Every Thursday and Friday, we will be throwing it back to feature interviews with actors and musicians which previously were published in LATF The Magazine (now www.LATFusa.com).
Parker Young spoke with LATF while filming "Suburgatory." Since then, he has starred in a number of binge-worthy projects from "Enlisted" to "Arrow" and "Imposters." You can currently catch him in "Twenties" on BET!
Very often when you meet an actor who brilliantly plays a character on television in person you find out they are exactly like that character in real life. They are basically playing themselves. Not that playing yourself is easy because it's not, but it's still a bit of a disappointment to me. Parker Young plays the dumb jock Ryan Shay to such perfection on ABC's hit comedy SUBURGATORY. I just assumed he would be a total dolt in person. Another one of those "what you see if what you get" type of actor. I figured I would have to speak slowly and only use single syllable words to avoid confusing him. That, it turned out, was not the case. After meeting him I was pleasantly surprised. Sure he has all the outward trappings of the character, the chiseled jaw and the ripped abs but he also has intelligence and wit. He not only knows how to read, he reads books about philosophy. Most dumb jocks can't even spell philosophy. So it's even more impressive to see how convincingly he plays the rube with the ever gyrating pelvis on the show. We got him to turn off the air-humping hips long enough to sit down and tell us how things, other than his butt, are shaking and what it's like to be the newest eye candy on the tube.
When did you first get bit by the acting bug?
I started acting in little things here and there growing up. I really remember being interested in Middle School. Doing theater, a drama class, getting up and doing improv things like that and then I put in on hold while I was in High School to play football. Midway through High School I got back into theater so I was balancing the two.
Where did you go to High School?
In Tucson. Catalina Foothills High School.
Were you the big football hero?
Of course. (chuckles) No, I was Captain of my football team in my senior year. I was on Varsity sophomore, junior and senior year. I was a running back. Never super big. Just a quick little kid.
It's unusual for the Captain to be a running back. It's usually the quarterback that gets that honor.
Right. You know what, looking back, I wish I would have given quarterback a shot but I remember at the time not being a fan of that position because I wanted to be the guy that scored the touchdowns. I wanted to be in the end zone spiking the ball. I didn't just want to be throwing it. I wouldn't get to feel that glory. Looking back on it I compare it to acting and directing. I want to be the guy that gets to do the things not the director who's more of a quarterback. I think as time progresses I think I might want to be the quarterback and try directing.
You must have been pretty popular in High School.
Popular meaning well known? Yeah, I think people knew me and liked me.
You sound hesitant. There's nothing wrong with being the popular kid. Someone's got to be the popular one.
Yeah, someone's got to fill the role. Yeah, yeah, it just sounds so (mocking a stuck up person) "I'm Mr. Popular."
When did you come out to L.A.?
I came out here in '07 pretty much right after High School. A couple of months after graduating I move out here not knowing anybody which I don't recommend. It was not an ideal situation. I moved out here with the intention of going to college. I was going to go to Pepperdine but that never ending up working out. Then I started taking some classes at Santa Monica College but got too busy acting and had to give school up temporarily. I'd like to go back. I was interested in majoring in Philosophy. I'd like to do that someday.
So you moved to L.A. with sort of a combo plan. Acting and college?
I definitely came out to pursue the acting but it just so happened that I was going to go to school out here also. Win/Win. I'm not too far from home. I get to pursue acting and try to major in something that interests me. I'm not sure where Philosophy would have taken me but I just sort of hunkered down and focused on the acting.
People think you just hop on a bus, come to L.A. and the next day get your own TV show. The reality is it's not like that at all.
Oh man, it's hard. It's hard. It's very, very hard.
When did things start to kick in for you?
I was fortunate to book a handful of commercials when I moved out here so I was making money that way. Auditioning all the time. It's not easy. People don't want to just hire somebody that they don't know. It hard for them to put trust in an actor. "Who are you? There's a 1,000 other actors. Why you?" It's very difficult. I did commercials, I guest starred on shows here and there and then this role came along and it just kind of clicked. It actually ended up being a different character than what I had auditioned for. Originally, it was more of the "cocky jock," not so dumb but kind of an arrogant guy. They switched it before filming to a total knucklehead, a total dumb guy which I love playing.
It looks like you're having fun playing the part.
So much fun.
How many episodes have you done?
So far, I've been in 6 of the 14. I'm not sure about the rest of the episodes. The audience likes the character so they are trying to get me in more and more. I just had a huge episode last week. I'm in 8, 11, 13, 14 so they are keeping me consistent. We have a break for Christmas. We've got all December off so I don't know what's to come after that.
I would imagine you're getting a lot of fan mail from both the girls and the boys.
More boys than girls. I think being the innocent, naive, sort of dumb character is more likeable so I'm glad they switched the character from that "kind of a dick, making fun of everyone cliché jock." So people seem to like me. I get to do some shirtless dancing.
Do you have a special regimen you do to keep in shape since you're constantly flashing the abs.
