West Coast, California, where sunshine lives forever. East Coast, New York, where the haunting ticking of clocks is ingrained in every moment. Parallel universes separated through location, mentality, landscape and morals. Two islands with contrasting personalities and mismatched characteristics; two places that actor Sean O’Donnell
now calls home. The Long-Island born actor once purchased a one way ticket to Los Angeles in search of a new chapter. Now three years later with his feet firmly in the midst of warm California sand and a leading role in a feature film in his pocket, he continues to grind in that city boy way.
Everything comes back to your hometown, where memories are fresh; the faces, the smells, the sounds. Will the sun ever shine brighter and fonder than a street light in your hometown? It can be difficult to breathe in unfamiliarity, but sometimes moulding your footwork towards the future entitles accepting change and in turn a new road can offer new perspectives and possibilities. Carry always a homegrown taste in your morning coffee cup, but sometimes step out and try a different flavour. Sean will always be a New Yorker in mind and soul, but he took the brave jump into the Californian sea in order to pursue his dream. Now with an enchanting twinkle in his eye, he follows a vision and unravels it in every path he walks.
Framed forever in the golden mile landscape of Los Angeles by Nicola Collins
, where the breeze sits in your palm and the sun traps you in a whimpering haze, Sean’s enchanting eyes are brought to life. Through Teena Collin’s
natural aesthetic, the use of delicate sky colours replicating the fresh scent of sea salt and crashing waves. Wearing oversized knitwear and shirts by brands Goetze and American Apparel, the clothes flow off Sean’s body and contrast with the bisque surroundings, representing the freedom the landscape provided him.
Which road does the future lead to? I would like to feel that West Coast real, but for now the big city keeps in my dreams.
Above Left: Jumper by AMERICAN APPAREL
Above Right: Top by AMERICAN APPAREL
Above: Top by FAAN
Tell us about yourself.
I’m 21 years old and from Long Island, New York. Although I’ve been living in LA for three years, I will always consider myself a New Yorker until the day I die. East Coast is the best coast.
Why are you in LA?
On my graduation day, my parents gave me a one way ticket to Los Angeles and I never came home. I came over for acting and it’s just been madness since. I had never done anything in the industry before I came here, so as soon as I got here I just did as much as I could. I went to loads of classes and did a whole bunch of training, basically jumped in head first. Eventually I booked my first little thing, which was for Disney, and then after a lot of work, I got my first lead role in a feature film which comes out next month called 'Mamaboy'. It will be really exciting to finally see some of the hard work pay off. It was shot in Northern California and took about two months. It was such a cool experience, but I’m really nervous to see myself on screen. I find it really cringe, so I don’t know if I’ll be able to watch it. My mother said she doesn’t want to watch it, because she finds it so weird. The movie is kinda weird too, because I play a pregnant man.
What’s a day in the life of Sean like?
Wake up, eat a lot. I love my food!. Then I usually go through social media and see what I missed the night before. I’ll then prepare for an audition I have that day and get into the head space of that character. The audition will take up most of the day, then I’ll probably go home and have to prepare for next day’s audition. Here and there in between I have to do all the normal stuff like laundry and shopping, but I’m definitely not a party boy. I don’t smoke or drink or any of that, and I don’t go out really, so my parents don’t have to worry about me. I like to think that I work pretty hard and I don’t want to get distracted on the way. I have quite a few set goals, providing for my family is probably my main one, that’s all I really need in life to be happy. It sounds odd, but I’d like to be a star in an animated movie. I love them, and because I have younger siblings I’d love to make something they can enjoy. It’s definitely all about family with me, always has been and always will be.
What do you do when you're not acting?
I play a lot of soccer. I started very young, because I wanted to be like my older brother. I played nationally for a few years, and that’s what I was gonna go to college for, but California kind of got in the way. I think the discipline of the game has definitely translated into my acting career and how to work hard.
You’re going to London soon, what are your plans there?
It will be like a vacation, a welcomed break. I wanna go to the West End and see some theatre. Oh and do a lot of English stuff like have fish and chips.
Above Left: Jacket and Trousers by GOETZE
Above Right: Shirt by GOETZE
What music are you into?
