Hello, you

Dylan Arnold of You on His Start at Bainbridge Performing Arts

And our culture's strange fascination with killers.

By Malia Alexander December 8, 2021

Dylan Arnold hasn't let LA change him–he still doesn't carry an umbrella when it rains.

Image: Mack Breeden

“It’s 90 degrees and I’m very much missing November weather in Seattle,” says actor Dylan Arnold with a laugh from his backyard in Los Angeles. “I miss the seasons.” But the year-round heat of Los Angeles—not to mention the 1,000-mile distance—hasn’t made Arnold forget his Seattle roots. He clings to our functional style sensibilities, still proudly rocking a flannel, and, of course, eschewing an umbrella when it rains. “I definitely kept that Northwest fashion sense for sure. It’s not necessarily flashy.”

Growing up on Bainbridge Island, Arnold was entranced by the theater from a young age: “I was always the kid who had an active imagination, and so I found a way to harness that into acting.” From around eight years old, he began preforming in school plays, which eventually led to enrollment in classes at Bainbridge Performing Arts. There, he participated in main stage productions like The Wizard of Oz and The Secret Garden, which gave the young actor an opportunity to be on stage with adults. “It was a dream because I looked up to those people so much. And, of course, the productions are much bigger, so it was exciting to be a part of it.”  

Dylan recalls times when he would occasionally find himself taking the ferry from Bainbridge Island to Seattle to catch a performance at 5th Avenue Theater. The atmosphere of the historic theater and being able to watch the actors move seamlessly through their parts sparked something. “It was looking up to these people and seeing what I could maybe do one day," he says. "I remember every time I would see a show, just leaving and dancing on the street and being jazzed and being like, ‘I want to do that, I want to do that!’”

And that’s just what he did. After leaving Seattle for Idyllwild, California, as a sophomore in high school, and eventually receiving a BFA in drama from the University of North Carolina, Arnold broke ground on his acting career in movies like Halloween and the After film series, before making his way to You.

The twisted saga of lover-boy Joe Goldberg, played by former Tacoma-dweller Penn Badgley, follows his quest to find real love, even if it means killing anyone who gets in the way—including the objects of his affection. This season, Arnold joined the cast as the charming and impressionable Theo, whose puppy-dog heartthrob vibe is a foil to Joe’s murderous tendencies. Whether he will remain an uncorrupted innocent in seasons to come is an open question.

Since its third season’s premiere this past October, the sensationally popular show has secured its spot on Netflix’s Global Top 10 list. Much of You’s draw seems to be its nuanced, at times sympathetic, take on heinous crimes–and it certainly doesn’t hurt when those crimes are committed by beautiful people. We are simultaneously drawn to and repelled by the show’s characters, which is part of what makes it so appealing.

Arnold thinks we, as a culture, might have a bit of an obsession with bad boys. Or it may just be a fascination with people who are different from us. "As a human, you want to be able to understand it,” he says. “I think by giving us a medium through film and television, we are able to dip in the lives of these people we couldn’t imagine doing the things they’re doing.”

Learning to inhabit the mindset of another person was what drew Arnold to the career in the first place. “That’s the wonderful thing about this business, is that you get to explore some psychologies and different types of people.” BPA helped him find a place where he could do just that. “It was a very nurturing community and it was a place I could play and feel like I could be myself.” In a full-circle moment, Arnold received the center’s 2020 Amy Award, bestowed upon a young emerging artist from Bainbridge Island.

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