Los Angeles, that growing, sunny California city - where dreamers from all over the world migrate in search of their own versions of success - is already opening its arms to another young dreamer; 17-year-old actor Aidan Alexander. Prolific at his young age, Aidan, who's been in Los Angeles for just about two years now, has many talents and already a body of work worthy of admiration - including writing and directing a short film at the tender age of 12.
Originally from Boise, the quiet capital city of Idaho, Aidan admits to having gained an advantage by contrasting the two cities he calls home; "Growing up in Idaho, I noticed I always talked to fill empty air, just 'cause it's very quiet. The cool thing about being in LA is I get to do a lot more listening and observing, so I've learned a lot about people that way." But Idaho's stillness has also helped; "It was very slow, so it gave me a lot of time to think, which I think has benefited me."
On a Thursday afternoon, shortly after wrapping his Boys by Girls shoot by Shanna Fisher, we sit down with him in the basement of a classic, old downtown LA building on bustling Los Angeles Street - the playground of this shoot. The topics of discussion; the things that make Aidan. His short film '.270' has received accolades and taken home the Grand Jury Prize at the New York International Screenwriter’s Awards. He has just wrapped the movies 'F*&% the Prom', 'A Cowgirl's Story', and 'Vikes', and finished filming the latest seasons of the shows 'Love' and 'Student Body President', whose premiere he'll attend this evening. "It's been really, really crazy, but it's been fun", he gushes.
Stylist Michael St Michael dresses Aidan in youthful comfort-wear, as the young actor shows you the city that is now his own - a place where air is no longer empty or needs to be filled with words. Shanna lets him run around this new playground, as she captures the colors of the city. Los Angeles is buzzing, and Aidan is taking it all in.
What was your experience like at today’s shoot?
It went really well and was a total blast. It was a really fun environment, and really creative. We got to do a lot of weird, avant-garde-esque things, and there were a lot of really cool unique elements to it. It was really fun! We shot it around here around downtown LA and the blocks around us.
How would you describe who Aidan Alexander is?
I learn more about myself every day, so ask me that in 25 years and I'm sure I'll have a better answer for you, haha. I like to think that I'm super open-minded and I'm very into the creative - it’s a big part of who I am. I moved to LA for acting when I was 14, and stumbled across some people that did YouTube. I loved the editing process of creating little projects, but as I started to get busier and working more as an actor this took focus. Now, I see myself primarily as an actor who also has music coming that he is very excited about.
With Generation Z, we’re seeing a new breed of exciting young talent who are comfortably playing across different art forms.
Totally, acting and music are two of the biggest forms or self-expression, so they go very well hand in hand. I respond very well to music, whether it’s the score in a film or growing up with my mum playing Janis Joplin and Fleetwood Mac - I’ve always been very responsive to that and it always evoked a lot of emotion. So has acting, so I thought: “why can’t I do both?”
You're a guy with many creative outlets; music, acting, writing, and you've also directed...
Yeah, when I was 12-years-old, I wrote and directed a short film called 'In the Shadows'. That was my directorial debut, but that's all I've done. I would love to direct when I'm older though. I think that would be a really, really cool experience. I've always wanted to direct.
How have these outlets helped define who you are? Do you have a label for yourself?
I would say I'm definitely a creative. They really go hand in hand, letting me voice my opinion and what I'm passionate about. It's just another place and another platform for people to see who I am - what I stand for. It's also a cool way for me to be connected to other people. Even before I was on social media - and this is so, especially in these times, so like predator-esque - but I would go on Facebook and just add random people. I totally could have gotten prayed upon, but thank god I wasn't, just because I thought it was so interesting to meet all these other kids from around the world. I talked to some kid from Malaysia and translated everything he said and responded back with. I just love the idea of connecting with mass amounts of people, it's really interesting.
You filmed quite a few projects this year including films like ’A Cowgirl’s Story’, ‘F*&% the Prom’ and ‘Vikes’, as well as short film‘.270’. The short film, about two friends who take a rifle into the mountains and ‘return with a secret’, won the Grand Jury Prize at the New York International Screenwriter’s Awards. That's pretty cool.
