Your breakthrough television role was playing Young Ben Linus on Lost. What was it like being a part of that project? I mean, I was so young. I didn’t realize the caliber of the show at the time; I couldn’t really understand what it meant to be a part of that. Then over the years, I started watching the show and I realized just how big it was. When I came back for Season 5, I realized a little more just how big and important this project was. So I definitely didn’t realize it at the time, but now I know how lucky I was to be a part of it.
You’ve also guest starred on Criminal Minds and Law and Order: SVU. What were those experiences like? Specifically, what was it like playing a killer? Both of those were really interesting because they came to me. And it was great that they came to me, but at the same time it means they saw me in those roles. So I was honored, but at the same time I had these huge shows to fill and high expectations to meet. So for Law and Order, it was a bit easier because I had already done Criminal Minds, so I already had some idea of how these sorts of characters work. But I still had to do some research. My character for Law and Order is drunk in a few scenes, and there is a fine between reading completely sober and just looking silly. So I had to find a way to play drunk without looking ridiculous. A lot of drunk people, they slur their speech, they can’t really focus, and a lot of other little things that I had to study.
How does this compare to playing Gabriel Walraven? There’s really no connection character-wise. Gabriel is just a normal teenager. He goes to high school, he likes music, and he likes girls, just normal stuff. When you first meet him, he has just found out this huge secret about his dad; he’s just found out his dad was a pot smuggler. Then his dad dies almost immediately and his world goes completely crazy. It’s totally turned upside-down and we see him struggling internally with all these emotions: mad at his dad for what he did, but at the same time missing him now that he is gone. And on top of that, now his mom is in danger. And because he knows about his dad, he knows the actual problems his mom is dealing with. So now he finds himself having to step and protect his family and he is willing to do anything, including the very same stuff he was mad at his dad for. I really think the bio says it best: “Gabriel takes it upon himself to become ‘Man of the House’ and…he realizes that protecting his mother and siblings will entail assuming another role as well: gangster.”
What have been some challenges you’ve faced as an actor with this character? Have you been able to experience anything new? Well, there hasn’t been anything too crazy, because like I said Gabriel is just a normal teenager. But on this set it was interesting exploring a character when his world is turned completely upside-down. I’ve played some pretty messed-up characters before, but they were used to it, you know? They lived with it every day. With Gabriel, everything is questioned; everything is unknown and possibly dangerous. He goes from being a normal kid to something completely different and it has been really interesting portraying that.
What’s been your favorite part of working on Red Widow so far? Definitely being able to work with this group of people. Just the amount of people is amazing. This is the biggest cast gathered for television since Lost and so many of them are just great. To have a group of people that you want to work with and the go out with after is really rare. For example, I just spent the night at Clifton’s (Collin Jr.). We had all been hanging out, it got late and I was too tired to drive, so he offered up his couch and I crashed there. And it’s kind of ironic, because in the show my character really doesn’t trust his character, but in real life it isn’t like that at all. So to have that kind of comradery and trust within a cast has been really great.
Without giving away too many spoilers, what are some things we will see Gabriel go through this season? I think you are going to see him grow up. He will start a boy and end a man. I’ve actually discussed this a lot with some of the other people on the show: Gabriel’s soul is the most in this season. He really has the most to overcome, especially within himself. And a lot happens to him in this season, so that at the end you’re wondering if he will make it or not. So you definitely need to tune in and see if he gets through it all and if he has grown enough to make it.
I understand that you are also really involved in theater. Tell me a bit about that. I actually don’t get to do as much anymore. I just have no time. I can’t get to New York and there aren’t as many big theater companies here in California, so even if I did have the time it would be hard. There is definitely something exciting about Red Widow, you know? There is all this suspense about whether or not people will like it and continue to watch it. But at the same time, there is something about the instant gratification you get with theater; it’s such an amazing feeling to go on stage and say a joke and immediately hear your audience respond and laugh. And that’s just great and it’s different every night, which I love.
You volunteer with the Special Needs Hockey Team. What is that like? Sundays are the best day of the week for two reasons. One is that every week at 4:30 I get to work with the Special Needs Hockey Team. I’ve played hockey since I was 3 and I love it. It’s a great way to work out, to feel some release, and is a great outlet when your stressed or over-worked. These guys try so hard. They work so hard just to be able to play, way more than we do for anything. They appreciate so much what we do for them and are so happy to just have the opportunity to play and I love being a part of that and getting to see that much joy and appreciation and hard work. And the number two reason is that I get to go home and watch Red Widow.
Any other projects in the works? Anything we should be on the lookout for? I recently finished 3 films. There’s The Pretty One with Zoe Kazan and Arthur Newman with Emily Blunt and Colin Firth. Those two should be coming out soon. And I just finished Crawlspace. I’m really excited to see them finished and to see how people react when they see them.