Sometimes you have to wait a little while for the good things. I’ve wanted to interview Lee Majdoub ever since he appeared as Hannah on Supernatural, taking over the role from Erica Carroll and making it his own while also nodding to the spark that had developed between Hannah and Castiel, which I thought was a great choice that said alot about the actor. He came to a Supernatural convention earlier this year as a guest of Ruth Connell (along with the Erica – double Hannahs!) and I had a chance to chat with him briefly there. He was warm and welcoming and frankly any friend of Ruth’s is a good enough testament for me! When he was cast on one of my other favorite shows, Dirk Gently’s Holistic Detective Agency (along with a bunch of other Supernatural alums), I absolutely had to chat with him. I caught up with Lee a few weeks ago to talk about both fascinating roles.
Lynn: You made a memorable entrance on Dirk Gently in the season 2 premiere as Silas Dengdamor – in part because of that passionate kiss with Panto Trost (Christopher Russell) That scene was important to fans, who are often looking for more LGBT representation in the shows they love. Did it feel important in that sense to you also?
Lee: That scene was very important to me, and Chris as well. We spoke a lot about the importance of building a relationship between Panto and Silas that was believable. The conversation around the kiss itself was about finding the balance between making it important without making the scene “about” the kiss. I’m really happy the fans liked it and felt represented. That was a huge sigh of relief for me.
Lynn: It was important to fans too. The parallels to Romeo and Juliet seem obvious even in that first scene. Was that something mentioned explicitly or if not, does the parallel ring true to you now?
Lee: Romeo and Juliet were never mentioned to me personally. However, the Dengdamors and Trosts being at odds like the Montagues and Capulets, two star crossed lovers from either side being caught in the middle and trying to bring peace. The parallels are definitely there.
Lynn: They are, and I think it makes their relationship even more intriguing. I love the character of Silas. How was the character described when you auditioned for the part? Was there anything that really drew you to the part?
Lee: If I remember correctly, the description of Silas was that he was a princely character, from an aristocratic family, a lot to prove, and madly in love with Panto. There were multiple elements that drew me to the character. The fact that the show was fully committed to making a same-sex love story a big part of the season attracted me. On top of that, they were from a fantasy/fairy-tale type land and I’ve never had the opportunity to play a princely figure. And, I was a big fan of the show beforehand. I mean who could turn down the opportunity to play a gay, princely, person of color, from a fantasy land, who gets to wear magnificent clothes, and open the second season to a great show with a kiss?
Lynn: Excellent point!! You described your character in a twitter Q&A as an avid bird watcher, exquisite dancer, animal lover and Princess Bride fan (which is quite the powerhouse combo!) Have you constructed a backstory for your character which includes any or all of these, and if so, what else does it include?
Lee: I love that you read that! I had constructed elements to Silas’s backstory that I felt would inform his decisions, point of view, and emotional journey. I don’t know if any of the things I mentioned in the Q&A were deeply part of that. They sort of emerged once I got to know Silas. When I was answering that question, I was like, “Oh! Silas would definitely be an animal lover. Oh and he would absolutely love to spend free time out in the fields and forest, taking in nature. Oh, oh, oh… And if he ever had seen The Princess Bride, it would for sure be his favorite film.”
Lee: The Princess Bride parallels are pretty striking (I’m a big fan). Was that something the show set out to convey explicitly?
Lee: It does have some of the same feeling that The Princess Bride had, doesn’t it? Max did mention there were going to be similarities. I remember the first day on set, I was with Aleks (Paunovoch, another Supernatural alum) (Wygar Oak), and we were both in our full fledged wardrobe and props, and I had this giddy feeling build in my stomach. All I wanted to do was walk around quoting Inigo Montoya. It was a wonderful. I felt like a kid.
Lee: What a great feeling — I laughed out loud at the scissor swords. Did you?
Lee: Oh man! When we first saw those, I was blown away. I got so excited we were going to get to wield them. Once I saw them in action, I laughed… more out of bewilderment. I’ve never seen anything like it.
Lynn: Pretty sure no one has seen anything like it! But back to the kissing… You’ve said that kissing Chris Russell was how you imagine Natalie Portman felt kissing the much taller Chris Hemsworth. Anything else you can share about that kiss?
Lee: I’ve never had to kiss anyone while wearing bejeweled gloves before. Let me tell you… not the easiest thing to do. The jewelry on the gloves continually got caught in Chris’s hair. We eventually had to change the placement of my hand. That’s a little nugget of behind the scenes for you.
Lynn: (beaming) I appreciate it. So in addition to Silas’ relationship with Panto, he clearly has a bond with Wygar Oak. What is their relationship like and how was it working with fellow Supernatural alum Aleks Paunovich?
Lee: Silas and Wygar have this wonderful, complicated, loving relationship. Silas trusts Wygar, and I think that’s made evident even in the first episode when Silas and Panto kiss in front of Wygar. The fear of showing their love isn’t present around Wygar. Aleks was fantastic to work with. He and I have been friends for about 5 years now, and I think it really helped inform the relationship of Silas and Wygar. We both trust each other very much, and there was an added level of comfort and confidence I had working with him.
