Most of the time when we follow people on Instagram or any other social media, we follow them because of first impressions. Those impressions range from how handsome or pretty they look into how many shirtless/bikini pictures they have. I followed Evan Spergel for two reasons, 1 is because he was posting workout videos on his profile and 2 because he is in Toronto. I have always been so proud of being Canadian and that I want to follow as much people as I can. Following Evan on Instagram is like a whirlwind of galleries, one day you’ll see a very cute picture of him and his 8 year old dog, the next is like an inspiration of how he keeps himself fit, and then you’ll also see what is he’s currently working on as an actor. Evan is definitely one of those stunning people you’ll see in the street and possibly say hi to them in your head. He has the face that could do you no wrong and the body to go with it. As a follower I always thought that he can get anything he wants or sets his mind for. ( I mean, isn’t that what happens most of the time?) However, that changed after I sat down with him and talked to him about his new Web Series.
We originally planned to meet on a Wednesday at a cafe near where he lives, which was also good for me because the cafe was one of my favourites. However, we needed to push it on a Thursday as he had an audition that came up on Wednesday. Thursday came and I was a little nervous. One is because I don’t know what to expect from him, I have not had any interactions with him aside from the fact that I am one of his 13 thousand Instagram followers. Two is because, I don’t want a preconceived notion to prevent me from knowing who Evan is and why did he write and acted on the Web Series.I was sitting at the coffee shop and was preparing myself for the interview. When I saw him come I made myself known and we shook hands. Evan is definitely not who I was expecting to be, he was very warm and for sure has the smile to warm even the coldest of hearts. As I explained to him who and what playhaus was about I saw how humble, he was by letting me know that he was honoured to be interviewed. As the interview started, I definitely learned things about Evan and the industry he’s in. I learned how brave and how fragile he was. I learned the struggles he faces and at some point realized things that everyone should.
Jhake: So, give me a background of who Evan Spergel is.
Evan: First, I grew up in Ottawa, moved to Toronto to go to OCAD (Ontario College of Art and Design) in 2006 where I studied Art Direction and Advertising. After finishing that program, I had a year where I had doubts on what I really wanted to do. I mean I always really wanted to be a performer ever since I was a kid. Like I was a dancer, a gymnast, but I was always made fun of it for being gay. (which was a really popular word on things that are a bit feminine at that time) So I stopped doing all those things and tried to pursue a different career instead. So after OCAD, I had this crazy realization where everything just flashes and your mind asks the question: “is this it? is this what you really want to do? are you going to really ignore what you’ve been wanting to do?” And so, I moved back to Ottawa and auditioned for Randolph Academy for Performing Arts.So I told myself, If I could audition and was accepted, then good, if not, at least I had the balls to try. I feel like Randolph Academy was my cocoon, it was the place where I became the person I always wanted to be.
Jhake: You’ve somewhat answered my next question of how you got into acting, so tell me, did you start acting immediately after Randolph?
Evan: I feel like every artist or every person of the arts all think that as a kid we sat in a horseshoe which went up our ass and then one day in our age that we are going to be chosen and that it’s just gonna happen. And like going to auditions and waiting and hearing feedbacks like “oh, you do have a good look” or ” we think you’ll fit this role” and you’re like okay, when is this going to happen? and I went through 3 agents since I graduated Randolph, and I mean I’ve done little things here and there but nothing really substantial.Which was really terrifying, because I already went back to school when I was 23 and Now I am 28 and I’m about to be 30 and I have nothing. I went back and see that nothing is happening so it was like 3 years of waiting around, I decided to just you know use common sense. If something doesn’t happen, what are we going to do? We make it. And so, I just started to write which was incredible. I mean I was onanti-depressants since grade 9 and only right after I stop taking them, that’s when I started writing and encouraging your truth. Writing what you know, and through that I have been learning more things about me and is able to write about some personal stuff we don’t often talk about. That’s what really pays off, the reward of finding out that people can relate.
