Rainbow Crew is an ongoing interview series which celebrates the best LGBTQ+ representation on TV. Each instalment showcases talent working on both sides of the camera, including queer creatives and allies to the community.
Next up, we're speaking to Jack Dylan Grazer about his starring role on We Are Who We Are.
At just 17, Jack Dylan Grazer is already a bonafide movie star, appearing in not one but two million dollar franchises. It couldn't have been easy to tackle roles in Shazam and both IT movies so young, but Jack tells us that his "biggest challenge" was actually playing the lead in We Are Who We Are.
Luca Guadagnino's sensual ode to teenage fluidity is nothing like Jack's big-screen ventures, and that's exactly what "enthralled" him in the first place: "I always want to take on a challenge. I had to really focus and hone in on Fraser’s internality and his motives and who he really was inside."
We hopped on the phone to chat with Jack about the finale, his chemistry with Tom Mercier, and slapping Chloë Sevigny on set.
We Are Who We Are has received tons of praise from critics and fans alike. What's the response been like for you?
Wild. People are really excited about the show, and people’s reactions are making me really happy and proud. I’m seeing big articles, like big magazines, talking about the show. It's really super-great.
Everything about the show feels very natural, very real. Did you improvise much on set or was your role more tightly scripted?
When I first got the part, Luca and I had a meeting. We talked about how his vision was for him and the actors to be collaborative, and that the actors know the character better than anybody – better than the writers, better than the director. Because they’re the ones living in their shoes.
So he gave us a lot of leeway. He put us on a really loose leash to play our characters, and to just live them, and do whatever they wanted to do.
Has the Fraser we've seen now always been this way, or was there a very different version of him at some point early on?
Well, physically there was. I originally was going to have brown hair, because I have naturally brown hair. He was going to have brown hair and glasses. But then Luca was like, "No, no. This needs to be a transformation." Then I dyed the hair, and they did all the immersion.
But the way Fraser is written has always been like that weird, mysterious character.
I read somewhere that you felt the lines between you and Fraser were starting to blur on set. Looking back, how did playing Fraser have a personal impact on you?
It opened me up to a lot of new ideas. I started asking the questions that Fraser was asking himself. Usually in the show, and afterwards, I walked away feeling like… I don’t know – like, less of "Jack" but more overcome with the ideas of Fraser, and these nuanced ideas... accepting all ideas, and thinking and thinking and thinking.
Can you talk about Fraser's relationship with masculinity and how that evolves as the story develops?
He lives most of his life – pretty much the entirety of his life – with the absence of a father. And he resents his mother for that. Because he’s surrounded by women. He has two moms and he doesn’t know what a father is… He doesn’t know if he needs a father. He’s not saying that he needs one. He’d like to experience it, because maybe that’s the answer to why he’s so angsty. But he resents his mother for not having a male role model.
Your character shares a very intense relationship with his mother. I was pretty shocked when he slapped her in the very first episode. What was that like to shoot?
We did it a few times. We did seven or eight takes of it. It was a real, practical slap. Luca was like, "I want this to be real."
Chloë [Sevigny] is such a pro. She’s such a professional. Oh my goodness. She was so keen on doing it. She wanted it to be a big slap, she wanted it to be heard, and she wanted it to be real. The "visceralness" of the slap was so honest.
You wear some incredible outfits on the show. How did Fraser's fashion help shape the character for you?
Well, the outfits were something that I would personally never wear, which I think is even better. It’s another one of those steps into the immersion of a new character, and removing myself from myself – the clothes were a character in themselves.
Before Fraser, I used to go for comfort mostly. But now, fashion is a form of expression. It’s an art form. It’s a subjective form of art, and I fully embrace it. So I gained a lot of insight from that.
Fraser's infatuation with Jonathan becomes more important as the show progresses. Can you talk me through your chemistry with Tom Mercier on set?
It was beautiful. I loved Tom so much. He was one of my favourite actors ever to work with, ever. Looking into his eyes in a scene was like… It was so immersive. He and I were so immersed in the roles.
He’s so funny, too. The things that he did – it was all very spontaneous. He’s a genius.
And the scenes I did with him that are pretty intimate – I was so comfortable with him. He was a real friend. But at the same time, I also convinced myself that I was in love with him.
Yeah. It was… I’ve said it so many times, but it was so immersive.
We Are Who We Are does a wonderful job of exploring gender and sexual identity. Why do you think it's important to see more characters like Fraser on screen?
At a time like now, I think it’s more important than ever to display these things, for people to watch. You have an incredible storyline, and then the themes of fluidity, of self-inquiry and identity-questioning.
It’s so important because people are now getting in touch with their intuition and their primal instincts, rather than living with the walls of conformity that we’ve been conditioned as humans to live with.
People are listening to themselves on the inside for once. I think the show does a really good job of initiating that self-inquiry for an audience.
Episode four gave me some major Euphoria vibes, but of course, the two shows are still very different in lots of ways. Can you tell me what it was like to film those hedonistic party scenes on set?
I would say we’re all fairly good kids. We’re not real party animals in real life. But in the beginning, I guess, we were warming up to this.
Luca was like, "No, this is real. When you drink, you drink. When you smoke, you smoke. When you inhale it into your lungs and you feel it, you are distraught, and you are displaced."
The emotions I was feeling, and the volatility of the scene, and all these motivations... In the scene, we’re feeling it, and living it for real. It was an amazing experience, for sure.
The finale was really beautiful, particularly at the end. Could you tell me a little bit more about the boy Fraser briefly met? There’s this really interesting moment where he just disappears. Is it because Fraser no longer cares about him, or was he just part of his imagination?
I think that character, Luca – that’s the character’s name – I think he kind of plays the role of a question or something. I don’t know if Fraser was ever really in love with him. He was enamoured by him. And he liked it, and wanted to try it out with this character.
But in doing so, it answered the question that what he wants is Caitlin. Because they’re so similar. It was like a test that Fraser gives himself, and it answered the question of him liking Caitlin.
I know the show is supposed to be a limited series but would you ever be up for a second season if Luca suggested it?
Absolutely, yes. Yes, absolutely.
We Are Who We Are aired on HBO in the US. BBC will soon air season one in the UK. Date TBC.
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