Chances are that you are already familiar with the ever-charming Brett Dier as Michael on the hit TV series Jane the Virgin. Dier’s latest project is The New Romantic, which is directed by Carly Stone and features fellow TV show icons like Jessica Barden, Avan Jogia, Camila Mendes and Haley Law. It’s an unconventional take on romance that investigates the nature of love today and offers insight into the modern dating game.
I spoke with Dier about moving from the small screen to the big screen and his new pop culture film The New Romantic. Dier touches on his character Jacob, a dorky college student vying for a journalism scholarship. In a film exploring the world of sugar babies, Dier discusses how the concept of love and dating has changed over time through the digital world.
Mana Mehta: “Love is dead,” says Jessica Barden’s character Blake Conway – what do you think about love in today’s age? With all the technology around us, how is that changing the nature of love and the way we find it?
Brett Dier: I can promise you that love isn’t dead. Love is our nature, and no matter how many things we have going on, it will always be that light underneath it all. It’s our natural state. I’m trying not to turn this answer into a self-help book or make it seem all preachy, but technology, in my opinion, is clouding love! With so many options of swiping right or left, it almost makes people seem disposable and creates a shallow layer. Dating apps are all about looks first. I get that being attracted to the person you fall in love with is very important, but it shouldn’t be the first step in deciding if that person is good for you or not. People are judging now by a paragraph in a little blurb or a photo of someone on a hike – all factors on if they should go on a date or not. It all seems too overstimulating. Too many options. I like the old way. Meet someone in person, get to know them, and see what happens. Not seeing a thousand photos of “potentials” and trying them all out. Doesn’t it seem strange!?
Mehta: Jacob, your character, plays an important role when exploring love, ambition and money. How do you think your character influences the way Blake thought about herself and what she wants?
Dier: Jacob didn’t want anything from Blake. He wasn’t using her for anything, he just liked her the way she was. I think Blake needed to see that she doesn’t need to go off and be anything other than herself to find love. Not that she was looking for love necessarily, but I think experiencing that life of being a sugar baby made her feel used, made her feel like she wasn’t enough. Jacob reminded her that she is enough, and can be loved by just being herself.
Mehta: Jacob is such a lovable character: he’s quirky, dorky and a pretty relatable college student. Do you see any similarities between you and him? Him and Michael, your iconic role in Jane the Virgin?
Dier: There are definitely similarities between Jacob and me – we are both quirky nerds who love to read and write. Around the time this script came along, I was reading at least 3 books a month, while writing my own book and script! So this came at a fortuitous time. Similarities between Jacob and Michael? They are both loving dudes. I thought it was important for Jacob to just have love and care in his eyes. Especially when Blake needed it most. As Michael does with Jane. I would say Jacob is a little quirkier and perhaps closer to my personality than Michael. I loved playing Michael, but Jacob felt closer to home for me.
Mehta: In what ways do you feel Jacob is integral to this narrative? From the viewer’s point of view, Jacob is an admirable character who respects Blake’s decision with no judgment – what do you think?
Dier: Yes, no judgment! Jacob is that open embrace for Blake whenever she is down. He’s that light who lifts her spirits and no matter how bad of a place Blake is in, he somehow makes her smile. It’s one of the reasons why I loved playing this character so much, he just naturally supported and loved her without even having to say it. At least that’s how I saw it!
Mehta: When watching the film, I didn’t feel that it sensationalized sugar babies in particular but emphasized the importance of trying something of curiosity and intrigue. What do you think of sugar babies/daddies? Why are they intriguing to many people? How do you perceive this relationship dynamic?
Dier: Yes, I do love how the film doesn’t judge sugar babies – it simply shows you someone going through the experiences of being one. That’s a big lesson in life. We are just here to experience and try new things. There shouldn’t be labels or judgment. I don’t think Blake went back to being a sugar baby after that time in her life. She tried it and it hurt her heart, she realized it wasn’t for her, so she moved on. The film doesn’t have an underlying message saying “SEE! DON’T DO THIS!” I personally don’t like films with big agendas forcing people to believe or feel something. This film just tells a story about a woman experiencing this time in her life. I love stories like that. And being a sugar baby isn’t something people normally discuss or know about. People are naturally drawn to things they would never do, or things that are out of the ordinary.
Mehta: What was it like working with your co-stars?
Dier: LOVED IT. Loved the environment, the creative process and the people. It was a very open, creative group of super dope people that I hope I get to work with again. Carly created an environment where it was okay to try new things, and it was okay to fail! I love risking and trying different things in scenes. Carly would throw stuff at us last minute, and we would just roll with it. I love that kind of spontaneous action and having a cast that isn’t afraid to take risks with you and try new things. Such an incredible group of talented people!
Mehta: You all are on your own very successful TV shows, what was it like working on a picture film? How is it different?
Dier: From my experience, I had a lot more creative freedom on this picture than I had on Jane the Virgin. Jane the Virgin just has a different tone. In the 5 years on-and-off I’ve been on the show, I hadn’t really been allowed to improvise, and that was very tough for me. I started out in improvisation and that’s what made me fall in love with acting. So doing this film was very creatively fulfilling for me in that way because I had that freedom. Don’t get me wrong, Jane the Virgin was fulfilling in many different ways! I loved being on that show, with that group of people, it has honestly been a dream and I’ve learned more than I ever thought I could. That being said, being able to go off-book, and explore during a scene, take risks, and try new things, is something I will continue to pursue, for the rest of my career if I’m fortunate enough to keep doing what I’m doing! Making this film really made me realize what I’m looking for, as an actor, and for that, I am so grateful.
The New Romantic hit theatres on November 9th and is now currently available for on demand.
Image courtesy of Katrina Wan PR