Warning! Contains Castle finale spoilers!
FLINT, MI — It’s been a while since TV star Seamus Dever has been home, but he hasn’t forgotten where he’s from.
The Flint native and “Castle” star moved to Bullhead City, Ariz., at age 6, when parents James and Diana Dever left after difficulty finding jobs in Genesee County. After graduating as valedictorian from his high school, he continued his education with a bachelor’s at Northern Arizona University, the graduate program at Carnegie-Mellon University and a master’s degree at The Moscow Art Theatre. These days, Dever plays homicide detective Kevin Ryan on “Castle,” which is now in its fifth season, with roles on shows like “General Hospital” and “Mad Men,” along with the film “Hollywoodland” with Adrien Brody and Ben Affleck.
But this week, he’s just another Michigander. After attending the Tribeca Film Festival for the premier of a new short film he stars in, “Sequestered,” Dever came back to Michigan to spend time with family. He has two uncles in Michigan — one in Brighton, and another in Dearborn, whose birthday celebration is why Dever came home for the first time in nearly 12 years.
The Flint Journal caught up with Dever about his Flint memories, his Genesee County itinerary and what to expect in the upcoming season finale of “Castle.”
You were born in Flint, but moved to Arizona at age 6.
Seamus: My parents were teachers, and they had a hard time finding a job there, so we moved out there in about ’82. … All my memories are probably until I was 6 years old. I remember going to kindergarten at Civic Park Elementary, living over there in Civic Park, and having a really good sense of neighborhood. We knew all of our neighbors, and when we moved out to Arizona, that all changed. There were a lot of changes, but that was the major thing. There were kids on my block in Flint, but when we moved to Arizona, there were a lot of retired folks living in trailers. Just didn’t have the sense of community. I didn’t know my neighbors, there were no kids, I had to play in the dirt desert behind my house. A lot of good memories and most of them have to do with communities and friends. And since my dad grew up there, he’s in the community as well. I have a lot of family there. My grandparents were my memory of Flint.
With the other places you’ve lived — Los Angeles, Pittsburgh (while attending Carnegie Melon), and more — how would you compare those to living in Michigan?
It’s very different. I don’t know what it is. In Los Angeles, I know my neighbors, but I don’t know them that well. We’re friendly, and we sort of protect each other if there’s an issue of if we see something wrong, but that sense of community, it’s just not there. It’s different. I don’t know if it’s just a culture shift, or something about Midwest versus West, but you don’t really see that. People in LA, they come home, pull into their driveways, and stay home. They don’t really walk around the neighborhood. I remember that specifically, particularly summer and spring nights where people just go for walks in their neighborhoods. You would see everybody on the block. That was certainly something I don’t think I’ve had anywhere else.
How often do you come home?
Not often. Since my grandparents passed away and all my family moved out of Michigan, I have an uncle in Brighton, and another uncle in Dearborn. It’s his 68th birthday, so that’s why I’m coming home, to surprise him. He doesn’t think I’m going to be there, but I’m going to be there. My sister lives in Wisconsin, too, so she’s going to meet me over there.
When I come home, I always swing by my old neighborhood — I lived on Mount Elliot, in the Civic Park area. There’s always a new home that’s been destroyed or burned out in that old neighborhood. It’s kind of a bummer, but it’s part of my past, so I go revisit it. I go to where my grandparents are buried, out there in Grand Blanc, and I go by their place off of Dort Highway. I go downtown, to the Presbyterian Church where I was baptized, to Halo Burger, downtown, and that’s about it. … I want to see what’s going on in Flint these days, that’s sort of why I’m going home.
How did the “Sequester” project come about?
There’s a film editor friend of mine who edited a movie I did a couple years ago, who I made friends with because of that project. He does a lot of commercial stuff, one of the top commercial editors. He’s going to become a filmmaker, and that’s usually what you do when you’re going out there, you make a short film. He asked me if I wanted to be a part of it; it’s basically a two-person film. I asked him how he felt about my partner from “Castle,” Jon Huertas, playing the other part. It was sort of an in-house thing. I spend a lot of time with Jon Huertas on set. We worked on the script, ran through it while we were at work on Castle, and we filmed it. John and I produced it, too, so we were part of that creative team as well.