My parents raised me listening to everything from smooth Jazz to Rock music. I really do appreciate all types of music, and it’s funny because I’ll play a really obscure song and my mother will love it. I played the violin for years, and that was just because there was a girl in the orchestra that I really fancied, so I wanted to get to know her. It’s always about women isn’t it? They just ruin your life, haha. It didn’t even happen with her either and seven years later I was like just like; 'what the hell am I still doing here?!' It taught me how to read music though, so I guess it was a good experience.
Do you have any idols?
I’d say Matt Damon has had quite an influence on my acting career, especially his younger self when he used to write more gritty, independent movies. Writing is something I’d really like to expand on, it’s like sharing your soul with the world and I think that's amazing.
Is there anything about you that people don’t know?
I have this scarring habit that every time I go into a bathroom, wherever I am in the world, even if I’m by myself at home, I lock the door behind me. This is because when I was younger, I used to share a bedroom with my brother and he would always come in the bathroom when I was in there and completely terrorise me. You know, chuck ice cold water and shaving foam all over me. I realised it about a year ago that I’m now obsessed with locking doors behind me, haha. I always wear my socks inside out as well, the little line across the toe really bothers me so I have always wore mine inside out. Weird right?
What’s it like having over a million followers on Instagram?
It’s interesting, people could say it’s both bad and good, but at the end of the day I don’t think I’ll ever come to terms with it. I’m just a small town kid from New York that hasn’t done much. It’s definitely flattering, and I did work hard for it I guess. I remember about six years ago when I was still in high school, I got like 5000 followers, which was a big deal for back then! It’s been kinda crazy though, I’ve done a few meet and greets with people and that’s always really surreal and unbelievably flattering. It’s definitely an interesting world, but I will always stay down to earth and grounded. I wouldn’t ever say terms like “my fans”, because I don’t feel worthy or deserving of that. I will always try and interact back with people, because they’ve taken the time out of their day to comment on my stuff, so why wouldn’t I do the same back? I just wanna give them something back.
Above: Jumper and Jeans by AMERICAN APPAREL
Above Right: T-shirt Sean's Own
How would you describe Sean in three words?
Reserved, funny and mysterious. I say funny, because I think I’m hilarious, maybe other people don’t, haha. And I’d say mysterious, because I’m not really an open book. I don’t give a lot away on social media, as I think a level of mystery is always good.
What would you say the biggest different between New York and LA?
New York has a pulse of its own. It’s like a tiny island with loads of people on it and everyone is on some kind of grind, whereas LA is very spread out and everyone is chilled out doing their own thing. I think LA can be very lonely, whereas I think New York has everything.
Do you think there is a different mentality in both places?
Everyone always thinks people from New York are assholes, but we’re really not - we’re just pretty focused. I think there is a lot of fakeness and social climbing in LA, which might be a big reason why I don’t go out a lot in LA. I only have a few friends here and that’s for a reason, I only want to be friends with people that are actually friends with me not all the other stuff. I guess it happens everywhere, everyone is a part of this big rat race at the moment. I was guilty of it when I first moved out here, because I didn’t know anyone and I was nervous. but then I was like; 'what the hell am I doing?' I want to be genuine and in turn only be friends with genuine people. It was definitely a learning curve when I moved out here at 18, I’m quite happy that I now have a perspective on myself and I’m only 21, it definitely helps with my acting too. Being focused and comfortable with yourself is very important, there is no way I could have played a pregnant man on screen if I wasn’t.
Tell us more about this role.
It was definitely an odder moment in my life. It was very fun to do, but I still took it very seriously. I did a lot of research on being pregnant, had a lot of phone calls with my mother and studied how to walk etc. I’m one of five children, so I definitely had a lot of empathy for pregnant women before hand - even more so now, it’s so hard! The first day I became 'pregnant' on set I was like; 'wow this is crazy'. I rang my mother straight away after and was like; 'I love you so much, you did this for me and my siblings, wow' - it was definitely not easy. I got to work with babies on set too, which was a crazy experience and a great first project for me to do. I learnt a lot, and I think it has made me a lot better for the next project, which is all you can wish for.
'Mamaboy' premiers 20th October at the Arclight Theatre in Hollywood, see more at the website. You can also check out the trailer.
Words by Ede Dugdale.