Each interview with actor Hunter Parrish invariably begins with a mention of his two shoes and how gosh darn goody they are. And so it’s a testament to his abundant talent that the 21-year-old star of Broadway’s Spring Awakening and the hit series Weeds has been able to play sexed-up pot peddlers with such conviction. Up next, Parrish will torment Zac Efron in 17 Again, which opens this spring. But will Hollywood’s freshest young star, an honest kid from Virginia, succumb to Hollywood’s debauched world of bottle service and bottle blondes? Parrish the thought.
You’ve been positioned as a back-roads innocent. In what ways has your upbringing clashed with your Hollywood life? It’s a shocker. I’m always like, Whoa, I didn’t even know people did that kind of thing, or thought that way! But also, everything I try out for has nudity, drugs and sex in it, so I’m used to that sort of material.
What sort of shocking things? It was a shocker to find out that the people I admired—a lot of them—weren’t all that interested in the craft. It’s been like, I really looked up to you! But when you realize they’re just working for a paycheck, it spoils the illusion of what we do.
What about the upside of working in Hollywood? I don’t have to wait in lines for clubs. I recently went bowling and wanted a pitcher of beer. But I wasn’t going to drink the whole thing, I just wanted to use this beer tower machine—I like machines and gadgets. The bartender recognized me and brought me the full thing for free. So that’s always fun, but I don’t usually look forward to being recognized.
Is there any major difference between your Weeds fans and those who recognize you from Spring Awakening? Since I go out onstage every day, I talk to more fans now than I ever have. I get more fan mail now, but that’s just because they know where to send it.
Any overzealous fan stories? There are a couple of scenes in the show that are about self-pleasure, and one guy was like, Will you take a picture doing that with me? And I was like, No, no I won’t!
Have you been lonely since your move from Los Angeles to New York? It does get lonely; I’m not going to lie. I work really hard. I have to, because I’m not really that good at what I do, so I have to over compensate.
You’re joking, right? I’m not! For my first two months here, I sat at home and drilled myself until I got my lines right. And it’s hard work! You have to be focused if you want to do a god job. I had a few friends from New York, but they all moved to L.A. as soon as I got here.
Like Leven Rambin? That’s exactly who I’m talking about! Everybody knows Leven, and I was kind of counting on her to boost my social life. I guess that plan is now over…
I think that New York might be harder than L.A. to warm up to. Interesting. In L.A., it’s more like people look at you off the tip of their nose, but here people are like, Whatever, I’m not impressed by you, but nice to meet you!
What’s the most trouble you’ve gotten into? When I was younger, I was in an all-guys school, like a choir school. I was put on a behavior plan there because I was picked on and I have pride issues, so I didn’t put up with being picked on.
What does that even mean? If you get through the day without acting out, you get an award at the end of the month. Granted, I was in like fourth or fifth grade, but that’s like the most intense I’ve ever been watched.
Soon, you’ll play a bully in 17 Again. That’s a fun role reversal. I sort of turned it around and was like, Here’s how I got beat up. I had a firsthand experience.
Who are you bullying in the movie? Zac Efron. We know each other really well, having auditioned for stuff together in L.A. a lot. It was fun to work together, because once he started High School Musical, I haven’t really seen him around.
I’ve always pictured him as a guy who plays with his bangs a lot. Yeah, I mean, Zac’s a really great guy and he works very hard for what he wants. He’s really passionate about what he does, and it’s hard for him to hear people talk about him the way they do. He’s not just in it for the fame.
Does your family worry about your getting immersed in the excess of Hollywood? I’m sure they’re worried, and it’s all very tempting, but I just remind myself of who I was before any of this started happening. And I surround myself with people who hold me accountable for my actions. That doesn’t mean I don’t have fun, but I control it. Self-control is something I think a lot of people lose when they achieve success in our business.
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