Talking with actor Seamus Dever, you can’t help but be drawn in by his stories, his charm, and his infectious laugh. Dever is as genuine a person as they come. Who, then, would think he was capable of playing Trigon, the destroyer of worlds and father of Raven, on the DC Universe series ‘Titans?’
Well known for playing Det. Kevin Ryan on the hit ABC show ‘Castle’ for eight seasons before it was abruptly cancelled (more on that later), Dever has stepped into the realm of comic books for the first time with ‘Titans.’
Before any of that, however, Dever was just a kid from Flint, Michigan, who grew up in Arizona, graduated high school as valedictorian, graduated college in three years, and became the youngest person to receive an MFA degree from the Moscow Art Theater. Oh, he also has an MFA from Carnegie Mellon for good measure. All of this he chalks up to “a lot of luck, being in the right place, and people taking a chance on me.”
Right now, though, he’s in the middle of tech rehearsal for the Antaeus Theatre Company’s production of Martin McDonagh’s ‘The Cripple of Inishmaan.’
“That’s kind of how you have to be as an actor, just a leaf on the wind,” Dever said. “Like, ‘Oh, you want me to go to Vancouver? OK, let’s do that. Oh, you want me to do another play? Ok.’”
Acting and Parental Guidance
Dever grew up the son of two teachers who always encouraged academics. Getting good grades and excelling in school became a driving force for him.
“I think it was one of those things where I knew I always wanted to do well in school so that opportunities would open up for me,” Dever said. “I didn’t need good grades to get into an acting school, but it did help with the scholarships and that sort of thing. I always knew that if I got good grades and studied hard, good things would come out of that and it might be something that would open good doors for me.”
Dever’s love for acting came early. When his local high school needed children for shows, teachers would first reach out to other teachers who had children.
“I’m the product of a lot of their early encouragements,” Dever said. “Opportunities came to me because of my parents. … My earliest times on stage were because my parents were like, ‘Oh, we know some kids! Let’s throw them up on stage and see if they can sing!’ That opened some doors as well.”
When he was 8 years old, Dever was ‘thrown’ into a local production of the musical ‘Annie.’ Since the show doesn’t have a lot of roles for boys, Dever played an apple seller who had one line. Still, it was enough to stoke his interest in theatre.
“Those early musical experiences … I think a lot of people start in theatre through musicals because they’re really big casts and it’s usually something where you can come in and do one line and go ‘Oh, I really like this!’” Dever said. “Certainly, my first two or three experiences on stage were due to musicals.”
Becoming the Destroyer of Worlds
When Warner Bros. announced it would start its own streaming service, DC Universe, fans quickly found out that not only could they find full seasons of older shows, such as Lynda Carter’s ‘Wonder Woman,’ and the incredible ‘Batman: The Animated Series,’ but there would be original programming as well – ‘Titans,’ ‘Doom Patrol,’ and ‘Stargirl,’ just to name a few. ‘Titans,’ though, was first on the list.
The cast of ‘Titans’ was announced, with Teagan Croft, Brenton Thwaites, Anna Diop, and Ryan Potter, playing the familiar roles of Raven, Robin, Starfire, and Beast Boy, respectively. When Dever was cast to be in the show, he didn’t even know what role he would be playing.
“I didn’t know anything,” Dever said. “No, I auditioned for it and I didn’t even know the role was going to be Trigon. They send out this audition material and I think, in the early days, it was (just called) a cult leader. It was very general. I didn’t know it was actually going to be Trigon.”
Ultimately, Dever got the part because he focused on the psychological side of the character. When he auditioned, believing the part to be an actual cult leader, he didn’t know the people in charge of casting were looking for someone who had a warm personality.
“There was a lot of that same feeling, and that’s what they wanted, something like a warm version of what a demon would be,” Dever said. “Kind of like a cult leader – the loving reverend, pastor, priest. Someone you can trust and speaks softly and listens and is very kind. I think that’s what they liked that I brought to the role. To play against all the demonic, the other-worldly, nature and the all-powerful sort of thing.”
Finding the Psychological Side of Trigon
Dever believes a lot of the show’s success can be attributed to the writing. Many of the episodes dealt with themes that were psychological in nature – whether it be parents, or abandonment, or choosing your family.
“With that approach, it was like ‘What would this long-lost father look like when he showed back up? How would he behave? How would someone who’s trying to coerce the entire world into submission – starting with his daughter – how would that person act?’ That’s what they wanted and I thought that was pretty cool,” Dever said. “You don’t really see where it’s going. You know there’s evil there, but you don’t see it coming. You certainly haven’t seen the full extent of the evil until next season.”
Dever enjoys playing the role of the bad guy because it “provides a bit more meat for the actor.” In playing Trigon, he gets to do something very few in the industry can boast.
“What I do love about it is I’m originating this role,” Dever said. “I know it’s been done in animated things, but let’s say you have a role like Superman. How many Supermen have there been? How many Robins have there been? How many Batmen have there been? Nobody’s been Trigon before, so I think the luxury I get is that no one is comparing me to anything. You can’t compare me to ‘Teen Titans Go!’ because that’s a way different treatment of it, a much different Trigon.
“There’s no touchstone for people to go ‘Oh, what’s Trigon really going to be like?’ That’s nice being free of that burden of comparison to someone who’s left an indelible mark on a role before.”