‘Prince of Peoria’ Star Gavin Lewis Talks T1D
Gavin Lewis is the star of the Netflix coming of age family comedy Prince of Peoria. He portrays the title role of ‘Prince Emil’ a 13-year old prince from a wealthy island kingdom who travels to America to live incognito as an exchange student in order to experience life as an ordinary teen. Gavin lives with type 1 diabetes and recently spoke with Beyond Type 1 about his new show and his life as an actor with type 1 diabetes (T1D).
How did you first hear about Prince of Peoria? What was the audition process like?
I was at home in Utah, where I had just spent Christmas break with my family, when my manager called about the audition for Prince of Peoria. I was asked to meet with one of my very favorite casting directors, Suzanne Goddard-Smythe. But I almost had to turn it down. My mom was in the hospital and my dad was going to have to take off work to drive us out to Los Angeles. Thankfully, my mom was okay and my dad made it work…. So we hit the road as soon as we could. I am super grateful my parents are so supportive because, as you know, it was definitely worth the trip!
The audition process was great. Suzanne always makes auditioning a very positive experience. I really enjoyed preparing for the audition, because I’d had the opportunity to read the script for the pilot episode and I loved it. I’d been doing a lot of dramatic work and Prince Emil was such a fun, positive character. After I read for Suzanne, my manager told me I had been pinned for the role. Then, I had to audition for the producers and complete a screen test. The whole process took about a month. Auditions can be stressful, but this one was a lot of fun because everyone involved in the auditions was incredibly nice and supportive, and I had a blast playing around with the material.
How has having T1D affected your acting process on Prince of Peoria?
T1D doesn’t affect my acting too much at all. Everyone on set is so supportive, and I never have to feel stressed out about taking care of my blood sugar. Having my Dexcom is a huge help in keeping my numbers safe throughout the day. And my awesome mom watches my numbers from the sidelines and steps in when needed. Sometimes, when I’m really focusing on work I miss the signs of a low, so having my mom there is very helpful. In six months of shooting, we only had to stop rehearsal once because of T1D.
Tell us about a funny moment or story that happened on-set while filming Prince of Peoria
We got to do so many crazy things for the show. We filmed some of the episodes out of order, and the very first week on set we filmed episode 3. In that episode, I have to rip off a pair of exercise pants to reveal a tiny pair of bike shorts underneath. So, here I was meeting a whole bunch of people for the very first time and I have to rip off my pants in front of everyone, multiple times. It’s definitely one way to get comfortable with strangers really quick.
Have you met or received any messages from fans with Type 1?
I have! They have all been very encouraging. It means a lot to hear from other T1’s how they’re inspired to see someone working hard and not letting T1D get in the way. I’m glad I made the choice to share my journey. I’ve also had people tell me they’ve noticed my finger pricks when they show my hand up close on Prince of Peoria, as well as my Dexcom on the back of my arm in a few scenes. It’s cool to show that these things can just be part of everyday life.
How do you currently manage your diabetes?
I have the t:slim X2 pump with Dexcom G6. I have done both injections and pumping, but pumping is working best for me now. And I love Dexcom. It’s a total game changer. I didn’t have it for my first couple of projects, but now it is so much easier to stay on top of my numbers when I’m on set and filming.
What advice would you give to someone newly diagnosed with T1D?
My advice to someone newly diagnosed with T1D is to focus on the positives and not let diabetes hold you back from doing what you enjoy. Focus on how diabetes isn’t going to change your life in a negative way, and that it can actually help you be a healthier person. Also, keep in mind that there is practically nothing that diabetes will stop you from doing; from sports, to hanging out with friends, to going on vacations. As long as you put in the work to be prepared, diabetes is something that you can live happily with.
Who are some of your acting icons?
There are a lot of different actors I watch and try to learn from. I really admire actors who were theatrically trained and took the time to study and learn all aspects of their craft. Benedict Cumberbatch is one of my favorites. He can portray such a wide range of characters and brings so much truth and depth to his work.
What’s next for you?
Recently, I’ve been able to work on two new upcoming shows. I spent some time in New Mexico guest starring on the reboot of Roswell, New Mexico for the CW. I’m also going to be appearing on the new Netflix Family show No Good Nick. Right now, I’m loving the positive response Prince of Peoria is getting and I’m excited for the Christmas episode coming out this month, as well as eight new episodes next year.
As far as the future, acting is definitely my main goal for when I’m older. I hope I will be lucky enough to stay working in front of or behind the camera.