Exclusive Interview with Zac and Mia’s Kian Lawley

Kian Lawley is part of a generation of young talent that started out on YouTube, but has now used that platform to launch them to success in whatever arena they desire. Lawley used his Internet fame to help him get started in acting, a passion of his he has always wanted to pursue. Although he’s been involved in other projects, his breakout role is that of Zac Meier on the hit show, Zac and Mia, which even earned him a Daytime Emmy nomination.

I got the chance to talk to Kian about whether acting was always a part of his plan, what he first thought about Zac and Mia when it was brought to him, Zac’s struggles to find a new normal in season two and so much more. Keep reading to see what he had to say!

Tell me briefly how you got started on the internet.

Oh god. It was probably like early 2010 when I started watching YouTube videos. I had favorites and people who I looked up to on the Internet and I thought, “If they can do it, I can do it.” And I learned very quickly that I couldn’t. But I kept going, I kept editing, I kept learning and it was a gradual growth to what I am today, obviously.

Was acting always a part of your plan or did you just fall into it as a result of YouTube?

No, I’ve always wanted to be an actor. I’ve always looked up to Jim Carey as long as I can remember. But acting was always on my horizon and YouTube, for sure, gave me the platform and helped bridge that gap to get into acting really nicely.

Do you have a personal acting “bucket list” of things you still want to accomplish in your career?

Yeah, there are a few people I’d love to work with, a few directors I’d want to work with, and a few different genres [I’d love to explore]. But I’m kind of just seeing where it goes for now. I’m still learning and trying to figure out what way I want to go in the acting world without being too picky. I’d love to do a comedy, though.

Moving on to Zac and Mia. Going back to the beginning of the project, I’d love to know what your audition process was like. What did you first think of the project when it was brought to you?

It was nothing [like] I had ever heard before. I’ve never done anything close to a project like Zac and Mia. [I was excited about] the challenge of taking on a new role, having to shave my head, getting into someone else’s mind with a sickness and just seeing where I could go with portraying someone with a really bad circumstance.

Did you and Anne [Winters, who plays Mia] have to do any kind of chemistry read prior to getting the role?

Oh yeah. We did like 2 or 3. But it was pretty much immediate chemistry once she came in. There was no hiccups or hurdles or anything. It was pretty much instantaneous how we clicked. I think she did a great job playing Mia and I feel like we all saw that the day she walked in to audition for the part.

Obviously Zac and Mia is based on the book [of the same name]. Did you ever read the book or were you encouraged to stay away because the show might not be exactly like the book?

For sure. I read parts of the book, but it wasn’t encouraged not to read it. I chose not to fully dive into the book because there were so many parts in the book that were cut from the show. So we didn’t get to tell the full story. We did the best we could to put every meaningful part in there. We also had the author, AJ Bennett, on set quite often and that was nice.

Was it helpful having her there? Or because the show was slightly different, did it not really matter to you as much?

It was honestly kind of scary, because we’re portraying the story that she wrote. I was freaking out because she had written this whole story and I’m here bringing it to life. But I knew what I was doing and I had faith and trust in myself to do the best that I could. So yeah, it was nerve-wrecking, but I got used to it and the more she was there, the more helpful I thought it was.

Do you think Zac is more similar or different to person you, Kian, are in real life?

We have similarities, but we are very different. We want to do as much as we can, we want to live our life to fullest extent, but we have people like our family or our girlfriends or our close friends holding us back from making stupid choices. I think that’s how we’re a lot alike and I tend to hear ‘no’ a lot, too. I’m very impulsive, Zac is very impulsive. You’ll see in season 2 how he comes out of the hospital and into remission feeling like he’s normal and [yet] quickly gets shutdown.

That’s actually what I wanted to talk about because I did get to see season 2 already. So like you said, Zac’s finally in remission and he gets to go back home and live his life after being in isolation for so long. But he’s also really struggling to find his new normal. Were you able to draw from a personal experience where you perhaps went through some similar sort of change?

Yeah, I feel like there are always little hiccups in your life where you make a wrong move or you mess up in a way, and there’s always room for improvement and growth and room to learn. When people are closed off to the idea of learning new things, a lot of people can go wrong. Zac, he wants to go surfing and be the Zac he remembers in high school with friends and be active, but he can’t do that stuff. So he soon realizes that everything is not going to go his way and he has to deal with taking other people’s feelings into consideration and doing stuff for other people and not putting himself first. I’ve, for sure, had that in my life. It was very helpful to get to portray that because it allowed me to bring that home with me every day after set. So in a way, I learned a lot from Zac.