Yeah, it's been a really, really crazy year! It's been super busy - I'm so lucky. Yeah, and I just wrapped a project in Iowa, the last week was night shoots, so I was working like 6 pm to 5 am and it was brutal. It was 8 degrees. I cried one day and my tears were freezing on my face. I was like; 'I have to get out of here'. I just wrapped 'F*&% the Prom' and 'Mr. Student Body President', it's been a busy year. I did 'Love' on Netflix, as well. It's been really, really crazy, but it's been fun.
Did you enjoy any project more than the others?
No, they've all been really, really fun. I loved filming 'Love', just because I loved the show prior to booking it. I think Paul Rust is the funniest and smartest, one of the best writers ever. I really look up to him. Gillian Jacobs is hilarious. Judd Apatow is obviously incredible. So, that was probably one of my favorites.
What about projects in the upcoming future?
Yeah, this show that I shot in Iowa, I'm really excited for everyone to see that. And there are some cool projects that I can't go too far into detail on, but are definitely very, very fun. I'm very excited for 2018.
I know you mentioned you wanted to direct in the future. Are there any other creative outlets you are looking forward to exploring?
Yeah, I've been getting really, really into music. It's something I've been delving into a lot. It has always been an instrumental part of my life, and I'm always listening to music. So, that's gonna be exciting, it will be different. It's not something I'm used to. It's not really a world I know too much about, but I think it's now or never, you know? I'm just excited to do something different.
What is it like being from Idaho, how has that shaped who you are?
It's very slow there. Growing up in Idaho, I noticed I always talked to fill the empty air, just 'cause it's very quiet. The cool thing about being in LA is I get to do a lot more listening and observing. So I've learned a lot about people that way. I've also just learned a lot about people being from Idaho, because you see different people from all walks of life and it's very interesting. I just really like people, so it was cool. It was very slow, so it gave me a lot of time to think, which I think has benefited me.
What role has your family played in who you are becoming?
A big part. My mum is one of my favorite people, she's super hardworking. She played a big part. I think my entire family is just really smart and very driven, which is very motivating.
What is life in LA like for a young creative?
Working, working, working. I'm in bed by 9 pm every night. I'm like an old person. It's been really busy, but good. I love the beach. Whenever it's winter or cloudy I'm like morbidly depressed, so I love the sunshine. It's great.
What part of town do you live in?
In between West Hollywood and Miracle Mile, kind of by the groove. Like Beverly Grove area, I think it's what it's called.
How important is social media to you?
I view social media the way, I think, a lot of people my age do. Sometimes it's super toxic, sometimes it's super important. I think it's my duty on social media to advocate things that I think need to be voiced or things that don't have enough of a spotlight on them. It's important in that sense, and sometimes it's hard to remember that you need to step away from it at times. There's good and bad in everything, and I think social media is one of those things.
I know you use your social media presence to raise awareness for causes and organizations that are close to your heart. Tell me a bit more about this.
Yeah, I work actively with a lot of charities. Boxed Water Is Better, Pencils of Promise, Dosomething.org - there are a lot of things I believe are really important to talk about and to be involved in.
I don’t normally tweet, but I did read one of your recent tweets and I found it very amusing; “There’s nothing more depressing than checking your phone and having no notifications”. Can you elaborate? How important is constant interaction?
Right, yeah, it's too real. I'm very self-deprecating on Twitter. I mean, I really like talking to people, and it's a fun way to communicate. Sometimes it's just fun to be silly. Not everything has to matter so much. That's why I like Twitter.
Where do you find inspiration?
Everywhere. In books, I like to read a book per week. I'd say books and films. Watching other people do things that I want to do is very inspiring to me - I like studying them. I definitely draw inspiration from people I look up to a lot.
Who do you look up to?
Meryl Streep, Leonardo DiCaprio, Robert De Niro, Annette Bening, Sylvia Plath, André Aciman - there are too many to even count.
You will be releasing music this year. What is your creative process when it comes to music?
