Chase Stokes earned my respect immediately when he said that he was wary of signing on for the Netflix series Outer Banks because he thought that it was going to be a remake of The Goonies. Luckily, he saw beyond the secrecy and discovered that Outer Banks aims for a little older crowd, but at the same time has the spirit of feeling like a kid on a quest. There is a mystery and a treasure map, a romance and beautiful scenery, and the feeling of being free and outside (remember that?).
At the heart of it, seeing Chase Stokes will elicit so many “Who is THAT?” positive comments upon viewers watching the series, and he shines as central character, John B. He seems as though he would be a great hang, and based on our exclusive phone interview from his quarantine tent in L.A. (yes, that’s right), we can more than attest that we’re stoked for more Chase Stokes.
The following is a condensed and edited version of our deep rumination with Chase Stokes of Outer Banks.
BT: I may not even be the right demographic for this series and yet I was on the edge of my seat watching the episodes!
CS: Yeah man. Seriously, that means a lot, not just to myself, but I think our writers Shannon (Burke), Josh (Pate) and Jonas (Pate) did such a great job of creating this fictional world that is grounded in reality to which anyone can relate. I think that one of our driving factors and something at which we looked was relatable, that should’ve only been relatable to a younger audience would like Stranger Things and how, all of the sudden, the kids that are grounded in reality, a fantasy / sci-fi type of twist in there show, everybody related to that. Because everybody at some point in their life remembers that time, and I think that was something that we really tried to do, is to bring some authenticity to: “What are kids really doing at 16, 17?”. Like are they really smoking pot, drinking beers and getting into trouble? If we’re being honest? Yeah. Yeah, we are. So I think being truthful about it and not beating around the bush and giving the world some sort of authenticity of the truth you give your kids at that age is something that we really wanted to make sure that we had in the can.
BT: When you watch the series, is there something that translates extremely well on the screen that you may not remember in the same way?
CS: You know, it’s funny, because I worked something like 99 days or 100 out of the production, so there was a lot of stuff of which I remember losing track, and when you watch it back on the screen, you’re like: “Oh my gosh! I totally forgot that we filmed that”, or: “Oh yeah, that’s right, we did do that”, so I think that for me one of the big things was how well the boat chase translated in the first episode. We shot that sequence a couple of different times just to get specific shots that we felt like we didn’t get, and send it over to post. So it was really cool to watch that come together and it was fun, too, because that was all me driving. Growing up on the East Coast and being around boats my whole life, that was an homage to my upbringing and my grandparents who had me drive the boats, when I was learning how to walk and run and ride bikes, it was kind of parallel to that. So seeing that come to life was really, really cool because I think sometimes, especially in certain films and tv, some of the action sequences can come across a little bit jankier and not believable and I think that we did a really good job of bringing all of those sequences to life. I can’t take full responsibility for that because my stunt doubles were phenomenal across the board, everybody who was responsible for a lot of the action sequences was just the crème de la crème in the industry, they did such an amazing job. And not only that, a lot of the fight sequences throughout the show, we did a lot of the work with our stunt coordinator. Like we would do a shot four or five times, all the way through, and then we would have our stunt doubles come in and do it, just in case it felt like there was a specific point that we needed to add a little bit of “oomph” to it. But for the most part, a lot of what you are seeing is actually actors on the show. It’s cool to be in a show that is in that YA demographic, that can sometimes come across a little bit cheesy, because I think that has a stigma to it. But everything is still very real. I watched it back and you kind of forget, I was like: “Am I watching a documentary or a docu-series?”. [laughs] But it’s a fictional story.
BT: How have you enjoyed interacting with Netflix on social accounts and their support for the series?
CS: I think it’s always awesome when you get to align yourself with a company that believes in the content that you are creating. When we shoot these things, especially as a young actor, I think it’s a little bit surreal to see a company like Netflix be as excited about the show as everybody who is as responsible for creating it. It’s been very, very humbling and surreal at the same time, because it’s still one of those ‘pinch me’ things. I think for us in particular, when we were making the show, it felt like we were doing this independent film and hopefully, somehow, some way, it was going to see the light of day, but now that it’s in the world in the way that it is, it’s pretty awesome, man, it’s a rad experience.
BT: What is it about this group that clicked so well considering that you were all strangers at the beginning?
CS: Yeah, it’s weird. We’ve kind of sat down and had these aha! moments together. It’s such a crazy journey to be part of a show in which everybody actually gets along and everybody wants to be around each other, even while we were in Charleston, in the early days of starting the development of the show. I think that we were put in circumstances that were so abnormal for most people, especially actors, you know, you have to do boating lessons, swim training and scuba training and all of these different things together that everything was so surreal and so much fun early on, you have nothing to do but laugh and joke and shoot the shit with these people, and you fall in love with them. I love every single person on the show and it’s been a dream. And I’ve said in an earlier interview, as soon as we got back to L.A., it was an immediate question of “Well, what are we doing tonight?”. It was nothing, there was no lapse in time, no lapse in anything from shooting and it’s just continued to be that way. I definitely think I have to put that up to the casting directors and our producers who somehow found this group of rambunctious kids and went to them and said: “Hey, we’re going to make this tv show and you’re going to be lifelong friends”. It’s been amazing, man. They’re really true friends and that’s a blessing to have all my life.
