“I like your nails!”
Jack Dylan Grazer is complimenting my chipped black nail polish, although it’s not half as neat as his own. We waggle our hands in front of our respective laptop screens, showing off our digits from either sides of the pond.
His are impressive, though not as artfully designed as the nails of Frazer, the central character Jack plays in We Are Who We Are, the new BBC Three series by Luca Guadagnino, the director who also helmed Call Me By Your Name.
Two men talking about their nails: so far, so progressive. And in this sense, Jack Dylan Grazer, pegged to be ‘the next’ Timothée Chalamet and already Gen-Z-famous for roles in IT and Beautiful Boy, is by his own admission startlingly similar to his character in the show.
Like Frazer, 17-year-old Jack is also still going through education. We talk politics in light of the US Election, and much like everything else we speak about, he is explosively passionate - but also frank about what he still has to learn.
“When it was Mitt Romney versus Barack Obama there was a line between principle and morality and politics,” he says. “And now it’s like these two things have moulded and it’s like who you stand for politically. It’s also a principle thing and moral thing, which is weird, I don’t like that, it creates more division.
“I wish I could’ve voted but there’s so much controversy about whether it even matters or something. Honestly, I don’t know what the fuck I’m talking about, but yes Biden would be my choice, yes.”
Politics isn’t the thrust of We Are Who We Are, at least not in the purest sense. Instead, the show is about identity politics: what makes us who we are in terms of gender and sexuality. In the show, angsty teenager Frazer has moved with his two lesbian mums from the USA to Northern Italy.
There, he meets Caitlin, played by newcomer Jordan Kristine Seamón, and against the poetic backdrop of coastal Italy, but confined within a Christian conservative military base, the two begin to question their own gender expressions.
“I don’t like that people put brackets on people, like the label of ‘you’re this generation,’” Jack says. “Yeah, I mean mathematically, literally, I guess so. But there’s more layers to it than that.
“I would say that if Gen Z was to be translated into an action, I feel like it’s this new enlightenment or something, the introduction of this new awakening of ideas and lifestyles. I think it’s breaking down the concrete initial barrier that humans have built since forever, since there were people saying men should be with women and that’s it.”
He’s on a roll. “And now people are saying ’what about our primal instincts? What about our intuitions which tell me that I’m not attracted to women. What do I do then?′ People are starting to listen to themselves and other people are starting to listen to people listening to themselves and empathise with that because why would you ignore your conscience?”
Surmising his thought, he says: “I think people are becoming more in tune with their conscious, their subconscious and really peeling back the layers of themselves and being proud to display that.”
Jack gained much of his insight on gender and identity from playing Frazer. After the shoot, he had to divorce himself from what felt like an alternative version of himself.
“The hardest thing I think I’ve ever had to do is step away from Frazer,” he laments. “I really had to delve deep into his intonalities and his motives for the things that he did and said. I couldn’t just say these things.
“There’s more scenes of him not having dialogue than having dialogue which means it all relies on the face and that I have to feel these things, and there’s no other way for me to feel these things than to convince myself that I believed in feeling these things. So I would go home and it’s hard to shake that off.
“I’d look at myself in the mirror and be like, ‘Jack, I don’t see any Jack. I see no Jack!’ Jack doesn’t dye his hair, Jack doesn’t do these things.
“And that’s the disturbing thing: to walk away from that is kinda hard… I mean people could say, ’Oh my god, playing Frazer really messed Jack up. No. I think it really opened my eyes to the possibility of life and understanding.”
He describes the show as like a stir of self-enquiry.
“What do I stand for? Who Am I? All these stirring questions. And all these people, whether they find the answer to their questions or not, it doesn’t matter,” he says. “We are who we are because during this journey, we’re discovering things about ourselves.”
He says We Are Who We Are is the acting work he’s most proud of. So, primed from Luca’s stewardship, what next? He isn’t interested in the obvious Timothee comparisons.
“I love Timothee don’t get me wrong, but I don’t like comparing myself to other people really,” he states.
“I want to play every single character. Even when I was little I wanted to play a pirate, I wanted to play Indiana Jones, I wanted to play a spy, I wanted to do all these things. I want to play a sceptic, I want to play someone who isn’t open minded, I want to play it all! I just wanna play pretend, that’s what I wanna do.”
He has an endearing habit of asserting just how passionate he is about experiencing life in the broadest terms. “I want to do everything, I want to do everything,” he repeats.
One of the things he’s learning more about at the moment is fashion. He shows me his new jumper - “it’s like a German thing. It’s cool, it’s vintage” - and has a stylist called Tiffany.
He hasn’t been styled for a red carpet event since February - but tailored clothing or otherwise, Jack looks in good shape for Hollywood: he can’t tell me more about upcoming projects, but the confidence he exudes suggests finding work isn’t a struggle.
First he has to finish school. But right now, nothing will beat a day out skating with his friends - although sadly lockdown has prohibited that. “It’d be really fun to mob again but it hasn’t happened in a while,” he reflects.
“To mob again with all my friends and skate downhill and yell and throw things and be fun like that. I miss that. I miss that a lot.”
We Are Who We Are is on BBC Three and iPlayer now. Watch the trailer below: