Nature is a sanctuary away from the noise. Hidden away, it’s easier to let the mind wander, allowing deep breathes to capture every thought that would otherwise drown in the mindless status quo. “My mind works so much better in nature. It flows better. When I was younger, I used to write poetry in my backyard. I just feel better when I’m out in the sun," says actor Jack Dylan Grazer as he revels in the thought of growing up in the diverse ecosystem of LA. “You get the mountains, the ocean, the weather, the ski slopes, the hills…”.
At 11:15 pm, actor Jack Dylan Grazer picks up the phone, with great enthusiasm - which is just what I need after a long day. Usually, at this time of day, I scroll Netflix for an hour for something to watch but somehow end up in the depths of YouTube instead. Since London is eight hours ahead of Los Angeles, Jack, who is still juggling school and acting, hurried home from his last class of the day in order to catch me before the edges of night consume me (translation: before I pass out). The 15-year old actor is in the process of conquering the world of cinema, with 12 credits already to his name. This year he is set to appear in comedic superhero flick Shazam! and the anticipated horror sequel IT: chapter Two.
When I tell him the time, he asserts, “you gotta get to sleep…”. So we dive in on the deep end and start with the most existential of existential questions: “Who is Jack?”. “Someone who has found the thing he loves to do and continue to do it and doesn’t let anything get in the way - who perseveres and enjoys life,” he replies. I discover Jack is just a normal teenage boy for whom normal teenage stuff sparks joy: “Playing the flute, skateboarding, hanging out with friends, but mostly my main passion which is acting. These things make me happy. I’ve been playing the flute for about three and a half years. My dad played the flute and I thought it was cool, so I picked it up. I play the drums too”.
Photographer Rachael Wright captures the young actor in a grand display of colourful ensembles, fashioned by Charlie Brianna. Retro patterns, oversized layers, divergent textures, and exaggerated lettering frame the young creative. He claims the garments as an extension of himself or rather, a variation of self. As a painter crafts a vision on a blank canvas, the body and inner life of the actor becomes the canvas on which he constructs the character. With a paintbrush, the painter discovers a vision with colours and strokes, while the actor explores feeling, expression, movement, and intent - developing the qualities of the character.
Throughout the interview, I can’t help myself but applaud the boy for all he has accomplished at such at an early age. He accepts each compliment with a humble thank you, because as he says, “I’m a normal kid, I go to school, and I hang out with my friends”. Then he goes to set and acts in magical films, but then it’s back to class. I’m impressed with his commitment to both education and acting: “School is very important to me, so I make sure that is always in my schedule. It is quite a switch being on set and then going back to school. It’s kind of a quick switch. I turn it on and off. But I get it done”.
Jack experienced a bit of fangirling recently when he worked with his idol, comedic but also dramatic genius Steve Carell in the critically acclaimed Beautiful Boy - playing the younger version of Timothée Chalamet: “Oh my god, it was mind-blowing because I love him so much. He is like the number one on my list of favourite actors. To work with him this early in my career is wacky - it’s insane! He is incredibly kind-hearted and genuine. I was quite nervous when I first met him but after like thirty seconds I forgot about the fact that he is Steve Carell!”.
5th April, the DC film Shazam! premiers in cinemas, in which Jack plays foster kid Freddy Freeman who becomes the sidekick of Shazam, the superhero which his foster brother Billy Batson transforms into whenever he shouts the word “Shazam”. “Freddy and I have a lot in common. We are both quite charismatic and confident. I was just in love with the fact that I was acting in a DC universe film. I grew up on DC as opposed to Marvel. My favourite character on earth is Batman. Being in a DC movie is just beyond. I was so ecstatic just to be offered an audition for that”.
Superhero films have long been topping the box office. Do we all wish to be the ‘hero’ who saves the day? Perhaps that's why these cinematic adventures engage us all - across genders and age. We’re at a point in time where we need the ‘everyday’ heroes - to face the threats of climate change, post-truth media and politics, inequality, and discrimination. I ask Jack what power he would have if he was a real-life superhero: “Probably something like time control. Go forward or backwards or stop. If I went back in time, I wouldn’t change anything, I would just re-watch it”.
Unfortunately, Jack is sworn to secrecy and is unable to reveal anything about the anticipated sequel to IT, allegedly set 27 years after the plot of the first film. He will be resuming his role as shy Eddie Kaspbrak, revealing the film will consist of flashbacks. IT being a Stephen King horror flick, I was curious about his interactions with Bill Skarsgård, who plays the villainous clown Pennywise: “Well, it was actually the perfect amount of interaction off screen because mostly I’d see him at dinner or when we wrapped for the day. The majority of the time interacting with him was when he was in his costume. Five minutes before filming he would transform into Pennywise and do all this weird stuff and be really freaky. Whenever we went into a scene there was no Bill Skarsgård left and only Pennywise, which was terrifying. I wasn’t scared, but I understood why my character would be scared. That’s the craft“.
Alongside the two major blockbusters Shazam! and IT: Chapter Two, Jack has the indie project, Don’t Tell a Soul, in post-production, acting alongside a talented cast of Mena Suvari, Rainn Wilson, and Fionn Whitehead: “It was really cool and it’s an original story by Alex McAylay. It is unique, creative, nerving and really intriguing. My character Joey was interesting to play because it was intense and a lot of fun. It is about two teenage brothers and their rivalry, which gets them into trouble. Fionn [Whitehead] is great to work with - we basically became brothers while filming. Rainn was awesome, and now I can say I’ve worked with the two best characters from The Office!”
Catch Jack Dylan Grazer as Freddy Freeman in DC comic film Shazam! in cinemas worldwide Friday, 5 April.