Dylan Gage, 14 year-old actor: what did kids do in the early 2000s before YouTube?

Before and after of me Taj and Tony #pen15show #hulu #huluoriginal #meandtheboys

I don’t watch the show PEN15 on Hulu, but I’ve heard good things about it. it’s a cringe comedy set in the 2000s. The co-creators, Maya Erskine and Anna Konkle, play 13-year-old versions of themselves opposite teen actors. It’s now in its second season and some of the other storylines are getting attention. The character Gabe is a closeted high schooler who is questioning his sexuality and doesn’t know if he’s gay. His storyline was developed by a gay writer on the show, Joshua Levine, who wanted to explore that nuance. Many LGBT millennials say it rings true to them. Kevin Fallon at The Daily Beast did an excellent writeup which made me want to watch this. He included some quotes from Dylan Gage, who plays Gabe, that cracked me up. I think there are mild plotline spoilers in this if you’d like to avoid them. Dylan sounds totally comfortable playing a gay character and has more questions about what his character does during the day, which is so true of this generation! I love this interview so much.

In Season 2, Gabe is cast opposite Maya in the school play and, spellbound by her talent, asks her to be his girlfriend. As the anticipation builds for their first kiss, scripted both in the play and by tween peer pressure, he starts to validate and deflect tortured questions he has about his own sexuality—especially as his more flamboyant classmate, Ian (Ivan Mallon), becomes a target of the cool crowd…

The striking thing about Gabe’s storyline is that it isn’t a coming-out arc, as we’re used to watching on most teen series. We don’t watch him go through the emotional labor of coming out of the closet and dealing with the repercussions of that with his friends and family. In fact, he doesn’t even exactly articulate or admit to himself that he is gay.

When the show cast Gage in the role, the group met with him to discuss the sensitive matter of where the character would be going and gauge his comfort level with it. “I was really prepared for it to be this really long sort of educational moment,” [showrunner] Liedman remembers. “Instead he was like, ‘Sure.’ It was nothing.”

“They told me that he was loosely based on Gabe Liedman, and I knew coming into the show that it was a character that was struggling with his sexuality,” Gage says. “For all the sensitive themes and storylines, they always sent me scripts early and made sure that I was comfortable with things. But I always was like, yes I want to do it. I want to push myself as an actor and I am really proud to be a part of the show.”

Gage, who is now 14, boasts that he was the only cast member who was still in middle school when the show began filming its first season two years ago.

We ask him what he’s found to be the craziest difference between what it’s like to be his age now versus the time period 20 years ago that he’s portraying, and he laughs. “I think the craziest thing is just like what they did all day. Like they didn’t have YouTube back then. They didn’t have memes to share. The video games that they had were, like, Nintendo 64 and stuff. So I genuinely don’t know what they did all day.”

But the most heartening change, he notes, is in acceptance. “I think people are a bit more open-minded now. My generation is moving on from using casual derogatory phrases.”

It’s noteworthy that Gabe doesn’t present as gay in any stereotypical way, and therefore is exempt from the kind of bullying his classmate Ian receives, something that he even joins in on, perhaps as a defense mechanism.

[From The Daily Beast]

My kid has asked a few times what we did in the 80s and 90s. I tell him that we knew where our friends hung out and that we would show up there, and that we would call each other on the phone and make plans. Sometimes we would talk on the phone all night long if no one else needed to use it. We would read books, go to the library, listen to the radio and to cassettes, watch TV, and when I was in eighth grade we got a VCR so I could actually record shows starting around then. I was ahead of many of my friends though, who didn’t have cable or VCRs. It’s so funny to me that the 2000s were a full 20 years ago, that a lot of us had cell phones then and that the incredible technology is still so foreign to this 14 year-old kid! My son, who just turned 16, asks me about that time too. He wants to know about MySpace and the early Internet. It’s also heartening how accepting and open teens are now about gender and orientation. They’re so good about using the right pronouns for each other and being respectful and understanding. It’s almost second nature to them, just like the new technology.

I’m sorry for the unflattering photo of Dylan on the front page! It was hard to find any photos of him.

— Kevin Fallon (@kpfallon) September 23, 2020

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Some behind the scene photos from season 2 of #pen15show

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Some behind the scene photos from season 2 of #pen15show

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