Our interview with Mason Cook: young actor, known for his role as Ray in “Speechless”.
He is young, but he’s already been acting for ten years, and unlike many of his peers, he knows very well what he wants, that’s why he decides his roles carefully and has already set his eyes on the future: continuing acting but also writing.
Mason portrays Ray DiMeo in “Speechless” a groundbreaking TV Series produced by ABC that explores both the serious and humorous challenges a family faces with a teenager who is disabled.
Why did you decide to be an actor? What was the best tip that anyone has given you regarding acting?
I started acting when I was eight years old, so deciding to be an actor was really more like “that seems fun – I want to try it!” I haven’t ever taken any acting classes, and in grade school, I wasn’t in the school plays. Actually, I was the kid climbing trees and hiding from teachers [laughs]. My very first job was a donut commercial, and I got paid to eat donuts all day, so that sealed the deal for me! In all seriousness, looking back, I am so glad I tried it because acting truly is my passion. I love the entire process and developing characters. I have been given lots of good advice from veterans in the business, actors, and directors, that I have worked with, like “stay in school” and “don’t get caught up in the fame,” but the best piece of advice is that “what is meant to be, will be,” meaning when a role doesn’t go your way it was not meant for you.
In “Speechless”, you play Ray DiMeo. What is your approach with the character? Has it changed during the two seasons of the show?
Yes, I play Ray, the middle child in the DiMeo family. Our show is actually inspired by the real life of creator/executive producer Scott Silveri, whose older brother Gregory had cerebral palsy. My character is actually 100% based on Scott himself. At the beginning that was a little intimidating, but Scott has never asked me to re-enact him like if I were playing a real-life character everyone knows, like JFK or something. Because of that, creating the role was interesting because how often do you get to create a character from scratch that is actually based on a real person? Scott writes Ray’s storylines based on his own experiences, but he lets me make Ray “Ray.” Obviously, when you play a character for a long time, it evolves both in the writing and the portrayal. I really, really know Ray now – I am getting pretty good at predicting what awkward situations he will end up in.
Ray is an amazing character, who tries to be the “voice of reason” while being supportive of his family and his brother JJ. What was your first thought when you read the script? And what made you say “Yes, I’m going to be Ray”?
The word I use most often to describe my reaction to first reading the “Speechless” pilot script is “obsessed.” I have been acting for ten years now and have done several pilots that I was excited about, but every now and then, a project comes along that really stands out. “Speechless” was different from anything I had read before and was nothing like anything on TV at the time. The words “comedy” and “disability” aren’t commonly used together! The pilot script was hilarious, but it also had this ability to get you in the “feels.” The DiMeo’s are not a Hallmark movie family by any means, but their compassion and dedication for each other are intensely funny and heartfelt.
I loved the character of Ray. Like LOVED him. But…in the script, Ray was written as 10-12 years old, and I was 15 at the time. I have always played younger than my real age, but that was just too big of a stretch. Luckily, the casting director has long been a strong advocate of mine, and she insisted that the producers see me anyway. Scott loved me for the role but had me screen test for a different character, Dylan, who was then a 15-year-old boy. On my way home from the screen test, I got a call that the network wanted me to test the next day for Ray. Long story short-ish, the role of Ray was re-written for me, and Dylan was re-written as a 13-year-old girl! It worked out well for Kyla (Kenedy) and me!
What do you usually look for in a script? Do you see yourself writing or directing in the future?
I am picky. Since the beginning of my career, I had a clear idea of the types of roles I wanted to play and, because of that, I have turned down a lot of roles. With the exception of “Spy Kids,” while a lot of my peers were on kid-targeted shows on Nickelodeon and Disney, I was acting in projects geared more towards adults like “Legends,” “Criminal Minds” and “The Lone Ranger.” The fame has never been important to me, so seeing my peers get super famous on those shows didn’t bother me at all. I want to do this for the rest of my life, so I don’t want to have some sky-rocketing level of fame that makes people see me as “Mason the Celeb” and not “Mason the Actor.” Acting will always be #1 for me, but I see myself expanding my role in the entertainment business too. I would love to produce and direct someday like George Clooney and Jodie Foster. I am currently writing a script with my dad that I am very excited about, so it will be fun to see what the future holds!a
What’s next for Mason?
Being on a network TV series limits your availability for other projects. Contractually you can’t do anything without the network’s approval and it has to fall outside of the show’s production dates, but this year we wrapped a little earlier than last year, so I am hoping to squeeze in another project. But I also have some personal things to check off my to-do list: get my driver’s license and visit Europe this summer with my family. As the Celebrity Ambassador for Shane’s Inspiration (www.shanesinspiration.org) and the Elizabeth Glaser Pediatric AIDS Foundation (www.pedaids.org), I will continue my work with them promoting and educating the public about these two great causes. Fans can follow me on social media to learn more about they can get involved too! (@masoncook)
Must have on set: Cinnamon Roll Oreos
Epic fail on the job: When I was supposed to catch a lollipop Kyla tosses to me in a scene, I missed, and it shattered all over the floor. We only had one for some reason, so we all had to wait to resume filming while someone from props ran to the store to get another. Oops.
Happy place: Being on set. I love what I do!
Favorite accent: Italian, of course! [laughs]
Movie then and now: “Top Gun” and “Top Gun”
Favorite word: Lit
Who you’d rather be: Han Solo
Favorite Emoji:?(see next answer LOL)
Favorite thing about Italy: I haven’t been to Italy (yet), but I am sure it would be PIZZA!
Favorite quote: “Acting is a marathon, not a sprint.”
The last series you binge-watched: “Grey’s Anatomy”
What have you already crossed from your Bucket List: Working with a monkey
I Dreamed a Dream… I love doing drama as much as comedy, so I would love to play a very complex character like the one James McAvoy played in “Split.”
The most beautiful thing while filming “Speechless”: From the beginning, the entire cast and crew clicked like a real family. We tease, we joke, we support each other AND we get to make a super funny show!
Ops! Break Time
Snack Crush: Goldfish crackers
Sweets or Popcorn? Sweets, specifically Bunch Crunch
Since we are Italian… Hawaiian pizza, yay or nay? Nay!! Pineapple doesn’t belong on pizza, but my sister is all about it!
Photographer: Leslie Alejandro
Stylist: Erica Mer
Groomer: Sean Harris