Actor and filmmaker Shayne Pax joins us on Close-Up Culture to discuss his new film, Peridot.
Written by Pax, Peridot reveals the story of Gabriel, a young male prostitute in Los Angeles working on Skid Row in order to send money back home to his mother. When he forms the most unlikely friendship with Martha, an elderly woman and renowned author, the two become fiercely intertwined and find unconditional love in the process.
This journey of self-discovery stars Pax (This Is Us, American Crime) and Susan Harmon (F.E.A.R., Insecure) in the leading roles, along with Carole Ita White (Laverne and Shirley, 90210) and Harry Hains (American Horror Story, The OA) in his final performance.
Hi Shayne, welcome to Close-Up Culture. Can you tell us about your background and what led you to the world of filmmaking?
I grew up in a household where my Father rented multiple independent or foreign films every week. This really expanded my horizons on what film could be. My friends and I started a YouTube channel when I was very young. We really stretched our filmmaking muscles as we attempted to create content from every genre. I knew very young this was the path for me. I felt the call to move to Hollywood around seven or eight years old. I didn’t tell too many people because I was fiercely protective of my dreams.
Later, I studied acting and writing at UCLA. I fell in love with Los Angeles when I moved here. It immediately felt like home. I think being on set is my happy place.
Your upcoming feature film, Peridot, reveals the unlikely connection between a young man and an elderly woman in Los Angeles. Can you tell us more about this relationship and the inspiration for the film more generally?
“Harold and Maude” was one of my favorite films growing up. In a similar vein, I was inspired to explore a story of unconditional love that was outside the boundaries of ageism. I really wanted to modernize many of these classic themes. I like that most people make the assumption that Gabriel and Martha’s (the two protagonists of PERIDOT) connection is romantic, or improper. But, the story really shows that people from any generation can relate. We have a lot to learn from each other.
I’ve heard a lot of things said about the film’s provocative and fascinating style. What was your vision for the film?
Visually, I wanted the film to have a lot of the seventies and nineties flare – inspired by the source materials. However, I really wanted to combine that with a modern, internet sensibility that pulled from my own upbringing. Much of the style was inspired by the Tumblr and social media aesthetics I grew up with, while paying homage to the roots where this all came from.
As for the provocative side of the film: A lot of the film serves as a bait and switch. On the surface, it appears quite provocative. However, everything often takes you on an unexpected road and then kind of slaps you in the face with emotion. I love when movies can be unexpected.
You also star in one of the lead roles as Gabriel. What was your experience taking on this role and collaborating with Susan Harmon (who plays Martha)?
Playing Gabriel was really exciting. I wanted the character to have a unique personality for a lead role – someone who is soft and fragile, while powerfully in charge of their environment and often fifteen steps ahead. Gabriel is very complex, because his intentions are often good, but he is a bit of a kleptomaniac. I like that anti-hero nature. He really meets his match in Martha (Susan Harmon).
Susan Harmon and I have a great relationship. We are very different from both of our characters in real life. But, we were very honest with each other when the cameras were not rolling. We both had very different life experiences to pull from for inspiration. So, we gave each other a lot of space to improv or try new things on set. We wanted everything to feel very natural… almost documentary like.
The film features the features Harry Hains in his final performance. What memories can you share from working with Harry?
Harry was one of my best friends on and off set. He still is one of my favorite artists and inspires me. He was the embodiment of freedom. I almost quit the movie after his passing. The film crew convinced me Harry would have wanted to share the art. I miss him daily, but I still feel his presence. I really hope this film helps more people learn about his art. He was a true artist.
What do you hope audiences take away from Peridot?
I hope the major take away is to treat people of every age with respect. We live in a deeply ageist culture. People from every generation, young and old, have much value. I think we would all benefit to have more integrated friend groups of people from different ages, cultures, races, genders, socio-economic backgrounds, spiritual beliefs, etc. I think labels serve to separate us.
Up next, you will appear in Nick Stoller’s Apple TV+ comedy series Platonic, starring Seth Rogen and Rose Byrne. What was your experience like on that project?
It was fun to go from a project that was a serious drama to a television show that is all about heightened comedy. We had a lot of fun on set and played a lot. I like sets where the director says, “what if…?” Working with both Seth and Rose was really a dream come true.
You are clearly a man of many talents and incredible potential. What are your plans and ambitions for the future?
Lots more films! I really want to focus on acting and writing. Those are my two passions. I really want to do lots of projects that come from strong source material, or great writing. I find acting comes very naturally when the screenwriting is strong. I also want to write some books. I write a lot of poetry on the side as well. Maybe I will publish some of it someday.
Watch Peridot – Watch Peridot | Prime Video (amazon.com)
Follow Shayne on Instagram – Shayne Pax (@shaynepax) • Instagram photos and videos