You seems to get crazier as we delve deeper into the demented mind of Joe Goldberg. Season 3 sees Joe and Love moved into the idyllic California suburb of Madre Linda, where they plan to raise their son Henry away from the shadow of their murderous past. However, Love and Joe can’t escape the carnage as it exists within them.
The dream crumbles after Joe kills Love in self-defense and burns their house. He leaves Henry with his blind co-worker Dante and his husband, Lansing. Dante was one of the new characters introduced in season 3. It’s unlikely that Joe plans to leave his child for good; therefore, it’s highly likely that Dante will appear in the next season.
Rising star Ben Mehl expertly portrays Dante in You. Ben is not totally blind but he is visually impaired.
Ben Mehl has Stargardt’s disease, which causes progressive loss of central vision
Ben Mehl realized that something was wrong with his vision as he performed Reefer Madness on stage. “It was like when a flash goes off and you have that dot in your vision,” he told The University of Toronto Magazine. “Except mine never went away.”
Specialists diagnosed Ben Mehl with a degenerative condition called Stargardt’s disease. The rare disease causes progressive loss of central vision and has no known treatment or cure. Mehl’s started rethinking his career as his vision got so poor that he couldn’t recognize faces or read normal-size text.
Ben talked to Authority Magazine about the doubts he had about pursuing acting: “How could I read my scripts? How would I see the expression in my scene partner’s face? After taking time to mourn the loss of my central vision and accept my new life, I decided I was not going to let this disease define me, and I would lean what it meant to be an actor with this disability.”
Juilliard and NYU’s Graduate Acting Program accepted Ben’s applications, and he chose NYU, where he left as a Master of Fine Arts. Mehl used ingenuity and technology to adapt to his condition: He looks slightly above someone’s head and uses peripheral vision to see their face, and always has a tablet to enhance texts on acting scripts.
Without his positive mentality, Ben wouldn’t have risen above the challenge posed by Stargardt’s disease. He is unsure whether he’ll lose all his vision one day but is confident that it won’t hamper his life or career. Ben told The University of Toronto Magazine:
“I don’t know how it will progress, but I’m no longer fearful. I don’t have this ideas of the way my life is supposed to go, and that my disease is something that will prevent me from achieving that. I’m curious about the infinite spectrum of possibilities.”
Mehl points to his late mother as his biggest inspiration in life
Ben Mehl was born in Toronto years after his parents and two older brothers immigrated from South Africa. “I came as a surprise,” Ben told Authority Magazine. Mehl always loved acting and performing and couldn’t hide his excitement watching his brothers on school shows.
“My parents always said, ‘oh you’re such a performer’ whenever I did silly things to try and make them laugh,” Ben told The National Post. While in 4th grade, Ben received advice from his teacher to audition for Claude Watson School for the Arts.
The school only had one spot in fifth grade, and Ben got it, thanks to the motivation he received from his mom. “My mom always told me there was no such word as ‘can’t’ and that I could do anything I set my mind to,” Mehl told Authority Magazine.
Mehl benefited from Claude Watson’s extra focus on Arts. He graduated to Earl Haig Secondary School, where he developed a love and passion for space. However, he didn’t want to let go of his acting dream, so he chose an institution that offered a double major in Astrophysics and Drama. He explained:
“When it came time for college, I wasn’t ready to give up on acting, but also wanted to continue studying science and truly wanted to be an astronaut one day. So I went to the University of Toronto where I could, and did double major in Astrophysics and Drama.”
Ben’s mother continued to inspire Ben till her death. Mehl told Authority Magazine that she passed away two months after he welcomed his twin daughters. He summarized her impact on his life as follows:
“She had been my inspiration and guiding light throughout my life. She saw the struggles in her life as challenges to face. She inspired me to face the challenge of Stargardt’s and to stay on my path. She was always there for me to cheer me on. With her loss, I feel myself reaching out in new directions for help as much as I can.”
Ben is so busy with his twin daughters that he doesn’t watch much television
Ben spends plenty of time with his twin daughters, given that his wife works full-time as a healthcare worker. Between working and raising his daughters, Mehl doesn’t get enough time to watch television shows.