There's a little pressure there. I feel the pressure. They're always referring to my rock hard abs. I eat pretty well. I eat pretty clean food. Work out wise I've always been pretty active but recently I do something called Cross Fit. It's a type of workout that's really intense. Kind of almost a sport. People compete and train in it. You race the clock and you race each other. Bunch of Olympic lifts, and rope climbs and bear crawls and that sort of stuff. Boot camp type stuff. So I do that pretty consistently. They spray tan me on the show which I think helps.
Well let's see. So far you've humped a car, humped a locker. What do they have you humping for the rest of the season?
There are a couple of more objects. I'll hump the closest thing when the music is playing.
So you don't have a problem being the sex object on the show?
No. No. I don't have a problem with it because it's in such a comical light I get to make fun of myself. I don't take myself too seriously.
It's a great character and works really well for the show. The car washing scene was hysterical.
Oh thank you. It was fun shooting. It was on my birthday. It was actually my first day of shooting. They were like, "OK we're not really sure what we want so we're going play some music and just start moving. Action!" I felt like it was an eternity before they called "Cut!" I was working up a sweat, running back and forth, and dancing and spraying and soaping and scrubbing.
And that was your first day of filming? That must have been difficult. Usually you want to build a little trust on the set before you're put in such a vulnerable position. You really had to feel comfortable enough to let down all your inhibitions and just go for it.
I found it kind of a slight blessing. Even in the pilot where I just out of the car and do this crazy dance move it just almost immediately broke the ice. Go all out right away, get it all out on the table and then people see you're willing to do your part for the show and just go there. That's what I love about a lot of the characters and the actors on the show. They just go there. They full out go there no matter who's there, who's watching. I think that kind of a necessary component.
Well I'm sure you won over the crew right away.
It's a funny show but when you're doing take after take after take you have to stop laughing at some point. The boom guys and the camera operators. You just shoot the thing and then you move on. But I love the scenes like that where they call "Action" and I do my thing and everyone's like (he mimics someone trying to hold in a laugh) and then they yell "Cut" and everyone just breaks out laughing. It's fun to have those moments on set.
Crews can be tough audiences. They've seen it all. So when you crack them up you know you're doing something right.
It feels good but then when you do your next scene and they don't laugh you're like , "What's going on?"
Do they play up the romance between your character Ryan and Tessa (actress Jane Levy) in future episodes.
Ryan definitely misses Tessa and tries to win her back a little bit. He's hopeful but he hasn't succeeded quite yet but I think there's room for the romance.
The two of you have very strong chemistry together.
Thank you. That was also my first day on set. Making out with her. First scene of the day 10am and we're going at it. I felt bad for her. It's just odd. Poor girl. She's got the camera right in her face and she has to make out with me...multiple times.
I'm sure many of your fans would have been happy to switch places with her. Do you find yourself getting recognized a lot now?
Here and there. Yeah. People will just tell me love the show. It's awesome to hear. It's nothing overwhelming but I do get recognized.
Are you afraid you are going to get type cast as the dumb jock now?
You know, it's crossed my mind. In person I try to put my "dumb jock" aside so I think I'll be able to sink my teeth into something else and people will respect Ryan Shay but still be able to look past it. Kind of like Ashton Kutcher in THAT 70s SHOW or other guys have done. I'm not overly concerned about it right now.
Is there an actor you look up to or someone's career you would like to model yours after?
Yeah. First thing that comes to mind is Paul Newman. I would love to model my career after his. I think Sean Penn, Clint Eastwood. Brad Pitt has done a great job his whole career. I think that right now Ryan Gosling is really doing a great job. He's someone I look up to. He's working all the time and becoming a true leading man. Yeah, so those guys.
What do you do in your free time?
I haven't had a lot of free time lately. If I'm not on set or auditioning I'm at the gym. I read. I'm in acting class. Those things fill up a lot of my time. I like to go hiking when I can. Movies when I can. I'm at Barnes and Noble when I can. I love philosophy. I'm more into non-fiction than fiction stuff. Reading about philosophers, new age stuff. THE SECRET-esque types books. I also read a lot of plays. I'm reading one now called THE MOON IS DOWN which is really good.
Have you done theater?
In High School. Out here I have not. Just plays in acting class and stuff like that.
Would you like to do a play?
I would love to. I think right now it's not the best time because I'm at the beginning of my career. I think it's important for me to keep doing things that are going to be seen by larger audiences as opposed to theater. I think down the road I would love to do some theater.
It would be a great way to have people in Hollywood see you in a different light.
I just auditioned for something yesterday playing a 22 year old artist, motorcycle riding character, really fun, for a new Lifetime show with Antonio Banderas and Melanie Griffith. It's a completely different role than Ryan. It would be cool if I could recur on the 2 shows with each character being totally different.
What do you see for yourself down the road?
I don't know. I'm just so happy working right now. I'd love to continue on SUBURGATORY just long enough to not get type cast and then see where else I could go. Something different. I love comedy but probably next would be something different, stretch those muscles a bit. Some films. I'd love to get in some movies. At least be a contender at that level.
Originally published in LATF The Magazine
Interview by John Moschitta Jr.