Another reason why Zac’s struggling to find his new normal is because there’s so much change in his relationship with Mia. I mean they’ve only officially been together for a few weeks and yet she’s already moving into his house and he’s become her caretaker in a lot of ways. So just talk a little bit about all of the ups and downs Zac and Mia face in season two. Cause there’s a lot happening with them.

Yeah, there’s a lot. She’s going through a lot with her mom, and we’re obviously going through a lot in the relationship. I’m home and now she’s living with me. She is dealing with her cancer and I’m trying to deal with my “normality.” It’s hard balancing all those things, but yeah, with me and Mia, we tend to go into everything with an open mind, telling ourselves, “everything is going to be fine.” But we find out every single time that we’re not normal anymore and we can’t do the things we used to. It’s a mess that we’re trying to figure out and we end up going through a really tough time during the season. It’s a very bumpy road.

One of my favorite parts of the season was the open mic scene. I know you sing on the Internet from time to time and you sang in season one, but did you have to do rehearsals for this or voice lessons? What do you have to do to prepare to sing on the show?

It was new for me. I’ve always liked to sing, I’m like shower singer or a car singer. But I’ve never really done that in front of anyone else. Jason Perlman, our director, liked to push that button as much as he could. In season 1, I did a cover of a song. But then, before we even started filming season two, I knew that it was coming and it was inevitable. But yeah, there were no voice lessons or anything; I just knew what I had to do. We worked on picking on a song that fit my voice and we ended up coming up with the LANY song, which is a super important song because that’s me and Mia’s song. Singing is very foreign to me. I don’t usually do that in front of big crowds, so it was scary.

Now that you’ve done it a few times for the show, is singing something you’d like to pursue professionally outside of the show?

It’s kind of hard to tell. I don’t know. I enjoy singing. I think it’s very fun and I would like to see where it can go. But nothing I would drop acting for or drop everything else I’m doing and take on a singing career. For the time being though, I’m learning piano and I’m learning guitar more.

Something I’ve always been curious about with the show has always been the scenes where you guys are chatting via technology. It was a huge part of season one and even plays a part in season two. What is it like shooting those scenes when you and Anne are acting opposite each other but aren’t physically in the same room?

It’s so fun. I think we worked out a bunch of kinks in season 1, because [at the time] we were still getting to know each other, we were still getting to know the director. It was kind of awkward a little bit, trying to get everyone on the same page. But season 2 was so fun. It was easy working with everyone, everyone was friends and family at that point. So when it got to the point of filming, like you said, the text conversations or the DMs, it was really fun because we got phones and we could send each other messages. We were supposed to be sending what was in the script, but we already knew what we were saying, we knew the lines, so we would just type random stuff to make each other crack. It never worked because she’s a professional. I think that was one of the funniest moments of season two.

What was your favorite part of season 2?

Favorite part? Dang, that’s a big question.

Or favorite scene to shoot, yeah.

I don’t know if it qualifies as a favorite part, but my favorite thing about season 2 is that I was a lot more active. We got to do a lot more exterior scenes, where I was talking to my brother and I was driving or I was at the beach or I got to take Mia out on a date. We weren’t just confined to a hospital bed. I remember in season 1, almost every day we would go to set and I would lay in a hospital bed for 12 hours delivering lines. So season 2 was a lot more different and I enjoyed getting outside and getting some sun.

Lastly, we’re called Talk Nerdy With Us because we all have an inner nerd so what is something that you’re currently nerding out about?

Hm. I don’t know if it qualifies as nerdy, but I’m really into water and I like water a lot. So I can taste the different tastes in water and everyone calls me weird because I pay attention to it. I have a favorite type of water and everything. I don’t know, I guess it is nerdy. I pay attention to what I put in my body when it comes to water.

Are you telling me you can taste the difference between the different brands?

Yeah.

So what’s your favorite brand of water?

Acqua Panna. It’s an Italian brand. It has no sodium, so it’s really good for you. And it’s neutral.

All episodes of Zac and Mia are now available to stream on Hulu. Make sure you follow Kian on Twitter, Instagram and YouTube

This interview has been edited for clarity.
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