Rising star Jack Dylan Grazer has built his notoriety on the widely known IT and Shazam films. He is perhaps one of the most praised and celebrated young actors currently working in the industry. In 2018, The Hollywood Reporter named him as one of the top 30 stars under the age of 18 and since then, he has continued to entertain audiences all over the world.
Fans of Luca Guadagnino have just dived into his latest project, HBO’s We Are Who we Are. Flexing his natural talents on showcasing the bareness of everyday life, Guadagnino tells the story of two unlikely teens exploring the hardships of youth within a U.S military camp in Italy. Fans have called comparisons to his previous work (especially Call Me By Your Name), but this marks new territory for the director as a series. The show stars Grazer in a challenging new role, but he co-pilots with the help of the brilliant Jordan Kristine Seamón, who is already impressing in her screen debut.
We had the wonderful chance to chat with Jack Dylan Grazer and learn all about his collaborative process with Luca Guadagnino. He takes us through how he first found himself on the show to why he believes his leading character is a true depiction of what it means to be young in the crazy world we live in today.
So how did you first get involved with the show?
JDG: I auditioned more than a year ago and I hated my audition. I thought it was one of the worst auditions I’ve ever done and when I walked out, I was just so disheartened. I was so sad because I wanted to work with Luca Guadagnino so bad. Then I was in Chicago doing the press tour for Shazam and that’s when I got a call from Luca and he said [imitating Luca] “I saw your tape and I want you to be in this series, so if you want the part, you have it‘. I was like, “Of course I want it! Yes, oh my god.” So then I went back to LA. We had a meeting, we talked and he made it clear that he wanted us to be creative together, as one, to work as a team creatively. I was like, “Wow. Yes, that’s so incredible. I’d love to.” Then I did some chemistry reads with the actors auditioning to play Caitlin – Jordan came in and stole the show, it was wonderful. The connection between us right off the bat was really great.
What in particular attracted you to this specific story?
JDG: Well, the first thing has to be Luca. I love him. I love his work. I think he’s so brilliant and a visionary. He’s such a genius. The writing was also so incredible in how realistic, raw, and truthful it is. Just the story and themes in general because there’s not a better time than now to have a story like this come out.
We recently talked to your co-star Jordan Kristine Seamón and she was absolutely wonderful. What was it like working with her?
JDG: Wonderful, exactly! Our connection was true and acting on camera with her felt so natural, so genuine. It was almost indistinguishable from our real relationship.
With the social and political climate that we live in now, do you think this story is more relevant than ever?
JDG: Yes. I think it’s more relevant than ever, but it could have come out in the 70’s and it still would have been embraced because these are feelings that are universal to humans all across the world and across generations. My generation, the younger one and the one before, will definitely react to the show and definitely assimilate, but I think many other people too. Even my mom’s generation could understand because even though these notions weren’t expressed verbally in that time, they were feelings that were present inside all of us. The self-inquiry, the questioning of your gender fluidity – it’s always been a factor inside of us, but we’ve been conditioned to put up these barriers of conventionality. Like a man must be masculine and a woman must be feminine. Whereas in the show, it’s discussed and brought forth that it doesn’t matter because we’re just human in the end and we are who we are.
You mentioned before that Luca is quite collaborative. What was the creative process between the two of you and the rest of the cast?
JDG: Wonderful! A great thing about his method that I really, truly admire is his stance on how nobody knows the character better than the actor playing the character. Not a writer, not the director, it’s the actor because they have to be in the character’s shoes all day. They have to understand them from the inside out. Whereas the writer is only creating a canvas, a brilliant canvas, but we’re throwing paint all over and creating the picture. So that’s his philosophy and I couldn’t agree more. The flexibility he gave us as actors was awesome. It was just awesome.
Did you go through any specific process to get to your character on a deeper level?
JDG: Honestly, I didn’t really use a process, well not intentionally at least. There were days when I sat on the balcony in the morning for a month and a half before we started shooting, I was already in Italy. I would just go on my balcony and read the script as if I was Fraser reading a script – reading it and just admiring it for what it is, art. Then I would go out and order a coffee like Fraser, just to let it all sink in because I was so far from home. I had no other choice but to surrender to this character and his ego.
After a day of shooting an intense scene with Chloe or even by myself, I would go back home and look at myself in the mirror, it would be hard to just distinguish what I was looking at. It was like there was no trace of Jack and I’m not saying this to be pretentious like “Oh look, I’m like Val Kilmer.” Seriously, Jack would never dye his hair blonde. Jack is so against dying his hair blonde. I would never do that. So this is not Jack. This thing I’m looking at right now was not born as Jack. This is Fraser. I promise you, Jack exists, but this is not him. It was crazy and pretty trippy, but when I had to go home, it was even trippier.
What was it like shooting on location in Italy? Was it different to what you’re usually used to?
JDG: I’ve never shot anything overseas. I’m not going to count Canada, but we shot IT and Shazam in Canada. I think every step in the process of storytelling helps an actor immerse deeper into their character, like by dying my hair blonde, and even the fashion I wore and being thousands of miles from my home in California. Those pieces of the puzzle add up to the full immersion and the origins of my character.
Did Luca ask you to watch, listen, or maybe even read any specific things as inspiration in the lead up to the shoot?
JDG: I actually have a book right here, it’s called 1Q84 by Haruki Murakami. I read it, well less than half of it. It’s a really, really big book. I also talked to Mike the Ruler because he is a kid prodigy in fashion. I talked to him because I didn’t really know much about fashion before and Fraser’s really in tune with fashion. I asked him, “What is it about fashion that intrigues you? Why have you made your life about clothes? I thought clothes were just like for keeping your body warm.” That’s how I thought of it before, but he said to me that “Fashion is art and I’m not wearing shirts that say Gucci, Supreme, or whatever for appeal from other people. I’m wearing fashion because it’s art and art is subjective and I’m wearing it because I feel comfortable in this outfit. It’s not to show off how much money I spent on this Fendi sweater, it’s about feeling comfortable and accepted by yourself. It’s to appease yourself.” I really gained so much insight from that conversation.
To wrap up, could you tell us in a couple of sentences why audiences should watch We Are Who We Are?
JDG: There is no better time than now to watch a show about the issues we’re all facing, but are afraid to discuss. The great thing about the show coming out now is that these conversations are starting to come up. Discussions are starting to happen and by talking, being open and aware of it – we can embrace the show even more.