From the time Dewshane Williams was a child, he always had one passion: film. He spent his earliest years watching movies and television shows as much as possible. As he grew, he started to see himself as an actor. After his first performance, when he was just a schoolboy, he was hooked. He began to immerse himself in musical theatre, writing, choreographing, and acting in productions. He never envisioned himself doing anything else, and today, he is one of the best actors to recently come from Canada.
Williams has spent most of his life in Canada, and has taken the country’s film industry by storm. He has starred in hit television shows, such as The Expanse and Defiance, as well as critically-acclaimed films like The Story of Luke and Home Again.
Williams’ first true taste of international success came in 2010 from his work on the film Dogpound. Georges Bermann, the Executive Producer of the film, credits Dogpound of launching a number of careers, including Williams’. His convincing portrayal of Frank the inmate was spot on and accurate, and Berrmann was incredibly impressed with the, at the time, not well-known actor.
“I noticed that Dewshane is the type of actor that focuses entirely on creating the best work. Watching him channel the teenage angst associated with juvenile distress made our director’s job easy. He’s a joy to work with. Dewshane’s generosity and focus are admirable qualities. I think his performance in our film speaks for itself; hard work goes a long way,” said Bermann.
Dogpound tells the story of 17-year-old Butch, who is sent to the Enola Vale Youth Correctional Center in Montana for blinding an abusive correctional officer. He brings with him a deep-seated intolerance for injustices and a penchant for meting out retributions on his own. He becomes friends with two other inmates at the correctional facility, where they encounter gang violence, death, and harassment from staff and other inmates.
“This film is important because it’s a cautionary tale. It’s social commentary. If you look closely enough, it’s an opportunity to show anyone who’s going down the wrong path where they’ll end up. Particularly young people who might not have any idea what that kind of world is like,” said Williams.
In Dogpound, Williams played Frank. He was a juvenile inmate who worked as an enforcer. Frank starts a riot that involves everyone in the jail. His character has an important arc, as Frank appears to be an immoral character, but ultimately has a heart. Due to an injustice perpetrated against another inmate, he takes it upon himself to act, which was surprisingly selfless for the character. Williams is now known for taking on roles that will impact audiences, and at the time, this is exactly what he did.
Dogpound premiered in June 2010 in Paris, France, and later was an Official Selection at the Tribeca Film Festival. The director, Kim Chapiron, won the coveted “Best New Narrative Director” at the Tribeca Film Festival. The film impacted audiences and impressed critics all over the world, and skyrocketed Williams’ name in the Canadian film industry.
“The thought that anyone would pay me to do what I loved was a dream come true, it really was,” Williams recalled.
Dogpound was Williams’ first feature film. At the time, the entire concept of being on set and shooting a movie seemed unreal to the young actor. He auditioned for the role just dreaming he would get the part, but his raw talent eclipsed any lack of experience he may have had at the time. He greatly impressed the casting director, and won the role.
“It’s a standard thing to hear, but actors almost always have to audition for a part. Before getting to revel in whom you might be working with, you’ve got to compete. You’ve got to show everyone why you’d be able to bring something to the character. I studied for hours, trained with my acting coach, and left school early that day. I can remember being in Character the whole day, maybe that helped,” said Williams.
Once earning the role, a lot of research was required for Williams to truly understand his character. He read articles, watched films, and a number of documentaries. He credits a docuseries titled Scared Straight as being great source material for him to understand the juvenile delinquent correctional system.
“The film was a co-production between Canada, USA, and France. Most of our film crew had flown in from Paris, so I had to be a great listener on that set. English wasn’t our director’s first language, so I picked up a bit of French while shooting. I loved our crew; they really wanted to create a good film – I could tell, and that was infectious,” said Williams.
Now that Williams has become such a successful actor, it may be easy to forget that feeling of what it was like to be young and struggling, just dreaming of becoming what he now is. However, Williams remains humble, and Dogpound still holds a special place in his heart.
“You never forget your first film, and this one was mine. To this day, complete strangers come up to me and say ‘that film was so realistic, I would never want to end up in there.’ That’s the point, you don’t want to end up in Juvie,” Williams concluded.