When his mother enrolled him in karate lessons, it was the repertory theater next door that caught the eye of Jack Dylan Grazer. He eventually, and inevitably, made the switch from the dojo to the stage and never looked back. In 2017, he was one of the seven misfits who brought down Pennywise the Dancing Clown in the horror blockbuster It. Then came his role as the best friend to an oversize superhero in the film adaptation of the DC Comics franchise Shazam. This fall, the 17-year-old California native does battle against his own raging hormones as an American teenager living on an Italian military base in the HBO series We Are Who We Are, directed by Luca Guadagnino. “That last day on set was heart-wrenching,” he says. “Luca is terrible at goodbyes, so we didn’t have a wrap party or anything. He was just like, ‘Okay. That’s a wrap. Bye, everybody.’ And he left. He’s an enigma, and I accept that. It was sad, but it felt like the appropriate time. I wouldn’t have wanted to stay longer, to be honest. Playing that character was a torment, but in the best way possible.”
BEN BARNA: What was your relationship to Luca Guadagnino’s work before you came on to this project?
JACK DYLAN GRAZER: Call Me By Your Name was the first movie I saw of his. I walked out of the theater and I was like, I want to work with that director. Me and my mom stood in the street and she was like, “Please let Jack work with that director.” I guess she was praying.
BARNA: How did you first get involved in We Are Who We Are?
GRAZER: They sent me the script, which they never really do. They just tell you to audition and the script is usually a confidential thing. I think they sent five episodes. That shocked me. I read them all and thought they were incredible. But then I auditioned and I was like, “Oh my god, I totally tanked that.” I feel like it was my worst audition. I wanted to work with Luca Guadagnino so badly after I saw Call Me By Your Name, but I thought I blew it. But then he called and said, “If you want the part, you can have it.”
BARNA: What happened next?
GRAZER: I was in Chicago for a Shazam! press tour, and I came back to L.A. to meet him. We talked about the show and about how he wanted to combine our creative forces, which is something a director usually never tells to an actor. Especially an actor that’s not that well known. And was like, “I want to clash heads and I want us to bring both of our ideas to this project. Not just me.”
BARNA: How did Luca describe the character of Fraser to you?
GRAZER: The first thing that Luca told me is that Fraser is loosely based off of himself as a kid. He’s very confused and never feels comfortable in himself. He’s in a constant state of self-inquiry. He’s also always asking what you’re about and what you stand for. He’s learning and taking in and observing. He’s a big observer, a watcher of people.
BARNA: What was it like shooting in Italy? Did being so far away from home help you get into Fraser’s head?
GRAZER: It totally did. I’d never been to Europe before, so I felt like I had no other choice but to just surrender to this character and become him. I already felt so detached, having to leave all my friends in Los Angeles, so it was time to awaken and welcome this whole new persona, and to just accept it. I had like a month and a half off before I started shooting, so I spent a lot of time by myself, walking around and reading the script on my balcony. I read the script as Fraser, and I was walking around town and using the same gait that I thought Fraser would have, ordering a coffee like Fraser, acting like him in my day-to-day life.
BARNA: How much of your own interpretation did you bring to Fraser, and how much of it was Luca’s?
GRAZER: Equal parts. Luca would say something, and then I’d be like, “Really? And then he’d be like, ‘No, no, no, you’re right. That’s not good. That’s not Fraser.” And then sometimes I’d be like, “What if Fraser does this?” And then he’s like, “No, Fraser would not do that. It’s too slapstick.” We both figured it out together. By the eighth episode, it was Luca and I blending our thoughts. It all became one.
BARNA: You mentioned that playing Fraser was a torment. How so?
GRAZER: Taking that character home with me every day was hard to shake. When I was playing Eddie [Grazer’s character in It] it was mostly levity and felt like wearing a mask, and then taking it off after. I would walk around the base between takes and just feel nothing like Jack. When I dyed my hair, which I, Jack, would have never done, I remember looking in the mirror and I saw zero trace of any Jack anywhere in there. It was scary, but it was comforting. Jack existed, but he wasn’t me. He existed somewhere else. It was Fraser I was looking at.
This article appears in the Fall 2020 issue of Interview Magazine. Subscribe here.
Grooming: Sonia Lee using Oribe Haircare at Exclusive Artists.
Prop Stylist: Nicole Roosien.
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