VICTOR RASUK TALKS STOOP.
We've been longing to chat with Victor Rasuk ever since we saw him play skateboarding legend Tony Alva in Catherine Hardwicke's Lords of Dogtown (post-Thirteen, pre-Twilight, lest you were questioning our judgment). Finally we have an excuse; Rasuk is currently stealing the show in HBO's How to Make It in America. Not an easy feat, given that his castmates include Kid Cudi and Lake Bell... as a couple. Okay, perhaps "stealing" is a little hyperbolic, but we'll definitely put him in joint first place with Luis Guzman as his gangster-turned-energy-drink-peddler cousin.
In How to Make It, Rasuk plays Cam, the enthusiastic, well-intentioned (albeit slightly inexperienced) best friend of the protagonist, Ben. Following a lukewarm critical reception and modest viewing numbers, How to Make It in America barely "made it" (ha!) to a second season. But we're glad it did, partially because we'll never get tired of hearing Aloe Blacc sing "I Need A Dollar" at the beginning of every episode, and partially because it is only in season two that Rasuk's Cam is getting the plotlines he deserves. Cam is growing up; he's taking the design reins from Ben for their clothing line, Crisp, receiving life lessons in artistic inspiration, and moving on up out of Grandma's house. We caught up with Rasuk about Cam's maturation, his love for the East Village, his upcoming stint in the Broadway edition of the 24 Hour Plays, and what it's like to work with Robert De Niro.
EMMA BROWN: You had a long break between season one and season two of How to Make It in America; was it difficult to get back into character as Cam?
VICTOR RASUK: It's always difficult when you have such a long break. One thing I had on my side when it came to How to Make It in America is that I'm a born-and-raised New Yorker. The thing that was difficult this season was, what is it that Cam really wants and how bad does he want it? Cam finally gets a new girlfriend, he has a new apartment, he meets the girlfriend's dad, who's a very famous artist who inspires him. The goal was: how is Cam going to get this clothing line off the ground and how is he going to move out of Grandma's apartment? [I'm] not really into fashion, I had to connect with that and what it means for Cam.
BROWN: Cam grows up so much this season! I like his girlfriend; she seems like a cool lady.
RASUK: Yeah, she's a really good actress. It was a fight to get her, so I'm excited.
BROWN: Do you enjoy filming in New York?
RASUK: Oh man, filming in New York... I'm so thankful and humbled by the whole experience. A lot of it takes place in old neighborhood; I'm an East Village kid, so I get to see my old friends from the neighborhood, my family still lives there.
BROWN: Are you still a fan of the East Village now that it's changed so much and become rather overrun by NYU?
RASUK: I saw the transformation! For me, the only drag about the whole thing is that a lot of my childhood friends had to be relocated to the outskirts of New York because of the gentrification. But I think it's always a good thing when you bring people of all different backgrounds together, that's sort of what New York is.
BROWN: Has How to Make It made it difficult for you to be anonymous in New York?
RASUK: I definitely get more recognized. If you look at the rest of my stuff, I always play characters that kind of don't look like me, 'cause I love transforming into someone else. I love being able to act, work and act, and then doing it under the radar. This is the first role where I actually look like myself, so I do get recognized a lot, but I always love it because people are true fans of the show.
BROWN: Is there going to be a third season?
RASUK: I don't know... your guess is as good as mine! I think they're going to wait until the end of this season.
BROWN: Is it a distressing time for you, then?
RASUK: I try not to think about it. Even with or without the show I'm always thinking of the next thing. If it's meant to be, it's meant to be. That's kind of been the story of my career.
BROWN: So what is the "next thing?"
RASUK: I'm going to be part of the Broadway version of 24 Hour Plays. I'm going to be in the company of Jesse Eisenberg, I graduated high school with [him], he's a good friend of mine; Billy Crudup, Megan Fox, Woody Harrelson. It's a crazy cast. My castmate Lake Bell is going to be in it... Jason Sudeikis. Even if [How to Make It in America] does get picked up, I'm going to try and focus on doing more theater things. I come from that background; Jesse and I went to the Performing Arts High School in New York, and it just really inspired me to do a lot of stage stuff.
BROWN: Have you ever done anything similar the 24 Hour Plays before?
RASUK: I did the LAByrinth Theater intensive program, which is kind of the one program that actors will kill to be a part of, so in terms of turning around a play or piece in twenty-four hours I have, but never on the Broadway stage.
BROWN: Do you find it invigorating, exciting or nerve-wracking?
RASUK: All of the above... except nerve-wracking. I honestly feel so comfortable being on stage, it's really weird. It's one of those things I love to do, which is why I begged and tried to trick my way into 24 Hour Plays. I'm ready for the challenge and I'm ready to try and play, which is something they try and promote. We're all having fun and it's for a good cause; that keeps me relaxed.
BROWN: What else are you up to?
RASUK: Before we shot How to Make It in America I had a cool, small role in Paul Weiss' new movie, Being Flynn.
BROWN: Based on Nick Flynn's memoir, Another Bullshit Night in Suck City.
RASUK: Yeah, with Paul Dano, Robert De Niro and Julianne Moore, so I've got that coming out in 2012.
BROWN: How was working with De Niro? Were you star-struck?
RASUK: That was just a dream come true, one of the things that you cross off your bucket list before you die. My scenes with De Niro were really short, but I got to work with him and I learned a lot by watching, not even his acting, but just watching how he carried himself. He inspires me as a young actor; even at that age and even with that success you have to come to work fully prepared and ready to dive into it, it doesn't matter how far in your career you are. And that's what he did. It was a real wake up call for me because I know actors who let [success] get to their head and then it affects their work.
BROWN: Did you ask him for any words of wisdom?
RASUK: I didn't. I guess in that sense I was intimidated. [laughs] But just watching him was all the words of wisdom I really needed. And I got to talk to Paul; a lot of my scenes were with Paul Dano, and he solidified what I had already predicted about DeNiro, everything I just told you.
HOW TO MAKE IT IN AMERICA AIRS SUNDAYS AT 10:30PM ON HBO. THE 24 HOUR PLAYS ON BROADWAY ARE BEING PERFORMED THIS MONDAY AT THE AMERICAN AIRLINES THEATRE.