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  • Annette Dawm

Finding D.W. with Jason Szwimer

Jason Szwimer describes himself as “a nice, sometimes funny person… a good host, writer and interviewer.” He was also the third voice actor to portray Dora Winnifred/D.W. Read on the beloved children’s television series, Arthur. Jason was born on December 20, 1991 (despite the fact that Wikipedia claims he has two different birthdays) and he assumed the role of D.W. at the age of 10.

For most of his adult life, Jason kept his time as D.W. a secret, but no matter how he looked at it, he realized that D.W. had played a big part in his life. In total, eight young men have portrayed D.W. since 1996. Eventually, Jason started to wonder if he had anything else in common with them. In his new podcast, Finding D.W. Jason sets out to interview them all.

Finding D.W. is available on Anchor by Spotify and Apple Podcasts, among other platforms. New episodes are released on Tuesdays. So far, Jason has tracked down Michael Caloz, the first person to play Arthur’s little sister. Additionally, Szwimer has interviewed other members of the entertainment industry, including Kim’s Convenience star, Paul Sun-Hyung Lee.

Jason worked as a Production Assistant on Kim’s Convenience. When the show came to an end and COVID-19 was on the rise, he had more time to reflect on his past and was able to focus on the things he wanted to do in the present:

“I realized how emphatically I want to succeed in show business, and that I haven’t been doing everything I can to make that happen. I decided that if I want to break into the industry as a creator of projects I believe in, I’ll first need to prove that I’m capable of effectively executing on an idea I believe in. Once my life slowed down during COVID, I decided that giving everything I have means fully leaning into the fact that I was the voice of D.W. and unabashedly trusting myself as a strong writer and interviewer. After all, if I don’t believe in myself, no one else will. So that’s what I’m doing with this podcast! All of my life’s experiences have signalled to me that if I want to achieve my dreams, I need to go for them with everything I have—right now…."

"I sincerely believe that this podcast is the best shot I have at getting people excited about a project of mine while also demonstrating my skills as a host/interviewer, writer and producer. My thought process is that I can use the fact that I was the voice of D.W. to draw people in, and hopefully they will stick around because they find me and my podcast entertaining.”

Not surprisingly, people are already drawn to the podcast. Earlier this month, Tracey Tong wrote an article for The Toronto Star which featured Jason’s journey to finding the other D.W.s. From there, more websites began to share the story which left him feeling “excited and terrified” according to an Instagram post.

“I think I am an extremely lucky person,” Szwimer said. “There are so many talented creators out there making all kinds of things that, for whatever reason, don’t attract an audience. I firmly believe that though I’m working as hard as I can to make the best podcast possible, I’m not entitled to any attention. My podcast is receiving coverage thanks to talented friends and colleagues who have been generous enough to use their platforms to help spread the word about Finding D.W. . Shout out to Evy Kwong, Jodi Isenberg, Tracey Tong and Paige Taylor White at The Toronto Star who were the first [people] to do that.”

As any Arthur fan knows, a good theme song is important and so is the background music! With that in mind, Jason intentionally selected songs that are reminiscent of the score for Arthur:

“All of the music is from YouTube’s royalty free music library!” He explained. “…. I think that using music in podcasts is a powerful way to help create a mood for the listener. Since Finding D.W. is centered around Arthur, I wanted the music to pay homage to the show.”

“Also, my podcast is autobiographical.” He continued. “So, I wanted the music to reflect myself and my taste too. For example, when I first heard what became Finding D.W.’s theme song, (‘Dover’ by The Westerlies) it reminded me of a band warming up before the start of a live musical. I participated in the theatre program at my high school, and hearing that song brought back cherished memories from that time.” Speaking of memories, Jason mentioned that “Bleep” is his favourite Arthur episode!

Funding for Finding D.W. on Patreon (which includes full-length interviews with guests) is critical in order for this project to continue: “I support myself as an ESL and math tutor, and while I find this work very fun and rewarding, I don’t want to do that forever. The more support I receive on Patreon, the more time I can devote to doing what I love, which is creating this podcast.”

However, Szwimer is not exactly sure what will happen once all of the actors who played D.W. have been found. He is hopeful that he will still be able to conduct interviews with his colleagues. He also has one special guest in mind, the creator of Arthur himself, Marc Brown: “I respect Marc Brown so much and would love to include him in a future episode!”

He added that he is looking forward to “making the next episode of Finding D.W. the very best it can be…. At this time, I’m focused less on an ideal creative project and more on achieving certain milestones. For example, eventually I want to write and then direct a movie. I would also love to be a talk show host! Plus, although this might sound silly, I would love the opportunity to be a Power Ranger!”

Finally, Jason Szwimer gave the following advice for anyone wishing to follow in his career path: “I think it was Emerson who said, ‘life is about the journey, not the destination’. You have to enjoy the process of making what you are creating. Obviously there are parts of being a creator that aren’t the most fun or glamorous things in the world—but for me, all the annoying tasks that come up are worth it, because doing them means I get the chance to do things that I really love. Oh, and Believe in yourself! That’s the place to start!”

Photo courtesy of Jason Szwimer.

For more information, please follow Jason on Instagram.

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