Lee Majdoub & Christopher Russell talk 'Dirk Gently's Holistic Detective Agency' breakout roles
Warning: this article contains spoilers about the second season of Dirk Gently’s Holistic Detective Agency
Fans of Dirk Gently’s Holistic Detective Agency had been eagerly awaiting hints about the show’s second season when New York City Comic-Con rolled around the first week of October – and that’s where producers came through with an eyeful: the first episode of the season in its entirety.
A short clip was quickly shared by Deadline, and it set the fandom atwitter on Twitter. The clip featured the first two minutes of the second season, and while it didn’t reveal much about the fate of the titular holistic detective or his cohorts (who had mostly been separated in the season one cliffhanger by a nefarious wing of the CIA), it did get tongues wagging and hearts pounding.
The clip introduces a trio of men who live in a magical realm called Wendimoor. Silas Dengdamor (Lee Majdoub) and his bodyguard Wygar Oak (Aleks Paunovic) encounter Panto Trost (Christopher Russell) after a skirmish. The Dengdamors and the Trosts are at war, but Silas and Panto clearly are not, because the clip culminates with a passionate kiss between them, after which Silas implores Panto to “[save] our world. Fulfill the prophecy. Find him. Find Dirk Gently!”
“The fans, just based on the trailer, became very excited about our characters,” says Russell. He’s seated next to Majdoub at a table outside of a Vancouver coffee shop.
It’s December 15: roughly two months since the second season premiered on BBC America. The final episode of the season is one day away; fans still don’t know whether Panto and Silas end up together (although, on interview day, it all looks rather bleak).
But the journey of the season has been otherwise joyful for Majdoub, Russell, and Panto/Silas ’shippers. What excited fans from the get-go, says Russell, was the fact that Panto and Silas were clearly in love, and that it “really is the first openly gay relationship in a fantasy world where them being gay isn’t a thing. It’s not an issue. It’s not questioned. It’s not talked about. It is what it is because it’s love. The thing keeping them apart is their families being at war with each other, not the fact that they can’t let their families know that they love each other because they’re both men. It doesn’t matter.”
Majdoub was profoundly moved when he began to hear how Panto and Silas’ love story was affecting viewers. “After the first episode, I remember seeing a post where someone said that they had been out for some time, but even having been out, they never realized that, as a gay community, they could have the greatest swordsman in the land, and they could have the star-crossed lovers,” says Majdoub. “They could have the characters out on a quest and it has nothing to do with their sexuality. It has everything to do with life and death and their values and their morals, and I thought that was really touching, too: to hear that people were getting affected in that way, even in the first episode where it was one scene.”
And because we’re talking about Dirk Gently’s Holistic Detective Agency, there’s also weirdness, hilarity, and surrealism mixed in with the yearning and romance.
Panto wields a sling shot, a yoyo, and a scissor sword; in fact, he’s the greatest scissor swordsman in his realm (“Silas had a sling shot, a scissor sword, and probably didn’t know how to use either,” concedes Majdoub. “But I had Wygar. I had Panto and Wygar.”).
Panto and Silas’ crazy chemistry is evident even before they lock lips, and their portrayers say this chemistry is the result of excellent writing, smart casting, and their own engaged collaboration.
There was no room for error, says Majdoub. “You needed to build the history between two characters in such a short amount of time with two actors that have barely spent any time together”– which is why they simultaneously reached out to each other before filming began in order to to get on the same page.
"We went out to dinner and hung out and had lunch a couple of times before we [shot that first scene], talked about it, got to know each other,” says Russell. “Clicked right away.”
This last point was important, says Majdoub, because their on-screen interactions needed to feel especially authentic. “Something that Chris and I talked a lot about in the scenes we had together was the sense of responsibility to keep it real,” he says.
This realness is why fans have loved the second season of Dirk Gently’s Holistic Detective Agency (and are overwhelmingly pissed that the show has been cancelled by BBC America. More than 31,000 fans have signed a petition asking the BBC, AMC, or Netflix to renew the series; sign it here if you’re so inclined).
Majdoub continues to interact with the Dirk Gently fandom on Twitter (Russell isn’t on Twitter but recently joined instagram @chrisrussellofficial). “The longer I’ve been working in the industry and the more I’ve been learning about myself and being true to myself and values and morals, the more I realize that I like doing this in order to connect with people,” says Majdoub. “I always wanted that, and I always wanted to be represented, and not necessarily ethnically or as a POC, just what I was feeling: loneliness or true desire and love. So being able to engage with the audience and the fans was something that I was hoping for, because it’s what I’ve wanted to do for such a long time.”
Follow Lee Majdoub @LeeMajdoub. Stream seasons one and two of Dirk Gently’s Holisitic Detective Agency on Netflix.
MORE FROM LEE MAJDOUB AND CHRISTOPHER RUSSELL
Warning: this section contains major spoilers about the second season of Dirk Gently’s Holistic Detective Agency. You are warned.
Christopher Russell on keeping up with Fiona Dourif: “Working with Fiona was great. She never let me forget that she was Bart, in the sense that she never broke character. So if you’ve seen the show and you’ve seen how Bartine Curlish is in the show, that’s how Bartine Curlish is between takes as well: at lunch, all day. It’s pretty interesting, but at first, for me, because I’m not a Method actor – I do a lot of work at prep, but I take breaks throughout the day – but working with Bart – see, I’m calling her Bart – Fiona! She brought that out in me because she would have conversations in character, and Bart’s voice is just out there. ‘Hey Panto, you want a donut?’ It wouldn’t stop. ‘Okay, you’re talking to me as if I’m Panto, but we’re not filming right now,’ so I felt obliged to reciprocate, and then it became this thing that whenever we were working together, we were both Panto and Bart all day, having conversations about what my favourite part of Wendimoor is, and have I ever been on the train that goes around the moon, all kinds of things, and in a way it really helps because it keeps you thinking more and staying in character more and creating all of these nuances that you possibly couldn’t have if you hadn’t have done that, so that would have to be my most interesting experience on the Dirk Gently set.”
Lee Majdoub on what went through his mind when he first saw his Silas Dengdamor costume: “I’ve always been a huge fan of The Princess Bride, and I remember first seeing myself in my outfit with the boots and the tight pants and the tunic, and there was this moment of, ‘My name is Inigo Montoya, except I don’t know how to sword fight, and there is no six-fingered man, and I don’t know what happened to my father, he’s dead but I don’t know if anybody killed him, but I am Inigo Montoya, and I’m here, and I’m passionate.’”
Christopher Russell on why he didn’t binge-watch the first season of Dirk Gently the moment he was cast on the show: “Some people might disagree with this, but I felt it important for me to not get too stuck on the tone of that show because it would affect the way I was going to play Panto Trost, subconsciously even. Panto’s from another world and needs to stay that way, and if I as an actor started trying to cater to the tone and style of the acting in the first season, then it wouldn’t be as different as I was hoping it to be. And then in the end, I just played it for real. I think the show is so out there and so big and in your face sometimes, in a great way; the fact that I’m from Wendimoor and I’ve got pink hair and a scissor sword is enough. I hope it worked. I think it did.”
Lee Majdoub on how portraying Silas Dengdamor fulfills a lifelong dream: “It is kind of a dream come true. To me, there’s always been the sense of, as a person of colour, ‘Am I ever going to plan a Prince Charming? Am I ever going to play a knight? Am I ever going to be in a period piece where it’s not the whole story of Jerusalem and Muslims and Christians?’ I’m too old for Aladdin.”