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."