We did that last June, and put it together. I thought it was just going to be something we put on YouTube or Funny Or Die, because it’s a comedy short that’s eight or nine minutes. But he sent it to the festivals. He did some really interesting camera work with it, so I think that’s what got festivals excited about it. It’s also going to LA Comedy Shorts, and I think South By Southwest. It’s making the rounds, as far as the short film festival circuit. Hopefully in the future we’ll do some more with this director, his name is Lucas Spaulding. We’re talking about doing a feature together based on the short, so we’ll see.
How was working with Jon on this, compared to working with him on “Castle?”
I got to say a lot more curse words. That was very different. That was very different, because all our network television shows, we don’t get to say those words. It was more gritty. It was really about the same. Jon and I sort of have a shorthand, we work really well together after being together for almost five years. It all came together pretty quickly.
In your last interview with The Flint Journal, you said you prefer serious roles because serious roles help you dwell in the character and study who they are. This is a lot more lighthearted. How do you get in work mode for something like this?
The thing about comedy is, you almost have to take it as seriously as you would drama, but you have to be aware of where the comedy is. The preparation is exactly the same, but the follow-through is that you have to be aware of where the joke is. You use some of your natural timing, use some of your instincts, but you use some things that you would do so you don’t squash the joke. You have to be aware of where all the jokes are, what is funny about the piece, and let that breathe. With comedy, you have to take it serious, too. The moment you’re playing the comedy, it’s not funny. … You stay out of the way of the comedy.
How much different is an event like Tribeca, where you’re around people who are responding to your work immediately, to having your work on TV and having viewers around the world watching at home?
It’s definitely more of an immediate experience. They’re right there, and a lot of times at these screenings, you’ll show your film and people ask you questions right away. We do that for “Castle” too, where we show an episode and we’ll be at a theater. There’s a thing they do out here with the Museum of Television and Radio, where you show an episode and the entire audience gets to ask you questions afterward. It’s a little bit of the same thing, but it’s definitely more immediate. You’re hearing whether they laugh or not. That’s the big thing, especially for a comedy. … When you’re at home, you don’t get any of that.
It’s a lot different now, though, because everything’s on Twitter. You’ll follow Twitter with the episode, and people will be telling you through all the time zones how they feel about certain parts of the episode. You get a lot more feedback, that’s just how the world works now. It’s become a much more small place to work on television, because everything is right there, and your fans have a system of feedback right there through social media.
The finale is coming up soon, right? What should people expect?
We just finished shooting last week. As they’ve been all season, they’re headed toward the altar. But some complications happen on their way to the altar. I’m not sure what I can give away, and what I can’t. But there are complications, and they end up having to scramble at the very last minute to ensure that they can get married legally. It should be interesting to see how it turns out. There were definitely a lot of hijinks for Castle and Beckett to go through before they get married. I think that’s all I can tease, but the wedding doesn’t go off without a hitch. I think it’ll be interesting when the audience finally gets to see it in a couple of weeks.
When you’ve been playing a character for this long, do you enjoy it? Does it get old, or are projects like “Sequestered” a sigh of relief because you can play someone different?
There’s something comfortable and very quick about portraying the same character in television. You do the same thing day in day out, you don’t have to discuss some things because everybody’s been there. There’s a lot of speed with which you can work, and you just focus on the fun part. Most of the time, we’re just figuring out how to make the episodes funnier.
But it’s nice to do something different. The way it works for an actor — at least with me — I came out to LA and started auditioning for TV shows, and I started doing all these different characters. I’d play five, six, seven different people a year, and you get used to that: different challenges, stepping into somebody else’s show, then leaving and playing another character. There’s something fun about that, sort of like being a gypsy, that’s something comforting to the actor. But those people tend not to be as well-paid as the guy who comes back as the same guy every week. So you sort of have to accept that and find the challenges within working that way.
Working on “Sequestered” was fun because we played some dimwitted criminals, and our characters are actually very smart and astute on the show. It’s nice to play that aspect of it, and I think it came off pretty well.