The LBGTQ+ horror film They/Them is headed your way. Ahead of its premiere, I sat down with actor and musician Darwin del Fabro to discuss not only the film’s horrors but also Darwin’s character, Gabriel, and the importance of LBGTQ+ films.
The movie, pronounced “they-slash-them,” is set at a conversion camp, as if that isn’t scary enough, “Several queer and trans campers join Whistler for a week of programming intended to ‘help them find a new sense of freedom.’ As the camp’s methods become increasingly more psychologically unsettling, the campers must work together to protect themselves. Things get even more dangerous when a mysterious killer starts claiming victims.”
Written and directed by “Penny Dreadful’s” John Logan, the slasher also stars Kevin Bacon, Anna Chlumsky, Carrie Preston, Theo Germaine, Quei Tann, Austin Crute, and Monique Kim.
Kelli: “So did you get your start in theater? I noticed on your website that you’ve had a lot of work in theater, a lot of musicals, which is awesome.”
Darwin: “Yes. I started when I was four, with music. I won my first singing competition when I was four, back in Brazil, and I came from a family of artists. My father was a model and became an actor, and my stepmother, who I was raised, she did a great career as a model, and then she did some acting, as well. So art has always been part of my life. I did my first musical when I was 12. Then from there, I always wanted to produce my own things. So basically, I did a little of everything. And then four years ago, I decided to come to America, and to pursue this big dream as an actor and producer here.”
Kelli: “Fantastic. Tell me a little bit about your music?”
Darwin:: “My music, as I said, this was part of my life before, and I’m a big fan of musicals, as well. American music always has been… Even though I learned English four years ago when I moved to New York, I always sang in English. And recently, after I finished They/Them, I went to the studio and I recorded my latest album, which is called ‘Darwin Del Fabro Revisiting Jobim.’ He is a Brazilian composer who has compositions in English, and Frank Sinatra called him in ’69 to make an album with him. So he called Tom in Rio. And flew him to New York, to LA, and they had this brilliant album called Jobim, Sinatra. It’s one of my favorite albums.”
I chose six songs from that album and I revisit those songs, giving a little more, bringing a little more of myself, and a fresh musicality to it. And that’s what is the latest? But, I always loved rock. I was working in London, in the rock band for the pandemic at Samba, which is like very strong in Brazil. It’s my base, but also I studied opera. So, I always try to be as diverse as possible with music, and in general, in my life as an artist.”
Kelli: “Okay, fantastic. You mentioned They/them, can you tell us a little bit about your role?”
Darwin: “Yes. So, I played Gabriel. He’s a very mysterious character. He is an outsider. He starts the movie very shy, and so it’s the journey of seeing all the queer kids, he builds his strengths, and then it’s just this journey, this whole journey with him that it’s magical to be able to play a character with such a range of emotions. And it all happened with young Logan invited me to play Gabriel. He said that he wrote this role for me. We were working together on a play in New York and we have to shut down because of the pandemic. And I was like, “Oh my God, I don’t believe that I lost the opportunity to work with John, but then three months after, I received this call, and then the rest is just magic and the dream came true for me.”
Kelli: “I know it takes place at a conversion camp, which is scary on its own.”
Darwin: “Yes it is. And it’s those square kids going to a conversion camp, watched by their parents. And once they have to build their strength and their strength is their uniqueness, and seeing all the queer kids, they become a family and fight to protect each other from this murderer, who is around. It’s a good, horror movie, we encounter a lot of scary moments. But also a lot of joyful moments as well, with queer kids, being put as protagonists of a story, in the genre that I love so much.”
Kelli: “What was your scariest moment on set?”
Darwin: “I was so over the moon. It is such a dream come true for me to do it, I always, as a Brazilian actor, wanted to make an international career. So just being there, celebrating my queerness and my uniqueness was just, nothing was scary. I tend to play, people said that the location where we were shooting was a little haunted and I was like, “I’m embracing those ghosts instead of running from them.” Because I was just so happy to, doing the meaningful movie, and in the moment where we need to celebrate diversity and uniqueness in this industry.”
Kelli: “Right, right. How does it feel to be able to be in a type of movie that we don’t get many of these days, LGBTQ+ horror movies?”
