When it first appeared on bookshelves in 1979, V.C. Andrews' novel, Flowers in the Attic, shocked audiences with its voyueristic look into one family's twisted circumstance. For those uninitiated, the story follows the Dollanganger children, who, after their father dies, are convinced by their mother to stay hidden in their grandmother's attic so she can reclaim the family's fortune. But as the years pass, the two oldest children — Cathy and Christopher — come of age, and look to one another for support and comfort in the midst of their unconventional and often painful upbringing.
But as the two young children begin to transform into adults, their feelings towards one another shift, and a once innocent relationship becomes convoluted by unfamiliar feelings. Bustle spoke with Mason Dye, the 19-year-old actor who takes on the controversial role of Christopher in Lifetime's adaptation of the novel, premiering Saturday, Jan. 18th. Minor spoilers ahead.
"I have the book sitting in my lap right now," Dye said of the 1979 novel. "I hadn't read it before I auditioned, but I wanted to read it because of the massive following this book has — it's a big character and I wanted to make the fans happy. V.C. Andrews is a genius, she knows what interests people and she knows how to get people's attention."
And what garnered the attention of readers of more than 400 million copies sold, is the primal desire of attraction, and in this case, forbidden attraction. Stuck in an attic, teenage Cathy (played by Mad Men's Kiernan Shipka) and Christopher have no one else their age to relate or even interact with, and eventually fall in love. And in one particularly graphic sequence, the brother and sister act on their feelings.
"Honestly it didn't affect me," said Dye of shooting the scene with 14-year-old Shipka. "Kiernan's not really my sister, she's just a really good friend," he said, continuing, "For instance, I like to pull from past experiences in my acting. But this, I had nothing to pull from. I had to find a different way to go about it. We talked to the director and he came up with a way their relationship could be related to: What if my best friend has a girlfriend, and I have feelings for his girlfriend? I would know it's wrong to talk to her or try to kiss her. But eventually if it got to a point where we both felt that way, and we had strong feelings for each other, it would just... happen. That's how we viewed it. I didn't have any hesitations."
In the 1987 version of the film starring Louise Fletcher and Victoria Tennant, they infamously left out the story's incest. In Lifetime's version, this will not be the case. "As an actor you don't want to be stagnant, you want to move forward, and it doesn't necessarily mean taking on controversial roles, but if that's what it takes to make you better than I'm all for it," he said. "And at the end of the day, it's just acting."
Outside of his incestuous relationship with his sister, there are many qualities that define Christopher. He becomes the father figure of the younger children in the attic, he's always looking out for his family and "he's an optimist, he's very smart," said Dye. "In those areas I can relate, I try to stay positive, and I can solve a Rubik's cube in 30 seconds, well 29 — but who's counting. On set I did that all the time, I'd just whip out my cube and solve it."
Christopher is also very attached to his mother, especially after his father dies. "He's completely loves his mom. And I can relate to that, I'm a mama's boy and a daddy's boy, I love my parents," Dye said.
And although his on screen sister/lover (not to be confused with SNL's mother/lover) is played by an actress five years his junior, Kiernan Shipka has many more years of acting experience under her belt. "Oh Kiernan, Kiernan, Kiernan," Dye crooned. "I love her. The first day we just clicked, and we hung out every day after that. She's incredibly talented, she's the most intelligent, mature 14-year-old I've ever met. When you're talking to her you feel like she's 25."
But the maturity of Shipka wasn't the only on set surprise he received. "Honestly, Heather surprised me," said Dye of his on screen mother, Heather Graham. "I didn't realize she would be that sweet. She is one of the nicest people I've ever met. I don't even know how to explain it — she's just a great person. If we had a small break where she could go back to her trailer, she'd just hang out with Kiernan and I instead. I love all the Hangover's. I was so stoked," he said.
Dye has only been living in Los Angeles for 11 months. "I've been very blessed and fortunate," he said of his quick success in Hollywood. "I was playing baseball in high school and got hurt, and that's how I was planning to go to college. So I had to figure out a different road to go down." Is college still in his future? " I would say I probably won't go to college. Right now, I just want to live my life," he said. "I might delve into filmmaking, a little bit of cinematography, directing, producing. I honestly just want to do it all."
See the extended trailer for Flowers in the Attic below, and tune in Saturday at 8 pm on Lifetime to see Dye take on the now iconic role.
Images: Lifetime; Instagram/ MasonDye