There?s a reason why Leon Acord, creator of the web series Old Dogs & New Tricks, calls actor Ryland Shelton (?Damian Johns?) the show?s ?secret weapon.?? Although Shelton had appeared briefly in two episodes before the show?s first-season finale, the cliffhanger tryst between ?Damian? and ?Nathan? (plus the sight of a shirtless Shelton in the YouTube thumbnail) garnered more viewers for that episode than any other (30,000 and counting).

Ironically, the role of Nathan Adler?s mysterious ?toy boy? was originally written for a Latino actor.? ?I thought that would really play into the class differences between Nathan and Damian,? says Acord.? ?But when Ryland auditioned, he blew us away and claimed the part as his own.?

Already a stage veteran in his mid-twenties, Shelton returns to the show?s second season, debuting Wednesday Jan. 30 at olddogsnewtrickstheseries.com, as a bona fide regular.

You popped up a couple times in Season 1, but your appearance in the season finale attracted the show’s largest audience to date. Did they come begging you to come back for Season 2?

Honestly, I had already become firmly invested in the show at that point – no begging involved – but it was certainly a thrill to be asked to become a series regular for Season 2. The way I understand it, Leon had written more for Damian’s character all along, but without the awesome attention of the fans and the incredible number of views on that episode, who knows if we’d get to see it, or at least this soon. As it stands now, I’m proud to say, you will be seeing a lot more of Damian in Season 2.

How did you get cast in ODNT?

Leon and Laurence produced a play in LA a few years ago that I auditioned for when I was about 15 minutes old in this town. I got the job as the understudy to the play’s lead and it ran for about 4 months. More than a year later, I ran into the two of them at a party at a friend’s place in Hollywood, and Leon was telling me about this project he’d been furiously writing over the last few months, and he asked me, Why hadn’t he thought to bring me in? Well, if he was just being nice or not, no one knows – I showed up to audition and the rest is as you know.

Back to that scene in the season 1 finale–what was Damian doing? Is he that desperate to get an agent? Is he a hustler?

Hustler: no. Knows what he wants: yes. And believe me, even if you have one, everyone in this town is, on some level, desperate to get an agent.

How does Damian figure into the plot in Season 2?

Quite a bit! I’m really pleased with the involvement Damian has in the arc of the second season. The relationship that started in that office continues… and has its victories and consequences.

All the characters have had sex scenes of varying audacity. Will we be seeing more of Damian?

Buckle your seatbelts.

You’re a 20-something actor working in a cast that is otherwise 40s or older.? Is there a generation gap on set?

I guess that’s true, but I haven’t noticed. Everyone on set is a total pro, I never get babied. And if a conversation subject comes up I have no idea about, I just laugh and take off my shirt.

Most of your scenes are opposite Leon Acord.? Is it intimidating to act with the guy who also created/wrote the show and is one of its producers?

I hope I’m not ruining his super-bitch reputation, but Leon is one of the humblest and most adaptable people that I’ve ever worked with. I come to him with questions, problems, worries, all of it. And he says “ok, let’s talk about a fix.”

What do you say to folks who could complain the show doesn’t provide positive role models to the gay community?

I guess I don’t think ODNT signed on to do that. It?s a dramedy, not an instructional video. These are stories about lives in full motion in a community that maybe isn’t talked about enough, maybe that?s the problem. Plus, it’s strange to think of other shows being held to an ordained standard of creating positive role models for, say, bikers or single women in New York, or the newly fanged immortal. I really can’t get down with double-standards.

Any special moments we should look forward to in Season 2?

Do yourselves a favor, don’t miss any of it. It only gets better as it goes.

Finally, is Damian the character marrying Greg Louganis’ character this season?

I will not be the source of a spoiler! But I think it’s safe to say Damian is going for a plunge in a different pool.


Connect with OLD DOGS & NEW TRICKS:


(Staged photos of Leon Acord & Ryland Shelton: Photo Emmett Loverde)