Darwin: “As I said, I always dreamed to make an international career as a Brazilian actor, here in America. And now starting to have those opportunities with a cast and crew who is interested in celebrating who I am, and my queerness, and what I have to bring is just, it makes, it brings me to hope that we are moving forward to an industry, that it’s searching for, for more opportunities for queer actors, for more uniqueness, for more interesting and diverse roles, at this moment that we are living. So it just, it’s very inspiring and brings me to hope that we are walking towards a better future.”
Kelli: “Did it bother you at all that it was set at a conversion camp? They are such horrible places and they need to be outlawed.”
Darwin: “No, because conversion camps are still something that, it’s happening right now in America, and all around the world. And also, I always like to think about worldly, there are conversion therapies, what are happening here, but also their layers are conversion therapy. When someone says to you that you can change or there’s something wrong with you, it’s you trying to converse with that person. And I think the movie brings a beautiful message that you need to celebrate who you are and you need to celebrate uniqueness. And your uniqueness is your strength, and there’s nothing wrong with you.”
Movies are so powerful. I think when they see those seven kids arrive and at, with count and learning how to be strong together and celebrating who they are, I think that’s the message that I hope the audience gets from this movie. Besides all the horror and all the scary moments that we all love, and me as a horror fan, I love all of that, but I love all of that together with a script that is meaningful and saying something.”
Kelli: “That is a great message. And I know that a lot of it is about strengths and learning to appreciate who you are, but it’s also a horror movie. Are there a lot of scares? Are there a lot of scares waiting for viewers?”
Darwin: “I’m a big fan of a horror movies. You’re talking with a person who just, horror movies are my joy. And Saturday night, you’re going to see me just searching for something to watch. And I definitely would choose as a priority, a horror movie. And it’s knowing that I’m doing a movie with Blumhouse, which is just, they do the best for movies, ever, and their quality is just so incredible. It means the world to me. This movie will not be different. You going to have all the joy.”
But the movie is, it’s also scary and we’re going to scream and we’re going to jump. But all of that is happening because there is a script where we care about those characters. So, we going to be scared. We’re not waiting just for the next death or whatever happened. We are caring about those individuals. We’re rooting for them. So I think it makes everything even scarier in my opinion because we see ourselves there in a certain way.”
Kelli: “In the trailer, you say, “Sometimes I wish I was invisible. Why?”
Darwin: “Well, Gabriel is always judged by his looks and he’s very fragile, delicate. So, we know he’d been calling names, suffering, and bullying for who he is. And sometimes that moment is a therapy moment of brilliancy in that all those kids were just sharing their difficult moments. And Gabriel says, “I wish I was invisible because I do not want to suffer. I do not want to be calling names. I just.” yeah, it’s a very sad moment. But I promise that we go towards a journey that he builds his strength, but the invisible comes from bullying and being called names and all of those things that, unfortunately, we do suffer as queer people in this world.
I get that. We’re doing a movie. That’s why I’m, have that strong thing that makes you, that’s a fight, or little know that we exist, and there’s nothing wrong with us. We are just as diverse. We live in a diverse world where we need to accept and respect each other’s singularities and choices. And even though it’s not a choice, we’re born queer, we do not choose to be queer. And so, this conversion therapy of trying to change, there’s nothing to be changed. We’re born this way and we are beautiful the way that we are, so don’t try to change us. Yeah, this is our power. This is our strength, you know?”
Kelli, “Oh, I agree. I don’t care what, I judge people based on how they behave and not who they love.
Darwin: “Yeah, it’s good, because that’s the thing, right? It’s just are we, good people? Are we trying to, that’s what we want. We, there are so many bad things in this world, that we need to be together. We need to put the communities together, not separating ourselves from just what I believe. We need each other more than ever now.
Kelli: “I agree with you. Have you already found your next project?”
Darwin:” Yes. I’m working in partnership with John Logan, and I will be a producer as well, which I’m very excited about. I’m so glad that I’m working with a team of people who are interested in what I have to say, my voice, and what I can bring from Brazil, and being a foreigner in this country. But I cannot tell much about it. It’s just all in contract and you know how things are.”
Kelli: “If you could give a message to anybody who was struggling with their identity/sexuality, what would you tell them?”
Darwin: “It’s the hard world out there, but I want you to be happy. And I think your uniqueness is your strength, and there’s nothing wrong with you. We are unique and we need to celebrate every single inch of our uniqueness and be surrounded by those who want to celebrate us. Because I think if you’re truthful to who you are, life will find ways to give you joy. And, and I just, I hope that you know, that you’re not alone and we are here to support and fight for you.”