Glass interviews up-and-coming actor Deaken Bluman

THOUGH his current credits are scarce, actor Deaken Bluman is poised to make his mark as he’s proven during his transition from recurring to the central role of ‘Winston, one of Liberty High’s finest and keeper of the group’s convoluted secret in the fourth and final season of Netflix’s critically acclaimed 13 Reasons Why. His lauded performance has conjured up comparisons to a young James Franco with the intensity of Marlon Brando.

Born and raised in Kalamazoo, Michigan, Deaken immersed himself in nature, and otherwise seized every moment while performing on-stage in high school. Upon graduation, Deaken road-tripped to Los Angeles in pursuit of following his dream where he quickly landed some indie features, most notably the festival circuit favorite, Americana, and Black Pill’s short-form series, First Love.

Deaken Bluman. Photograph: Stewart Shining

As we discussed Deaken’s budding career in current uncertain times, an air of mystery much like his character Winston ensues. He embraces having no expectations going into a new role and to provide constant twists and turns in his performances. Even during the age of quarantine where self-tapes are the norm, Deaken yearns to be back in the audition room, with a little bit of pressure, to perform and connect with casting directors and audiences alike.

What would you like your audience to take away from your performance?
I hope my performance can take the audience on a metaphorical convertible ride with my character going down a mountain. There might be some twist and turns but overall a smooth and exciting car ride, but definitely buckle up!

If you could play any character (or type of character) who would you portray?
Randle Patrick Murphy from One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest (1975), Christy Brown in My Left Foot (1989), Rupert Pupkin from King of Comedy (1982), and Hannibal Lecter Anthony Hopkins style.

Deaken Bluman. Photograph: Steward Shining

What has been the high point of your career so far?
It was definitely booking 13 Reasons Why. I remember all the details like putting on Winston’s clothes, moving to northern California, and the whole excitement that tomorrow is a new beginning. It was crazy how fast my life changed and my wife helped make it happen quickly and comfortably so that I can focus on my work because I was very nervous. I honestly had no expectations of what it would be like, and having no expectations is something I want to bring to every new project.

What challenges have you faced in your career?
There have been many, many challenges, I don’t even know where to start. I think I did at least 500 auditions before I actually booked something. I was sometimes doing two-three auditions a day, learning multiple scripts at once while bussing tables and parking cars.

Deaken Bluman. Photograph: Stewart Shining

How have you been keeping up with work during Covid-19?
We’re all social distancing right now but auditions are still happening through self-taping. Just 2-3 years ago self-tapes were barely a thing. Now, especially after Covid-19, everything has gone digital. I actually hate doing self-tapes. I like going into a room with a little bit of pressure, performing for a real life person, and to be able to read the room.

Was the audition for 13 Reasons Why a self tape?
Yes it was, and I got a call back and 2 days later and heard that I booked the show. It was such a fast process.

What are some differences and similarities between you and the character Winston?
We grew up in different social realms. Winston grew up on the west coast Ocean View while I grew up in the bitter nowhere of Michigan. I relate to Winston as an outsider, somebody who’s not a part of any clan or group, being kind of a mystery man. Even though Winston looked terrifying to a lot of his peers, all he really wanted was love and connection. He never wanted to hurt anyone or see anyone get hurt, that’s also something I have in common with him.

Deaken Bluman. Photograph: Stewart Shining

What was your takeaway for playing an openly gay character where so many characters were still exploring their sexualities?
I didn’t play Winston with his sexuality in the forefront, just focusing on who he really is as a person. He’s not who his sexuality is, that’s just part of it. I thought it was a beautiful ride that I got to play Winston and I hope to play different kinds of queer characters in the future.

The Wonty prom scene was bittersweet. Did you wish there were more scenes like this between Winston and Monty?
I wish there were more backstory scenes that showed Winston and Monty’s time together and how their relationship really took shape into something beautiful. It would have given the audience a better knowledge of their unexpected love. Their relationship is like a rolling stones song: “You can’t always get what you want”. That was part of my preparation actually, thinking about unseen scenes and memories that Winston would have had to make the love for Monty feel real.

Deaken Bluman. Photograph: Stewart Shining

Do you think Winston would have acted differently if someone else had told him who Monty’s killer was?
I think Winston would have been surprised but would investigate for a second opinion and not believe what he was told. There’s this whole aspect that he thought it was Jessica and we had shot some really intense scenes between Winston and Jessica that were unfortunately cut out. He probably didn’t want to believe it was Alex which is why he kept projecting that it was Jessica.

by Yinan Xia

Photographer Stewart Shining

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