Interview with Dawson's Creek John Wesley-Ship Jnr who played Mitch Leery

It’s been twenty years since Dawsons Creek first aired and it’s still a complete phenomenon. What do you think it was that made the show a complete success? 

You know, because I wasn’t the original dad. They did a casting change after they had shot the first episode and I came in and re-shot the first episode and then I began shooting the second episode. What that gave me was the ability to watch the pilot presentation as an outsider and what struck me was it had a different sound, it had a different look, it was a new way of telling these stories for kids. Suddenly we were writing up to a young audience rather than writing down to a young audience. I think there were many adults who thought, “Well, kids don’t talk like that.” Maybe not but they’d like to. And I thought what a refreshing perspective. We can have emotionally complex kids with rich and conflicted interior inner lives that are able to express themselves articulately and express those things.

It was an arguably a simpler time to be a teen, in a pre-social media world, in a arguably easier political climate, what do you think the next generation of Creek fans who are teens now and who are discovering it through All 4 or maybe their parents can learn from it?

Well I think today is quite right for what Dawson’s Creek has to offer. There’s great feelings of alienation and disaffection and feeling as though you’re standing on the outside of a glass, with your nose pressed against it watching this drama that’s unfolding. To be able to have a place where you can go and dig around in an interior reality is great and relatable.

I was just in Dublin at a Comic Con for The Flash and I was amazed in Ireland, the popularity when I did TV outlets and radio interviews, the first question was always about Dawson’s Creek. They wanted to know about Dawson’s Creek first and then the Flash.

Yeah it’s, it is huge, it’s really funny. James, James Van Der Beek did an interview on a sofa over here a couple of months ago for his new Viceland show and he was like ‘why am I still talking about it?!’

Yeah, I mean, he came across as a little annoyed and I hope he wasn’t. I hope that he can come to terms with that. Anything that becomes that big of a pop culture phenomenon inevitably has a downside on the back end and if anyone was going to experience that it was going to be the title character. James probably had a little more trouble breaking away from being the Dawson of Dawson’s Creek than the rest of the cast did. But it’s like the Christopher Reeve, having been involved with the Flash again, I harken back to Christopher Reeve’s comments where they asked “Are you sorry to be typecast as Superman, do you regret having done it?” He said “no, because it’s opened up so many possibilities for me to play so many other roles that I wouldn’t have the opportunity to play if I hadn’t carried the audience with me.’

Mitch and Gail were sort of the parents sort of every viewer wanted to have, why do you think that was the case?

Well I think Kevin very emphatically avoided too much of the “OK son I’m going to tell you about the facts of life now.” I mean Mitch and Gail were growing up as their kids were growing up and I always loved the role reversals, when Dawson is suddenly parenting Mitch, or comforting his mom. There were role reversals. The parents didn’t have the answers. They had infidelity in their relationship, which they were open about with the kids. They didn’t keep it from them. They included them. They tried an open relationship for God’s sake, you know, what kind of impact is that having on the sense of stability in the lives of the kids? I love the moment when Dawson’s going on a date and Mitch is sitting there watching TV after having discovering TiVO and he says to Dawson, “Have fun. Play safe.” and Dawson goes, “Oh, dad, gross.” The fact that they were walking in on mom and dad doing it on the coffee table, good for mom and dad to demonstrate that life and passion doesn’t end when you leave your teens!

We’ve mentioned James and we know you’re still great mates with Mary-Margaret are you still in touch with any of the other cast?

You know it’s so interesting, since I left early in the third episode of the 5th season, I never watched another episode after that because it’s as an actor I had sort of completed my journey. We sort of had, for a while a way in which I would keep in touch with the kids through Mary-Margaret. We’d send messages back and forth! I had the opportunity to do a Paley Centre panel several years ago with James and Michelle and I couldn’t do it because I was shooting a film, but I hope they do a Paley. A lot of us are in New York now Katie’s in New York. I would love to do a Paley Centre on Dawson’s Creek now.

Is there any insider goss that you can tell us from set, or any secrets, or any favourite moments that you just want to include?

Hmm, the only thing that made it really unique was that we were shooting in Wilmington, North Carolina. The cast operated, especially for the first couple of years as a family and we had boats and jet skis and we did things together. When James’ movie, Varsity Blues, went to number one, he wanted to go see it with me and Mary-Margaret, his parents on set!

November 24, 2017 6:05am ET by Channel 4  

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