Variety has named Joey Pollari one of their young actors to watch and it’s easy to see why. Within just a few years he is starting to gain quite an impressive resume. With movies from the Disney Channel to the American version of The Inbetweeners. Currently Joey can be seen in ABC’s American Crime as Eric Tanner. A young man struggling with his sexual identity.
You’re in the new season of American Crime. Can you tell our readers what it’s about?
American Crime this season is a different story from last season. It’s an anthology series. It follows a young high school student that is essentially assaulted at a captain’s party and accuses a member of the basketball team of rape. This show follows how that accusation not only affects two of the people that are believed to be involved in the sexual assault but also affects their families, class, education, and political assumptions.
The subject matter this season is very sensitive. Did you feel a certain responsibility bringing this particular character to life?
There’s definitely a responsibility that comes with any heavy subject material. However, we were in such good hands with John Ridley and Michael McDonald and their team of writers. From the get go, script one, it was such nuanced and resonance in the words that, to me, it was easy to follow the script that was given to me and to do it in the best way that I could. It really was on the page. I do feel very, very grateful for that. They handle it in such a beautiful way. Even though it is topical and sensitive for so many people. I think they really do get to the heart of the matter in a very interesting way that takes a lot of growth.
This question is from Mark Smith on Twitter. How challenging/what has it been like to create/understand this character for yourself?
It was a challenge episode to episode. For this character Eric specifically who is accused of this crime and my job as an actor is to defend this character without moral judgment. Which is difficult considering that it’s up to the audience whether or not he deserves a chance or opportunity to fight.
It is written with such an unapologetic tone in the exact sense of the word towards this character. He has such an on the page consciousness and a driving force for what he is fighting for and the image that he is trying to protect. So while it was difficult, the only difficulty was in just committing to these words they had written episode after episode. It was a beautiful and startling look at this character as a closeted homosexual man and struggling so much with his masculinity and efforts of aggression. It really blew me away. So that was difficult but rewarding none the less.
What is it like working with such an amazing cast on American Crime?
Humbling. That’s the first word that comes to mind. I remember that first time we sat down for that first table read with all of these actors from some of our new players, including myself, to Andre Benjamin to Hope Davis to Lili Taylor, who I watched on Six Feet Under for years, I watched every episode of Six Feet Under, to Felicity Huffman, who performed last season, to Timothy Hutton, who I saw in Ordinary People as a teenager. It was surreal.
Learning from them about not only how to defend characters but move forward and process with new directors. The kind of conversations and how to have them on set about the character and about the work. It was humbling to say the least.
How did you get into acting?
As a kid I was The Hunchback of Notre Dame hanging off my vacuum as a 2-year-old and I was always performing. It was just sort of a natural progression. I had heard a, I don’t know if this kind of thing exists anymore but back then when I was in 1999/2000 there was a radio commercial saying “Come on down to the Minneapolis convention center. There’s going to be agents and managers”. My mom gave a no because I think she thought it wouldn’t be real or wasn’t sure about that business in general and smartly so, but we ended up going and I got representation. I was already doing some community theater around Minnesota and one thing led to the next and suddenly I had a commercial agent and representation out in LA. It just fell into place it seemed and with my passion for it things opened up for me to follow that passion.
How do you feel your education in acting has helped you as a professional actor?
It’s a very precarious thing. It’s an abstract art in a lot of ways. It’s hard to speak to. That being said, every character I’ve played I’ve learned some part of myself. In any creative process working with other people you learn collaboration and artistic expression and showing more of myself in every role. Hopefully, now I’m going to deeper and darker corners, as with this character, and sort of finding the way in. I guess acting is an education in empathy in some ways. I’ve been very grateful to work with such incredible talent that I have learned so much about how to follow passion in the right way and educate myself on that and make sure that I’m happy in the process of doing such work.
Were you a fan of the UK version of The Inbetweeners before you were cast as Will in the US version?
I had not heard of it. I am a hermit. I live inside a cave with books and movies but when I did hear of it and audition for it I decided to watch all of them. Not at our creators behest but I did anyway and I think it’s one of the funniest new comedies and adult teen comedies in a long time. I am a huge fan of it and I love how we went with a different direction with it. I have the utmost respect for Iain and Damon those creators and for those actors for creating something that became very strange for them. They said it became sort of a grass-roots effort that the show became. Sort of like a cultural cornerstone for so many teenagers and young adults. It’s fantastic.
The UK version of The Inbetweeners is quite cheeky. Were you nervous having to do some of those scenes?
(laughs) You know I think I have more nerves in real life than I do on set. There’s something about being another character that opens the valve and it’s like, “Ok I can’t wait to do this without the actual real reprecautions of these very embarrassing moments.” I get to do that in a safe space so actually I love doing that stuff. Especially when it’s comedy. That is an absolute blast.
How was it working for Disney on the movies Skyrunners and Avalon High?
Those experiences changed my life in a lot of ways. I had never traveled for work before. I was in Toronto for some part of the first quarter of Skyrunners and then we shot in New Zealand. Avalon High was also shot over in New Zealand. The experience and culture over there at such an informative age. I was 14/15/16. I met some people who are still my best friends. I met an incredible crew. I learned how to be on set. If that makes sense. How to show up for work prepared. I loved those experiences and being at such a young age with older actors in a beautiful location, I think it probably had more impact on me then. I know in a lot of ways I felt myself heavily influenced by New Zealand and it’s culture and those people during that time.
What was your reaction when you heard Variety had named you as a young actor to watch?
It’s flattering and humbling to see that the work that’s being done since I was young and now is being recognized on a bigger scale. Every step of the way all those things are very, very nice but they are just bigger steps and steps towards the next project and working with more talented people. To get to work with talented crews. It’s exactly where I want to be. Working with people who are pushing envelopes and giving me the opportunity to show and explore within my passion. That’s a beautiful thing.
We at Talk Nerdy With Us all have something nerdy/geeky about us. What is something nerdy/geeky about you?
Man I think all my friends would call me a nerd about all my passions. (laughs). I’m nerdy about music and I’m nerdy about my books. Those two things. I live inside of a cave of those two. things.
What is your favorite book?
I actually have more favorite authors than books. So recently I’ve been getting into Thomas Pynchon. I read two of his books this last year that absolutely blew me out of the water. Roberto Bolano, I love. I keep finding new people and the old people who I used to really love are now being superseded by new authors that are pushing envelopes right now. I’m reading Jorge Luis Borges, his short story collection and collected essays Labyrinths. It is absolutely stunning.
Yeah books are pretty wonderful. They can take you to anywhere in the universe you want to go. You just open up a book.
I think that’s it. The opportunity to live many lives. I think that’s why we like movies as well and I’m a fiend for books that I just inhabit for a long while. (laughs)
Trust me a lot of the people who work with TNWU love books just as much as you do.
Oh I love that. (laughs) Book lovers unite!