New York City’s Troy Iwata always had the arts in his home.
From the time he was a child, his mother and father were listening to the “Evita” soundtrack. It wasn’t until he was a teenager that he realized that acting and musical theater was something he wanted to do.
“I started acting because my brother did theater before me and I was always trying to copy him,” said Iwata. “In my junior year of high school, my brother forced me to try out for ‘The Wizard of Oz.’ I was very shy. I ended up getting the role of Scarecrow. My brother has since stopped acting, but I always credit my start to him. That was the first time I realized that this was something I’m good at.”
Iwata has racked up a number of acting credits since he started to work professionally, including roles in “Orange Is the New Black,” “Quantico,” and the off-Broadway production of “The Boy Who Danced on Air.” Iwata has produced his own short films in the past, and during the pandemic, Iwata helped make a sketch series on Instagram TV called “Super Powerless TV.”
However, it was in 2019 when Iwata made his Broadway debut in the musical “Be More Chill.”.
“I was in New York for about five years at that point. I had done a national tour and some regional work,” said Iwata. “I had met Joe Tracz, who wrote the book for ‘Be More Chill,’ while doing a national tour of a children’s show he wrote based off of the Percy Jackson series. Four years later when ‘Be More Chill’ went from off Broadway to Broadway, he took me with him.”
Following the run of “Be More Chill,” which officially closed in the summer of 2019, Tracz reached out to Iwata to have him audition for the upcoming Netflix series “Dash & Lily.”
“Joe had said to me that he was writing a show for Netflix and I think there’s a part you should audition for,” said Iwata. “I started auditioning last summer, it was a pretty quick process.”
“Dash & Lily,” is set to premiere on Nov. 10. The series, which is based off of the young adult series “Dash & Lily’s Book of Dares,” follows the story of two New York City teens who pass a notebook back and forth leaving dares and questions for each other to answer during the days leading up to Christmas. Iwata plays Langston, Lily’s gay older brother who persuades Lily to leave the clues for someone to find at The Strand.
Being a New York City-based actor, Iwata didn’t have to travel very far for work each day. Iwata’s character spends a fair amount of time in his room, which Iwata got to help put personal touches on.
“It was very collaborative. We did a read through of the script and right afterward, Joe came up to me and said everything was up in the air for Langston’s room,” said Iwata. “The team was very open to ideas and it was super fun because I knew he was going to spend a lot of time in his room. I kept sending Joe texts like, ‘I think Langston was on the cross country team, there should be trophies in his room,’ or “there should be this poster on the wall.’ When it came time to shoot, they said ‘Here’s the room you created.’”
“Even during the filming process, if a moment or line wasn’t flowing right, I could help add to it. It was super fun and playful. I was able to put a lot of myself into Langston,” Iwata added.
One of the key factors of “Dash & Lily” is that it takes place during the holiday season. Iwata said that filming took place during October and November 2019, so New York City was decked out in Christmas decorations a bit earlier than usual.
“The idea that we were creating holidays in New York was the most exciting,” said Iwata. “We just jumped the gun and went a little sooner.”
To Iwata, what sets “Dash & Lily” apart from other Christmas-themed series is that it is an 8-episode series that focuses on the experiences of teenagers/young adults while having Christmas as a backdrop.
“Every holiday season new stuff comes out, a series is rare. We all love our holiday movies, but in my experience, they focus on kids or it’s like what you see on Hallmark,” said Iwata. “‘Dash & Lily’ depicts a pocket that’s 17,18, 19-year-olds, that coming of age time. It’s an important time — you feel like a kid but are trying to establish your feet as an adult. It’s a really important self-discovery time. I think that mixed in with a holiday theme is a really rare and important thing to show.”