If you think that Christopher seems awfully grown up in the “Petals on the Wind,” the sequel to the recent adaptation of V.C. Andrews' “Flowers in the Attic,” you're not wrong. To cut the unwieldy book down to size, “Petals” (which premieres Mon. May 26 at 9:00 p.m. ET) tosses out the highly creepy storyline in which Cathy has an affair with the much older Dr. Paul and leaps forward ten years. The role of Christopher, which was played by Mason Dye in “Flowers,” now features relative newcomer Wyatt Nash. I spoke to Nash briefly this week and found that he not only has those Dollanganger looks everyone gushes about in the books and movies, but he's taking this acting thing seriously — not every thespian would have the commitment to find a meaningful and sympathetic take on a storyline that makes most people go ew.
How did you get this part? Did you have time to read anything about the books?
I did a pre-read for it, and then it dropped off the radar for a couple weeks (which didn't surprise me because it was the height of pilot season), then I got a phone call for a producer-director session the next day. I thought that was kind of strange, and then I got a callback for a chemistry read with Rose [McIver]. The next morning I went in and knocked that out, and I got the role. It happened really quickly; I think the following week we were filming. It all happened really fast.
The first movie had aired shortly before you auditioned, so had you seen it?
It was a very fast turn around, but before I auditioned I had watched “Flowers.” I really spent time working on my scenes and working on the character of Christopher, but most of that was independent research, reading synopses of the books on the Internet, that sort of thing.
Of course, the core of all these books is the incestuous relationship between Christopher and Cathy. By the time we get to “Petals,” they're refusing to walk away from their physical relationship —
The way I see it, it wasn't that they refused to walk away from it, but they had to have it, it was necessary, and that was how they survived those two years in the attic together. They became two halves of a whole. It wasn't about refusing to let go of that, but that was why they had undying love for each other, and why they endured.
Because Christopher isn't interested in revenge the way Cathy is, you didn't get to have many scenes with Heather Graham (Corrine). But what did you think of working with her?
There wasn't as much time with her, but she was so great, and the last scene in the film was the first scene I shot, so it was interesting walking through the room and seeing Ellen [Burstyn] and Heather and carry the weight of that on my shoulders. It was a little daunting, but she was so great. In my close up, even when she wasn't on camera, she gave so much. She was a lot of fun. She was really engaging, very curious and interested in me and wanting to know about my family and my interests.
Ellen [Burstyn] was a powerhouse in “Flowers.” How was it working with her?
Ellen was great, too. I got to share some moments with her. She's just a very bright, intelligent woman.
Given how over-the-top the drama is in this story, did you feel a need to keep it light on the set?
I think there was a very nice balance. There was lot of lightness, a lot of fun, and everyone got along very well. There wasn't a squeaky wheel in the cast. For some of the more serious scenes with Rose, there was a solemn energy that took over the room, and people were very respectful of that. It was a very nice balance.
Most of your roles up to this point haven't been as high profile as “Petals” is sure to be. Are you ready for what's next?
I'm not so concerned with what's going to happen. It's been great so far. I had a great pilot season, and I've continued to audition right up until now, so hopefully a few of the projects will work out for me. I'm not sure what's going to change. I'm thankful for the project, because it taught me so much about acting in general. Even if nothing were to come out of it, I think that's fine. It's still been such a positive experience, even just while filming.
What was it like to watch it for the first time? I'm sure you've seen a rough cut.
I'll be honest; I don't really like watching myself on TV. I tend to be hypercritical of myself, but I loved watching everybody's else's parts. Ellen and Will [Kemp] and Bailey [Buntain] and Heather and Rose, everyone, they all did such great work; it was such great fun getting to watch them. It was really neat seeing it, if not watching my parts.
It looks like you shot in actually mansions. Was that the case? I would think that would be a great gift for an actor.
It was the reality. We were up in Pasadena on location in a mansion for a few days. But we were all over LA. I think we shot in two houses, we shot in a university building, a cemetery in the area. I think that helps immensely, at least for me as an actor. It makes the D.Ps and sound guys upset because there are walls that block the shots and squeaky floorboards, but I think it helps as an actor. There's an energy of life there, whereas a set can feel more stagnant. It has a more natural feel.
You mentioned you learned a lot about acting from doing this movie. What, exactly?
I would say, I've experienced a certain level of connection with actors in acting classes and even on previous jobs, but I'd never experienced a connection so strongly before as I did with Rose and Will and Ellen and Heather. It felt like how it's supposed to feel like. It had a sense of rawness to it, and it was almost as if a lightbulb went off, that this is how deeply it's supposed to go always. I was just breaking through a wall I hadn't broken through before. That experience of feeling that level of emotion was a big deal for me.
Now that it's over, any desire to read the book “Petals on the Wind”?
I really would like to read it. I'm heading on vacation this week, so wouldn't mind reading it while I'm gone. I have some other books in the queue, though. After I see the final cut of the movie, I'd like to go back and read the book.
Where's vacation? Not a dusty, old mansion, I hope.
I'm going to the beach with my family in South Carolina, so I'll just relaxing and having fun on the beach.