TELLER OF HARD STORIES. American actor Joey Pollari talks about his appearance in “Love, Simon”, his past role in “American Crime” and his passion for theater and music
Shirt by Mitchell Evan, sunglasses by True Vintage Revival
Joey Pollari’s rose to fame started with Disney XD’s “Skyrunners ” and was cemented through his performance in MTV’s “The Inbetweeners”. It could be argued, however, that we really started to see the depths of his talent when he appeared in season two of “American Crime”—a TV series that delved into such issues as sexual assault and blackmail. More recently, he appeared in the romantic comedy-drama film “Love, Simon”. While funny and lighthearted, the movie’s touched on some profound issues, from the pressure faced by gay teenagers about coming out to blackmailing. Thankfully, Pollari was more than eager to share some insider insight into the movie, along with stories of his previous works and current passions.
DAMAN: Hi, Joey; thank you for having us. Your latest movie, “Love, Simon,” is out now. How excited are you about being part of this story?
Joey Pollari: I’m very grateful to be a part of this movie. People are resonating with the characters and its message and I’m thrilled.
DAMAN: Critics who have seen “Love, Simon” love it. What do you think is the key to the film’s critical acclaim?
Joey Pollari: I don’t know if there’s any one thing, but I think people are sensing that the movie was made with a lot of love, that it was fun to make. The off-screen chemistry between cast and crew translates to the screen. And I think people are also responding to what the movie does with its coming out narrative: the movie ties Simon’s coming out with him finding love. Ultimately, it’s a love story by way of self-acceptance.
DAMAN: What do you think will you remember the most from being part of the cast of “Love, Simon”?
Joey Pollari: I had a lot of great times on set that I’ll remember—times in Atlanta where we shot the film. But the experience of seeing how audiences are responding with enthusiasm and gratitude for this particular narrative is what I’ll remember most.
“I’m very grateful to be a part of this movie. People are resonating with the characters and its message and I’m thrilled.”
DAMAN: While “Love, Simon” is a comedy at heart, it deals with the kind of scenario that is all too real for many people. Do you think that a movie like this can inspire or drive real change for real people?
Joey Pollari: I hope it can. I wouldn’t underestimate the importance of representation in the media for how we see ourselves, how we shape our lives. If the movie can open the door just a little bit wider in the industry, in someone’s sense of themselves, in their views, I think that’s great.
DAMAN: Do you feel that the movie industry has an obligation, for lack of a better word, to tackle issues like coming out and blackmailing?
Joey Pollari: The word “obligation” is tricky for me, because it maybe supposes that the industry should adhere to a moral code and that’s why they should tell these stories. But I think the industry benefits from these stories. They don’t need an obligation, though that would be helpful. We are seeing the benefits of representation at the box office. In regards to the industry, it is now commercially relevant. I hope to see the industry embrace more and more stories that are underrepresented. In regards to artists, it is beneficial to respond to the world and reflect it in art. But even the word “obligation” in art is probably a messy conversation.
DAMAN: By the way, you’re no stranger to working on film projects that deal with touchy subjects. Case in point: season two of “American Crime” which deals with sexual assault in a school setting. Looking back, did you have any misgivings about joining the show?
Joey Pollari: I had no doubts about the show itself—it felt relevant and well-intentioned. The pedigree and skill of the show assured me the topics would be dealt with intelligently. I was scared I wouldn’t be able to tell the tougher aspects of my character’s story, but I knew the character was right for me.
DAMAN: “American Crime” is known for going into some really dark places, so to speak. How do you prepare yourself to play in narratives like those?
Joey Pollari: The approach seems to change based on what is and isn’t working for the project. Research seems to be a tool across the board. But the rest seems to be moment-tomoment, what feels right.
DAMAN: Looking ahead, are there any other movies or TV shows you’re currently working on or looking into?
Joey Pollari: Not yet, but there are many creators and directors that are making and have made projects I hope to encounter.
DAMAN: A lot of people consider your appearance in “The Inbetweeners” as the one that really put you on the map. On a more personal level, when was it that you started feeling that you were going to make it in the acting business?
Joey Pollari: Well … I’m not sure that feeling is anything but fleeting, but a constant is my desire to act and to be a part of television and movies.
“I wouldn’t underestimate the importance of representation in the media for how we see ourselves”
DAMAN: What would you say is your biggest strength as an actor?
Joey Pollari: I feel like someone else should answer this question. Maybe ask me in another twenty years?
DAMAN: What are some of the biggest challenges you’ve faced so far?
Joey Pollari: Almost every aspect of the business has its challenges, but staying in when it’s hard is the most challenging.
DAMAN: What is the next big milestone that you’d like to tackle next? Career-wise, that is…
Joey Pollari: I started off in theater, so I’d like to be on stage again. I’m directing a short film this summer, something I’ve always dreamed of doing. And before that, I’m going to release an album of my music which will be another milestone I’ve been working toward.
DA MAN: How about outside of work? What’s the next big thing for you outside of your career.
Joey Pollari: I’m excited to share my music with people, for it to be something that exists outside of my head.
DA MAN: And now for something completely different, you’re quite vocal on social media about current issues. What is it that drives you to jump into the sometimes notso- pleasant arena of online social commentary?
Joey Pollari: It’s important to me to be vocal about what I care about. I’m interested in my own social media platform having a function of change, opinion, political discussion, things I find interesting. I understand the importance of promotion, so that’s there, too. I try to find balance when I can.
DAMAN: This might sound a bit cliché, but, in your opinion, what can everybody try to do a bit more in their daily lives to make the world a better—or at least a bit more pleasant—place to live in?
Joey Pollari: Meditation has been helpful for me. It’s a great tool for implementing change within ourselves, relieving stress, and learning mindfulness.
DAMAN: Back to you, when you’re not on set working on a film, what usually keeps you busy? What are you passionate about outside of your work?
Joey Pollari: I love watching movies and listening to music I haven’t heard before. This month I’ve been watching the first films of directors, and I’m listening through the discographies of Mark Kozelek and Kate Bush.
DAMAN: Last question: Do you have New Year’s resolution that you’re confident you’ll keep up until the end of 2018?
Joey Pollari: It’s only March but I don’t think I’ve kept any of them … I’ll have to reassess the rest of my year.
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