URI Theater alumni, Diego Guevara, made his netflix debut in show called “Dash and Lily.” Photo from today.uri.edu.
“It is just the absolute best feeling in the world to know that just the fact that I am on the screen is enough to inspire somebody else, and I definitely want to continue pursuing that.”
University of Rhode Island Class of 2016 alumnus Diego Guevara first knew he wanted to be an actor in 2009 when he went to see “In the Heights,” a musical by Lin Manuel Miranda that follows characters living in the prominently Latino neighborhood of Washington Heights in New York City. He said that it was the first time he felt that his culture and identity were represented on stage.
“When I was watching the show I saw my people on stage,” Guevara said. “I heard them speaking the language that I speak, listening to the same music that I listen to, eating the same foods that I eat. I was not used to that, I had never seen Latino and theatre or entertainment really come together.”
It was from that point that Guevara began pursuing his passion for acting and music, which ultimately led him to his latest and largest role as Benny in Netflix’s new young adult holiday series “Dash & Lily.”
“Dash & Lily” follows two teens that communicate, and eventually fall in love through messages (and with the help of a few bystanders, Benny included) written in a diary left for each other in different locations around New York City. The two push each other to get out of their comfort zones, try new things and be the people they hope to be. Benny is the boyfriend of Langston, the older brother of one of the title characters, Lily.
Guevara said that the opportunity presented itself after a talent agent came to see a production of “In the Heights” that he was performing in in Boston. He met her in her New York office and was signed.
“She then asked me to be back in New York in three weeks, so I dropped everything to go, and within a year of being in New York, the audition for ‘Dash & Lily’ came up and it worked out,” said Guevera.
For Guevara, the most exciting part of filming was getting to see all of the behind-the-scenes parts of filming he had wondered about as a kid. The cast filmed for two months in the fall of 2019.
“It was kind of a full-circle moment because even as a kid, I would sometimes be more interested in the behind-the-scenes footage than I was in the film itself,” Guevara said. “So, to actually be there creating the magic was real, really just mind-blowing. And we got to celebrate Christmas for two months straight.”
One of Guevara’s favorite parts about “Dash & Lily” is how representative it is, and that it captures the diversity of identities and cultures present in New York City.
He said that getting to represent a Latino character who is part of the LGBTQIA+ community meant so much to him because growing up he very rarely saw himself represented in the shows and movies he saw on screens.
On “Dash & Lily” in particular, there is a mixed-Asian, white family as the protagonist, another white protagonist, a Black best friend, a gay older brother and a Latino boyfriend along with other transgender and lesbian characters.
Guevara explained that representation matters most when it doesn’t have to be explained to the audience. Characters of different races, sexualities and identities should not need a reason to be on screen or a backstory to explain their identity.
“[‘Dash & Lily’] is incredibly diverse, but the most important part is that it is not explained,” Guevara said. “Most of the time when you see gay stories, there’s a background of trauma for that character to have gotten where they are today. But, in our story, it’s not necessary. We just happened to exist the way we are, because it is that way.”
Going forward, Guevara said that it is hard, as an actor, to have plans, but very easy to have hopes. He is inspired by every person he encounters and wants to continue inspiring people of different backgrounds to pursue their dreams, especially in acting.
“Dream hard and work hard. I think a misconception about a career in acting is that it just kind of falls into your hands at one point, and nothing could be further from the truth,” Guevara said. “We have this idea in the acting industry that you’re going to get 99 noes and one yes, no matter how talented you are. So stay determined.”