BT: In the series, John B is the leader of this crew. Do you feel like a bit of a leader, a John B, in real life?
CS: Yeah! I mean I definitely don’t want to toot my own horn, but I think that growing up in an athletic community, I grew up playing all sports, but I grew up predominately playing ice hockey. And I was going to play in college and then do the professional route, but after some injuries happened, I had the realization that I definitely don’t want the lifelong effects of that. I think a lot of that was a good platform, sort of cement grounding for me to establish that, not only with my craft, but hopefully with everything that I do. I mean I do like to rally the troops and make sure that everybody is responsible with their work or doing the backstories and making sure that we are taking care of the things of which we need to be taking care, so that we can hopefully make this show the absolute best that it can be. And I’m also the oldest of seven, so I think a little bit of that shines through as well. When you’ve got so many other siblings and you’re trying to somehow manage that, be an older brother and not cross the lines between being a brother and also a second dad, I think you naturally go to that leadership role.
BT: This series looks incredible, the Outer Banks are stunning. I didn’t realize until afterward that you shot in South and not North Carolina because of the ‘bathroom bill’. Do you have a favourite moment from being there?
CS: To be honest, I would be shooting myself in the foot if I tried to narrow it down to one. To wrap days out in the middle of the water and to come back through the marsh with the sun setting over the horizon is always going to be something that I cherish for the rest of my life. As well as just constantly being with people, and it was every weekend, whether it was going a new restaurant, and Charleston has such an incredible food scene, I mean, it’s one of the top food cities in the country. Whether it was going and eating with everybody, or wrapping on days when the sun was setting, or going down to the harbour, or whatever it is, there’s so many memories, it…[trails off] Again, it goes back to that summer camp thing, it was the most nostalgic thing. I mean some mornings you wake up and you’re like: [sighs] “I wish I was back in Charleston”. It was cool and our creators talked about it a lot, we did want to shoot in the actual Outer Banks, but to film a tv series in an island that doesn’t really have a television infrastructure is tough. But I think that Charleston being a really great hub for film and tv, we had Mr. Mercedes, we had The Righteous Gemstones filming while we were filming, you’re in great hands. But I do think that we did pull off this look and hopefully the world really enjoys it. Sort of the way that I’ve been describing it is that it’s like you’re waiting for David Attenborough of Planet Earth to start narrating it. [laughs]
BT: You did an MTV News interview recently alongside the cast of a selection of Netflix shows geared to YA audiences, (I Am Not Okay with This, Never Have I Ever, Chilling Adventures of Sabrina, The Letter for the King, On My Block, 13 Reasons Why). As well, you and your cast attended the premiere of I Am Not Okay with This. What have you enjoyed most about being slotted in alongside these offerings?
CS: It’s been awesome. One of my really, really good friends, Rich Ellis – he’s actually one of the main characters in I Am Not Okay with This, and it was really cool for him obviously to have his show come out as well, as both him and I found out about the shows at very similar times. I had just gotten the call that I was going to go down to Charleston and I was getting on the plane at LAX, and probably two weeks before that I was at his place and we were doing self-tapes. We were like: [gasps] “Are we really…is this the right choice?”. [laughs] We were kind of second guessing everything and within a month, we were both off on our way in the same family doing the Netflix thing. And on top of that, one of my best friends from high school, Jeremy Pope, he’s the lead in Ryan Murphy’s new Netflix series Hollywood. So it’s kind of a really surreal time to not only be…working, one, which is an anomaly as an actor in the industry, but two, to be doing it not just with friends but people that I have near and dear to my heart that 1. I’ve either grown up with, or 2. gone up with in the Los Angeles scene, that are all doing, not just work, but I can justifiably say that we’re all on quality shows. It’s cool, man, it’s a really exciting time.
BT: How did you and Madelyn Cline establish such incredible chemistry on screen together?