I’ve been writing poetry since I was little, so a lot of my music comes from that. I like to transcribe my inner ramblings into readable words, and then I typically write my melodies afterward with the words in mind. My phone is my vault. I usually write a lot of my lyrics prior to going into the session. Then I’ll go in and push all these ideas to the producer - it’s very collaborative. Sometimes we'll also freestyle it a bit.
What do you want to communicate through the music you will be releasing?
Circling back to Gen Z, I love writing about being young and sometimes not being taken seriously because you’re young and how scary it can feel. I know that sounds a bit naive, 'cause I know things are hard when you’re older and have to pay rent and get health insurance and things like that, so I hate to be that teenagers that says: “I’m young and life is so hard” - but there is a lot of isolation that you go through when you’re young, and there are a lot of difficulties, you know. Especially with our current socio-political standing, it’s a scary time, so I want my music to resonate with people who are unsure about how things are going to be and are ready to take on the world. I like to write really truthfully, much to my mother’s dismay. Sometimes I’ll write about a bar I’ve been in, and she’ll say: “What do you mean, a bar, you’re not 21?”, and I’m like: “Ah, about that mother….teenagers do things.” I want my music to evoke something in somebody, to turn in on and feel comforted by it.
Your voice is pretty smooth and comforting.
Oh, thank you! Maybe it's because I grew up listening to Stevie Nicks?
With such a large following, how does it feel to share your lyrics and poetry with the world?
I love being able to share. Sharing my own poetry can make me feel really vulnerable at times, but it can also be freeing. Growing up I felt very trapped in my head, and I believed my thoughts were weird and nobody related to me being such an oddball. So to be able to release poetry and see others connecting with it is a special feeling, and I’m hoping it will be the same with my music. I want to inspire people. It also feels good to get things out of your head. Sometimes it feels like you don’t want to think, so you just want to write it down and force it on everybody else, haha. Writing something down that has been bothering you for a while can actually relieve you of a lot of built up emotions. My first song is called “I Don’t Love You”.
True story? How would you describe the sound of your music?
Yes, haha! Alternative dreamy pop; Lorde-esque, Troy Sivan-esque, and a little Mac DeMarco-esque. It’s very soft spoken and is not begging to be applauded. It doesn’t have these huge massive breakdowns that people will roll to at music festivals, but instead is very simplistic, dreamy and alternative.
Do you see any similarities between your content curation and creation for your social platforms, your work in film and television, and with your music creation?
I notice many similarities between my work in film and television and my music, just because I’ve played those angsty characters, and I kind of am that angsty character, much to my mother’s dismay at times. Because I am young and like to wallow in my youngness and the feeling of being misunderstood, not knowing how to handle things yet - I can connect with the characters I play. The biggest familiarity is the self-expression; the feeling I get on set and the feeling I get when I finish a track. It’s a great way to express myself.
How would you describe what happiness is?
That's a big one. I would say happiness is simply being very content with where you're at. And I'd say happiness is doing the things that you enjoy doing, and just doing what you want. Not really paying attention to what others around you want you to do, as much as what 'you' want to do. I think that's very instrumental in being happy. But I think happiness as a whole is just... knowing that things are gonna be ok, you know? And knowing that there's good and bad in everything, and you just kind of have to find that balance. Like who you are, you know, and see yourself the way everyone around you probably sees you. That's what I would say.
What are your thoughts on fashion and image? How important are they?
Still getting better at fashion. I think image is really important. Especially in this business, image is a big part of it. I'm terrible at branding and imagery and have yet to master it, but it's definitely important. I think you have to be consistent and also genuine and authentic.
Do you have a dream role?
I'd love to play Leonard Peacock in 'Forgive Me Leonard Peacock'. It's a book by Matthew Quick, and it's one of my favorite novels. They're making it into a film. It's like really meaty and juicy, so I'd love to do that.
What mark would you like to leave on the world?
I would just like change where we're at, you know? I think there are so many injustices. We're obviously in a lot better place than we were 50 years ago, I mean some could argue that, but for the most part we're doing better. I still think there's so much that we need to do and I'd love to help do that, you know? As simple as that.