriend Benny (Diego Guevara).

Iwata, who is gay, spoke with NewNowNext about filming the holiday rom-com, bonding with his onscreen boyfriend, playing a sexy reindeer on Ray Donovan, and how he’d spend his ideal Christmas in New York City.
 

Hi, Troy! I loved you as Langston, and you actually had a pretty big role, which was a pleasant surprise.

Yeah, I was really excited to play Langston. I thought it was really refreshing to play a queer character who actually had an arc and was fully fleshed-out. He wasn’t only the comedic relief. It was really refreshing to play a queer character whose main arc wasn’t struggling with his identity or struggling with acceptance from him themselves or friends and family. Langston is just an overly-romantic, immature person who happens to be gay. He just exists unapologetically and is never questioned by himself or anyone else, and I think that that’s really refreshing to see.

What was that like filming with Diego [Guevara, who plays Langston’s boyfriend, Benny]?

Diego was great. He was so sweet and very professional and so fun. My character, as you saw, rarely left his room. So most of my scenes were with Midori [Francis], who played Lily, and Diego. So Diego and I spent a lot of time together and it was super fun, yeah. Filming, we’d have long days with big breaks, so we would just hang out at the craft table and just graze.

Yeah, I did notice that a lot of your scenes were in the apartment, which… one of the great things about the show is that there were so many awesome locations. Were you jealous that you were in the apartment almost the whole time?

They let me outside a couple of times [laughs], which was very nice of them to let me go outside. But I got to spend most of my time in turtlenecks and robes, so it was a very comfortable experience.

ALISON COHEN ROSA/NETFLIX

It looked very cozy. And then, speaking of the locations, it such a love letter to pre-pandemic New York City.

I think we filmed it last year around the holidays, a little bit before the holidays. And it was completely unbeknownst to us that we were creating something that would have a sense of nostalgia because the holidays this year are going to be so different. Yeah, it’s very strange, because when I watched it I was like, “Oh, this is weird. This is set now, but it feels like a throwback.” Just because the world is so different now. I hope that because of that, our show offers some sort of joyous escape for people.

Yeah, it really did, especially if you’re familiar with New York City or familiar with the holidays in the city, it felt like a return to normalcy a little bit. Do you have favorite holiday traditions that you like to do in New York?

In New York, I mean, I do love the Rockefeller Center tree. I haven’t gone near it, because you need to beat the crowds. Even pre-pandemic, it was just like, I can’t even see it. So I’d go across the street like, “That’s a really nice tree over there. I like that.” I will say, it wasn’t last year, it was the year before, I somehow got free tickets to the Rockettes. And I’d never seen the Rockettes, and it’s so touristy that I was like, “I don’t know if I want to go see the Rockettes.” And then I went and saw the Rockettes, and I loved the Rockettes. It was like, as soon as they all started kicking, I found myself being like, “They’re doing it! They’re doing it!” Even though I was like, “I knew they were going to do this. I don’t know why I’m surprised.”

And going back to Dash & Lily, couldn’t you see Langston having a spinoff?

Yeah, called Langston’s World or something? I could totally see that. I’m down for that. We’re focusing on the first season right now, so fingers crossed. People ask like, “Is there a second season?” And I’m like, “I don’t have any power in that. Obviously, I wish I did.” But there are two more books, so there’s definitely material.

I was going through your Instagram, before we talked, I noticed this wasn’t the first time you’ve donned some gay apparel. I saw you dressed as a reindeer, wearing a speedo on Ray Donovan. What was that about?

I got an email from my agents and they said, “This is one line on Ray Donovan, but this is probably the most excited we’ve ever been to send you this email.” The name of the part was just, it wasn’t “Gay Reindeer,” it was like “Sexy Prancer,” something like that. And so I went in for the audition and got it. And for the fitting, we were having so much fun, because we were just like, “How slutty do we want to make this?” And I was like, “Let’s just go for it.” And in the episode, you can see me, but they cut my line because it was not important at all. Jon Voight runs into me and then I’m just like, “Excuse you!”

Was it a Christmas Pride parade?

Yeah, I guess it was a Christmas Pride parade. But it was weird because they filled an entire street so it looked like a Pride parade, but my little circle was the only circle that was Christmas-themed, everyone else was just Pride. So I actually don’t really know about the time of year. Maybe we were just, we’re those gay people who were just like, “Who cares? We’ll do Christmas.”

Is there a certain album or movie that you watch to get you into the holiday mood?

I always watch Home Alone and I always watch A Christmas Story, those are two of my top favorites. I love it when kids get left behind.

You said that playing Langston had you wanting to learn more about your own Japanese background. Can you talk about that?

I think growing up mixed is a very interesting experience because everyone’s experience is completely different. And me personally, I was mostly raised by my mom, who’s white. And so, I always knew I was half Japanese, but I never really had a lot of connections to my Japanese culture. Even in the filming of Dash & Lily, there were a couple of times where they wrote in Japanese and Japanese-American holiday traditions, and that was really fun to be able to learn, “Oh, this is what some people in my family probably did.” So it was a really fun experience. And I was really happy that I got to share this experience with Midori, because she’s also half-Japanese. And both of us have white moms and Japanese dads, which is apparently more rare, so that was fun to bond over that too because whenever you’re half Asian, people tend to assume that your mom is the Asian one. For multiple reasons, I’m sure.

Were you jealous that most of the cast got to film scenes with the Jonas Brothers and you didn’t?

I was stuck in a warehouse in Brooklyn the day that they filmed that concert, it was a double-film day. So we were filming in Brooklyn during, while they were filming that concert. So there was no way I would’ve been able to meet them.
 

When I saw the scene with the Jonas Brothers and I was like, “He’s one of the only cast members not there.”

Yeah, and Langston would probably be the most excited to be there!

If there were a Langston spinoff, what would you love to see?

I would love to see Langston follow Benny to Puerto Rico for a little bit. I’m excited for Langston to go back to school. I have no idea what he’d major in, I haven’t thought about that. I mean, probably something creative, because he has dreams. I also forget that Langston is only like 19, so he’s the baby, he’s still starting his life.

And if this was a non-pandemic year and someone wanted to experience holidays in New York City, is there one thing that you would tell them to do, or one suggestion you have, to have a wonderful holiday experience?

I mean, I’m a very quaint person. So I would say, just get a giant thing of hot chocolate and then just walk around Central Park.

That sounds lovely.

Doesn’t it sound lovely?

Dash & Lily is streaming now on Netflix.

I write about drag queens. Dolly Parton once ruffled my hair and said I was "just the cutest thing ever."
@chrisreindeer