CS: I think it was our ability to be open with each other. I think that one thing that we sat down and talked about with Jonas early on is creating a love story that is true and organic and making something that feels real to the viewers. I think that often we see falsified love on screen and so Jonas, myself and Maddie wanted to make sure that really, we did justice to it. So we got to know each other really well, we’ve all sat down, the three of us on so many different occasions, as well as Maddie and myself and really talked about what it means to give a true, authentic visual of what it’s like to fall in love and bring that back. We looked at so many films, whether it’s The Notebook, anything that [chuckles] Ryan Gosling and Emma Stone seem to do turns into gold. But be authentic in those ways, and in particular, there’s so many moments that you see in the show between her and Topper (Austin North), and then you say the transition in the way that the dialogue is with John B and her. And we wanted to make sure that this was apparent, that we understood the difference between physical intimacy and mental intimacy and intellectual intimacy, because as we know, physicality dies shortly. Intimacy in the intellectual realm is so important. So we wanted to make that apparent and have the younger generation informed that it’s not just about physicality of a relationship, you should want to know somebody’s brain, you should want to know the ins and outs and what makes them tick, and so we spent a lot of time really diving into that. And she’s a great person. I mean she was an incredible partner with whom to work across from and she’s got a bit of a deep soul and she cares about her work. So to work with somebody who is also very passionate about what she does and to be able to share that and want to stay true to the authentic love story with her is a lot of fun.
BT: You said that Uncut Gems is a favourite film of yours. As an actor, how deep do you like to get into roles?
CS: Again, going back to that athletic background that I have, I have a hard time comprehending limits, [chuckles] so for me it feels more immersive when I’m allowed to do things that the character is doing. I never want to take away from another person’s job, so I always make sure that my doubles have the opportunity to do their work, because that’s their job. But I do look up to people, like the Keanu Reeves, like the Tom Cruises, who actually go out there and actually kick ass in their scenes and actually work with these incredible doubles and these incredible people who are worth learning from. It does give you that ability to continue to dive deeper into the subconscious of your character and I don’t want to put limits on it. I think for me as an actor, I want to continue to push the limits of what I can do and what I can’t do. Getting my scuba certification the weekend before I do the scenes..honestly, I’d never done scuba diving. I’d put a mask on once in a pool, and I think that I was 17 at the time, but aside from that, I’ve never gone underwater with scuba gear. And the next thing you know, I’m in a lake, going 25-30 feet down to a sunken boat, diving through trying to find things, and that’s my will to want to do good work at the end of the day. I don’t want to cheat myself, I don’t want to cheat the viewers, I want to make sure that they’re getting the true grit of what this character is going through and I want to make sure that I’m giving him that. So as long as people are tuning into my work and as long as people enjoy it, I’m going to continue to push the boundaries and be somebody who wants to continue to trail blaze for the next generation of actors, to say like: “Hey, let’s do what the greats before us did: continue that path”.
BT: What is the latest on One of Us is Lying as well your involvement with that project on Peacock. Is that still going to be happening?
CS: Yeah, yeah, I’ve been really fortunate to have a good relationship with the producers of that show. NBC and Peacock and Universal Cable Productions, they’re doing a great job. They’re all doing the responsible thing and taking their time with it, but I think we’re still looking like everything is going to be good to go. We’re going to try to get it done in a professional and safe way. But yeah, we’re still attached to that, still looking forward to going back and working with those guys and to continue the resume growing in the way that it is. I’m super excited about that project as well.
BT: Obviously, plans have changed in terms of promoting. What does it mean to you to have new ways for people to see this show?
CS: Yeah, I think first and foremost I want to say that the safety of the people around the world is the most important thing, so continuing to focus on the initiative to stay inside and practicing sanitary habits and keeping ourself clean and keeping our living environments clean as well and making sure that other people around us are doing the same is the most important thing. But I think on top of that, to have a glimpse of a reality that some people would be living right now, going on beach vacations, on spring break, with kids across the world, traveling and stuff like that, I think we’re giving a little bit of relief during a very scary time in the world. So I think it’s sort of a double-edged sword. We obviously feel a little bit guilty that we have a show coming out during this time, and we’re not promoting it in the normal ways that you would promote a show. But I think also we’re optimistic because we’re giving people something that the world will enjoy and will get them away from the harsh reality of what we’re going through right now and give them something in which to really sink their teeth and be excited, have a lapse of distress and anxiety that this COVID-19 situation is bringing everybody.
BT: What is it going to mean to you when this show debuts and an international audience gets a chance to see it on a Wednesday?
CS: I think it’s exciting. I think that Netflix is being really smart with the way that they are releasing shows, and when you go back to the days of cable releases, Wednesday nights were the nights that everybody gathered around the couch and dove into a new tv series, that’s when the new episode was coming out, so I think it’s cool to be a little bit nostalgic in that sense. But I think that it will be cool, man! I think that it will be cool for people to have the time to sit down and really, really watch it. I think that sometimes we’re so consumed with everything outside of life being a factor in how we’re consuming things. It’s a really cool opportunity to really dive into something and get gritty and really sink their teeth into it in a way that I think if we weren’t living in this time frame and with everything going on, we might not be as invested in something. I think that we’ve gotten a lot of great feedback in the comments and from people who have seen the trailer. Most of the reviews have been pretty optimistic. Hopefully, you know, people around the world continue to feel the same way, and they dive into this show with an open mindset and enjoy what we’ve spent the last year kind of cooking in the crockpot.
Outer Banks is now streaming on Netflix