Jack Dylan Grazer and Jordan Kristine Seamón on the Making of HBO’s Ode to Youth ‘We Are Who We Are’
Rarely has contemporary youth been captured with the kind of ethereal, enveloping ambiance of HBO’s eight-part series “We Are Who We Are.” Adding to its power is the pitch perfect cast led by Jack Dylan Grazer and newcomer Jordan Kristine Seamón. They play two teens living on a military base in Chioggia, Italy, where hormones, awakenings and personal drama run high. It is the pair’s first collaboration with renowned director Luca Guadagnino, who returns to the sun-kissed vistas that made his 2017 “Call Me by Your Name” beloved to heartbroken audiences.
The story Guadagnino tells centers on Fraser (Grazer), son of a military lesbian couple, Sarah (Chloë Sevigny) and Maggie (Alice Braga). Filled with an almost manic personality, Fraser barely follows convention and explores the base and Chioggia on his own, eventually falling in with a pack of fellow army brats that include neighbor Caitlin (Seamón). Together they explore independence, sexuality, and freedom in a confined zone, and every other element impacting Gen-Z.
While wondering what the future holds now that the show is releasing to the world, Grazer and Seamón shared with Entertainment Voice about the journey of making “We Are Who We Are,” the wide scope of their interests and what life on set was like.
Let’s get started under these fiery skies we have here in California right now.
Grazer: Yeah! It’s so orangey outside my window.
Let’s jump right into it then. “We Are Who We Are” is a unique show, different from what we usually get with this kind of theme. How did you become involved with the project?
Grazer: I auditioned a while ago. More than a year ago. I hated it, I thought I tanked it. I thought, what a bummer (burps). Then I was in Chicago on a press tour for “Shazam” and I got a call from Luca. I was like, oh my god, and he said (making a mock Italian accent) “I have a part for you if you want the part.” And I said, of course! It was such an honor. I was in shock. Then I went back to L.A. and met with him and did a chemistry read of the script with Jordan. It was just all greatness from there.
Seamón: I did several self-tapes at home. I did self-tapes in the bathroom and in a studio. Then I got a call to go downtown and did another tape. Then I got called to go to L.A. to meet with Luca. I got a little nervous, spilled some water down my shirt (laughs). I got the call a few days later that I got the part and I screamed, I literally screamed at the girl. I was at a McDonald’s drive thru and I screamed at the girl who was taking my order.
I can imagine! Because Jordan, for you this is really your first major role, your first big show. What was it like working with Luca as your first director to collaborate with?
Seamón: It was really, really cool. Luca was honestly the perfect first film director to work with. I didn’t dip my toes in. I was thrown in the water. He was great in letting me learn not only about what it’s like being in front of the camera but behind the camera. From working with him I’m interested in doing so many others things like directing and script writing. He was a great, great first.
Jack, you’ve already been in some pretty big films like “Shazam” and “Beautiful Boy.” They’re good movies but are also completely different genres. How did working on this show compare to this film projects?
Grazer: It doesn’t. It’s a whole other thing and it actually required capabilities of actual acting. Before it was kind of just, memorize your lines and do a voice. You’re still acting, you’re still playing pretend and it’s so much fun, but those were less of a challenge. Well, “Beautiful Boy” was a challenge. That was really fun for me because I love a challenge. But we’re not here to promote that, we’re here to promote “We Are Who We Are” (laughs). Actually it sucks, don’t watch it. I’m kidding.
That’s a great quote for the poster.
Grazer: I’m kidding! It was the experience of a lifetime, really. And I think it shows on screen.
The world of this show is confined in a way. It’s this base somewhere out in Italy that’s like it’s own world. How familiar were you both with this kind of lifestyle?
Grazer: I did have a little bit of research that was unintentional before I got the role. I had watched this documentary on these kids who live in army bases in Europe. They are just these crazy kids! They are the worst. They are the ultimate rebels and they are so against the patriarchy of being on a base and the hyper patriotism. They’re like anarchists in the midst of a government establishment, which is crazy and they party hard and run away. I think the show captures that pretty well.
Seamón: Me on the other hand, I didn’t do a lot of research on that aspect. I did a lot of other research for my character. I kind of wanted a few things to leave unknown. I felt it would help me give a more authentic delivery if there were a few things I didn’t know about. So for example when it came to getting on the army base I really wanted it to feel like Caitlin’s home, so I didn’t really do research to fill my mind with other opinions. I wanted to get there to be there and fall in love with it in my own way. And it was a beautiful base and I learned a lot from talking to the kids who were actually from real military bases.
What was that “base” like for you all?
Grazer: It was totally an experience for the ages! Everybody was so talented and so immersed in their roles. It made for such a good relationship both onscreen and a natural one offset. We really enjoyed each other.
Seamón: It became like another home. Half of the reason was because there were such amazing people there. The building of it was so beautiful see it come together into its final form. A memory that sticks in my memory is the very first scene that I shot. It was such a big moment. I wasn’t ready at all, but I did it, it’s done and it looks very beautiful. I mean, I can say what the first scene I shot was, right?
As long as there are no spoilers.
Seamón: (Laughs) Right! It was the haircutting scene. It was really, really beautiful. It’s my favorite memory from the entire shoot.
It’s a rather eloquent memory. Jack, you have a specific relationship on the show with Chloë Sevigny obviously, because she plays your mother. It’s not stereotypical TV Mom-Son pairing. If you could share about working with her and what that experience was like.
Grazer: It’s so beautiful. As disturbing as it is, the dynamic between us sometimes, it’s more real than any mother and son relationship I’ve ever seen on TV. It’s rarely captured this way and it’s raw and it’s real. These relationships do exist. In life there are inconsistencies with what’s considered “realistic.” There are no normalities in any family that I know, nothing’s conventional. So, like, the relationship between Sarah and Fraser is disturbing and beautiful and a wild ride.
Chloë’s obviously been a major actor on the scene since “Boys Don’t Cry,” did you take away any big tips or lessons?
Grazer: She didn’t give me any big tips on acting, but she is a really incredible person to work with as just a person, as a professional. She was so caring about my safety and sanctity on set. The connectivity between us was very real and not forced.
Jordan, you yourself are also not just into acting. You also do art and music. But after working on “We Are Who We Are,” which discipline are you inclining more towards?
Seamón: Yeah, I have a lot of passions. I don’t know if I can fully say it’s music any more. I still music a lot, but this being my first film experience was so different and revolutionary, it taught me a lot. It made me love acting I want to say, a tad more than music. My mom is gonna look at me like I’m crazy after this interview. But it’s a wonderful way to learn so much about yourself. Sometimes you don’t get that in music.
Now that the show is done and premiering, we’re in this world that’s been totally turned upside down by the pandemic. But what are you two working on despite all the chaos?
Grazer: Well we all die in season two. That’s all I can really say (laughs).
I was going to ask about a sequel, it’s going to be like an “Avengers” thing (laughs).
Grazer: You never knoooow! But I’ve got some stuff cooking in the kitchen and I’m excited about it. Can’t really talk about it, it’s so confidential, it’s annoying.
Seamón: I’ve also got some stuff I can’t really talk about. But aside from acting I do have a documentary coming out about my album. Luca inspired me to dabble, so I dabbled. I’m making a documentary about my album and I’m still doing music and music videos and whatnot. Yeah, that’s pretty much it. Everything else, I’m not allowed to say…yet.
“We Are Who We Are” premieres Sept. 14 and airs Mondays at 10 p.m. ET on HBO.