Lynn: You are obviously social media savvy, with a Tumblr, Twitter, Instagram etc. How has that interaction been now that the pilot of Dirk Gently has aired? Are you enjoying the reciprocity of it or does it feel like a potential mine field communicating back and forth with fans?
Lee: Thank you! The interaction has been wonderful. I love being able to engage with the audience and fans. I definitely owe a lot to fans. A show’s success deeply relies on them, and the popularity of characters depends on them. I am enjoying the reciprocity very much. There are times when I feel overwhelmed by the sheer number of people that engage with me and I wish I could get back to everyone.
Lynn: You might not get back to everyone, but you’re doing a great job of staying connected and I think the fans appreciate it. You said on twitter that you’ve read fan theories on Tumblr, Reddit etc. Any theories about either Hannah on Supernatural or Silas on Dirk Gently that captured your imagination?
Lee: I’ve skimmed over them. There were theories of Hannah I really wish had come to fruition. I wish the fans had gotten a little more time with Hannah. To me, that character was so torn between love and duty. It would have been a treat to investigate that more. Heaven was a better place with Hannah around. I’m interested in seeing more theories about Silas. I don’t think anyone has gotten super close to guessing what is going on with him. I could be wrong though. Everyone will have to wait and see.
Lynn: The role of Hannah in Supernatural was first played by Erica Carroll and in fact, most fans thought of the character as female (although technically Hannah was an angel and just inhabiting a vessel). Nevertheless, that gender expectation persisted for most of us. Did you play Hannah purposely with gender ambiguity in mind?
Lee: I never really thought of Hannah as any particular gender. Personally, I thought that because Hannah learned a lot about human emotion from the time spent in Caroline’s vessel, that it wasn’t necessarily that Hannah identified as female, but more as how Caroline identified. The key for me was all about how Hannah felt about Castiel and how Hannah felt about Heaven. Love versus duty. It would have been a great disservice to the character to have lumped them into any one identity.
Lynn: I see what you mean. But it seemed like in that first scene when we learn that you are Hannah, there’s a softness and affection between Hannah and Castiel that is reminiscent of the scenes Erica and Misha had that were not so subtly sexualized. Did that sensuality carry over into your portrayal, as many fans read it?
Lee: Absolutely. It was so important for me to be able to show the softness and affection from the very moment Hannah enters that vessel. I had put a lot of pressure on myself. I wanted to do right by the character, by the show, and by the fans. I’m happy the performance resonated with the SPN Family.
Lynn: I think it did, it definitely resonated with me. I realize quite a few of my questions touch on gender and sexuality – both important topics in fandom and in the broader culture, and to me as a clinical psychologist. Thanks for your willingness to engage in and further that discussion through your work.
Lee: Thank you for taking the time with me. I feel quite fortunate to have been able to play Hannah and Silas. I’ve always hoped to work on projects and play characters that would connect with people, further conversations, and represent those that don’t feel represented. It’s been such a privilege to give an additional voice to those who have felt voiceless at one time or another. My youngest sister has struggled with certain societal walls around her and came out a few years ago. I found it extremely courageous and I’m so proud of her. Her input and point of view is extremely important to me and she was so happy when she saw the clip of Silas and Panto. That meant the world to me. I hope those opportunities (to play these deep characters) continue to come my way.
Lynn: I hope so too, because you’re clearly up to the challenge! And switching topics for the last few questions… Do you consider yourself a fan of anything? If so, what?
Lee: I’m a big fan of Dirk Gently. And earlier this year I got sucked into a show called The Expanse. Absolutely love it. And, selfishly, I hope to get on it. Brooklyn 99 is another show I can’t get enough of. Even though it’s a comedy, the writers have found ways to touch on relevant issues and make the audience think. It’s a great balance. One of the more memorable episodes focused on one of the characters having to deal with a police officer arresting him because he’s black.
Lynn: I’m crossing my fingers for you for both those shows. Oh, and I loved having you and Erica both onstage with Ruth Connell at the Vancouver convention and it was a pleasure to chat with you there. What was your experience like at the con? Did anything surprise you about the experience?
Lee: As you probably know, it was my first convention experience. I loved it. I’m happy Erica and I went together. I was a little worried what the fan response would be, considering it had been some time since I had appeared as Hannah. Everyone was fantastic. They were welcoming and I was so happy we got the opportunity to take pictures and chat and take our time. I was surprised at how many people spoke to me about the importance of my portrayal of Hannah and what it meant for gender ambiguity, gender fluidity, non-binary gender, etc. I was deeply touched by the honesty and deep conversations I had with a number of people. I walked home that evening a better person, and deeply humbled and grateful that I had played a character that gave us all the ability to have those important conversations.
Lynn: And that’s exactly why you were able to touch us all with your portrayal. I’m looking forward to more Silas — and who knows, one of these days Hannah may return to Supernatural too!
Dirk Gently airs on Saturdays on BBC America, or you can catch up on amazon prime!
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