Therefore, Mehl hadn’t heard of You before he auditioned for Dante’s role. He told The National Post: “I had not seen you, or honestly even heard of it. I quickly discovered that I was one of the only people in the world who didn’t know it, or love it, or was eagerly anticipating the 3rd season!”
At first, Ben didn’t understand why You appealed to so many people. He only became a fan of the series after he appreciated the humor weaving together the chaos. “There was a lot of humor in it, I couldn’t stop watching and began to really appreciate the writing and the acting,” Ben told ScreenRant.
Ben learned that he’d booked the role while preparing a bath for his daughters. He talked to ScreenRant about his hilarious reception to the news that he got a part that he wanted so badly:
“I really, really wanted this part, and I was hoping beyond all hope that this is what the call was going to be about. My agent said that I got the part, and I was so over the moon. I said, ‘I can’t talk about this right now, I’m bathing my daughters. I’m gonna have to call you back.”
Ben’s journey to starring in You started with his wife’s friend connecting him to a masseuse friend in San Francisco who also has Stargardt’s disease. The friend introduced Ben to Marilee Talkington, who’s visually impaired and a strong advocate for the inclusion of blind and low vision actors.
“She had dedicated many hours and a lot of heart into helping to open doors for actors with disabilities,” Ben told Authority Magazine. “Without the work of many disabled artist activists like her, I may never have had the opportunity to audition for this role.”
Ben worked with a specialist to better bring out Dante’s total blindness
Ben and Dante are visually impaired, but Dante is totally blind while Ben is partially blind. It mattered to Ben that he portrayed Dante’s total blindness as accurately as he could. “It became very important to me to represent that accurately,” Mehl told UNILAD.
Mehl worked with an orientation and mobility specialist to learn how to use a white cane. He trained with a blindfold, and without a blindfold and realized that playing Dante offered him the freedom to focus on his blind spots.
“I normally strain to focus on what I can see in my peripheral vision, but playing Dante, for once I could just let my focus rest in the void in the center of my vision,” Ben told Authority Magazine. “It was an incredible kind of liberation for me to let go and simply let myself not see. At times I felt like I was preparing for what my future may hold for me.”
Ben asked showrunner Sera Gamble – who based Dante’s character on her godfather – how best to portray Dante. He asked questions about minute yet essential issues such as eye placement. “I didn’t want to be frozen or struck or over-emphasizing some kind of perceived notion of what blindness is in the eyes,” Ben told ScreenRant. “Because it looks different [for] everybody.”
Mehl spent hours studying how blind people walked in and out of a house built to shelter them. He appreciated the ‘confidence and poise’ they showed while moving and endeavored to demonstrate that confidence while portraying Dante. He added:
“What became so important was not to portray somebody who is fumbling around trying to find things, but actually somebody who understands how to navigate the world without sight; someone who has lived that experience and can live with confidence and independence as Dante does.”
Ben loves that Sera didn’t use Dante’s blindness to shape the plot. Before reading the scripts, he suspected that Dante’s blindness would form a central plot point. To his pleasant surprise, Ben learned that Sera introduced Dante because blind people exist and deserve representation on screen. He told UNILAD:
“He [Dante] just happens to be blind, just like some of us happen to have blue eyes, so it’s really normalized. It’s not an extraordinary thing, which I think is actually extraordinary… He has his particular blind spots and other people have theirs, and we all navigate them as best we can.”
Ben hopes that his career will pick up following his appearance in You
Ben knew that introducing a new character in the third season of such a hugely successful show would be difficult, but he relished the opportunity to work with such a talented cast. Critics and fans agree that Ben did a stellar job in his portrayal of Dante. Ben told Albuquerque Journal:
“Coming into this series, it was already successful before I got here. Seeing this incredible machine with so many talented people all working towards the same goal. I came in and did my job and tried to represent Dante as accurately as I could. That was the challenge I set for myself.”
Mehl has faced plenty of rejection in his acting career. “Auditioning, being rejected, auditioning, being rejected, auditioning, being rejected,” he told The National Post. Ben hopes that moving forward, he gets more opportunities to appear onscreen. He told ScreenRant:
“What I am excited about, and what I always hope for, is to have a vast range of different characters. What brought me to theater was really transforming into different people. And so, what I hope for as I continue is to get to play vastly different characters. That’s my ambition.”