When former Houston actor Ty Doran sent in his audition tape for Hulu’s hot new series, All Night, the 20-year-old already had myriad performances under his belt. The Kinkaid alum and Northwestern University sophomore most recently had a recurring role as Peter Tanner on the hit show American Crime. And he was no stranger to the Houston stage, performing at the Alley Theatre, Black Lab, and Catastrophic Theatre.
Doran turned up in Los Angeles last summer to do screen tests for the Hulu series. The production team was so impressed with Doran’s acting and presence, they cast him on the spot. Recently, Rolling Stone named All Night to its 10 Best Movies and TV Shows to Stream in May list. The comedy premieres May 11 on Hulu.
The 10-part show is an ensemble production about high school seniors at an all-night, school-sponsored graduation bash designed to keep them safe from the dangers of alcohol, drugs, and whatever else well-meaning adults always mean to keep kids safe from. (You can guess how well that’s going to work.)
For Doran, working on the series meant not only a door open to creative freedom, but also an up-close look at the difference between how a series like All Night differs from a traditional network drama like American Crime.
“There was a lot of creative freedom [on All Night],” Doran tells CultureMap. “Network TV is more regulated. On American Crime, there were a couple of instances where rough language was used. And it was only used on that series for deep effect. But when the network took hold of it, you couldn’t hear the sound on the curse words and it really took you out of the action. That was always a little disappointing.”
With All Night being an online program, Doran says, the cast and production team had a lot more opportunity to craft a show they way they wanted — without fear of retribution from network execs or irate advertisers.
The two-and-a-half-month shoot was a different experience for Doran than his previous TV role. On American Crime, he’d turn up only when his character was needed. On All Night, Doran was on set nearly every day, as Bryce is a main player in the show. He said he felt like he was much more a part of the creative discussion about how his character was being developed, and felt free to offer his own ideas.
Doran said the team worked on All Night in two-episode blocks, alternating filming between two different episodes at a time. “That’s a little more complicated as an actor, since you don’t have as much time to learn lines,” he says. “But it was cool in terms of performance, since I didn’t know where my character was going. I didn’t know what the end was. When you work on a play, you have the whole script there, and sometimes you can be tempted to play the end of the show at the beginning, because you know what’s coming up. Working the way we did really kept me in the moment, and helped me keep having a fresh take on scenes, since I was experiencing things as my character was.”
Doran describes Bryce as an overachiever with a vengeful streak in him. But he was also attracted to the way his character grows in the series. And he was also attracted to what it meant for viewers to have the show be on Hulu.
“I think it makes it much more accessible,” says Doran. “You have access to the whole story from the outset; you don’t have to wait from week to week to see what happens. Having it all available at the outset is exciting, and I think it will reach a lot more people.”
Now that All Night is behind him, Doran is concentrating on rehearsals for Dry Land while finishing the semester at Northwestern. He’ll head out to L.A. for the summer, where he says he’ll “put [his] face in the rooms” of casting directors and other Hollywood types.
In the meantime, though, he wants people to have fun with All Night. “I think the show really captures so beautifully the finality and seeming importance of this 12-year process [of school], and the sense these kids have of things they just have to get done. It’s so heightened, and dramatic and funny and cool.
And I think it really shows that these young people are capable of growing, of learning from and teaching each other. They’re learning how to present their adult selves to the world.”