Because when I was a little depressed kid, I will always watch T.V and I will use that T.V time to escape from my own reality. And it was great because I considered those people (T.V. Characters) as my friends. I was actually planning on creating an indiegogo campaign to fund this series, but when I was looking at what the people in there were asking funding for I felt a little bad. I was like “how dare I come here and ask people for money?” but then, I also realized that what I bring to the table is a some form of escape for some kids or people who wants to escape their own reality. Because when I was a kid there were times where I was watching T.V. and there were characters where I can’t relate to, so it’s nice to create something that I hope people would be able to relate to. Making you feel that I am not alone in this world.
Jhake: Let’s talk about Co-op, tell me what is it about and what inspired you to write it.
Evan: What inspired me to write it is my truth, in a more interesting perspective. It’s really controversial and I’m a little worried about it because I’m afraid that I will be typecasted as a gay guy. Which isn’t a bad thing, which if I am (Typecasted) then I’ll just write myself movies where I play a straight guy. The series opens with a character named Alexander Schwartz, he has a call back for an audition for a leading male role and he was with the writer and director in the room. The audition goes really well, however, at the end of the audition, he (Alexander Schwarts) was talking with the writer and director. Then something happens where he (Alexander) says that he is gay. Then, you’ll see that there is a shift in where, ohhhhh….., because, there are reasons such as marketing, where it might ruin the idea of what they want the character to be portrayed or seen. That day as the audition was actually the same day that Alex was moving in with his best friend into this artist Co-op. Where, every artist like dancers, painters, actors, basically live in this Co-op. The girl that he moves in with is named Darcy, who is his best friend from High School. She’s very high strung and has her own ups and downs. She becomes a teacher just to survive because she needs the money. However, she looks at her students with resentment, mainly because she feels like she’s in the back seat now. Is she helping other people to achieve their careers meanwhile she’s still trying to find her time. At the same time it also examines the relationships within the gay community. It shows how gay people see each other which highlights the genres within the gay community. The respects we all have for each other, realizing labels and understanding why they exist. Inevitably, the series is more about finding pride about who you are and what you enjoy doing. With all of your flaws and making them your actual gifts.
Jhake: I feel like in any movie there is always a underlying statement. Most of the time it is a political or societal statement.
Evan: Yeah, I mean the series might call bullshit to things that’s happening in the industry. And I mean I even call myself out at times.
Jhake: Well we are the biggest critic of ourselves.
Evan: I feel like one of the biggest realizations in going through the whole process of becoming the artist that I always wanted to be. Is understanding why I stopped for a long time and the fear of people calling me gay. And I mean that may have happened once or five times, and you realize that it was the times where you keep telling yourself that in your head and realizing you are actually the reason your career didn’t start. It’s also realizing you have your own self to blame.
Jhake: So I am guessing that the character of Alexander Schwarts is closely based on you?
Evan: it’s pretty close.
Jhake: oh yeah? from the struggles he’s going through?
Evan: Yeah, it deals with perspective. I mean, even about being Canadian the struggles of being an artist in Canada. Because it’s not easy for actors to just be in movies or T.V. shows. Like before, there was a checklist before production company can come and shoot in Canada. It was called Canadian Content Checklist, and before it used to be 8 out of 10 and now it’s like 6 out of 10 and actors are normally at the bottom end of that checklist. They tend to hire Canadians for production than acting, that’s why most of their casting happens in the U.S. and they’d have all American cast.
Jhake: You’ve done all the writing, some production and you’ve even acted in it. Now tell me how does it feel to have your creation come to life?
Evan: It’s incredible!!! It is a mixture of feelings of course, it is liberating and terrifying. At the same time, it feels like you’re making a new language each project. And every time you show it, you are giving people the manual on understanding your perspective or thoughts. And it becomes this incredible communication from me to the audience. And for somebody who felt loss and battled ADD and Dyslexia, it feels good. Because often times, I feel like my words are stupid and I was somewhat called that way when I was in Grade 1, so it’s like really justifying for myself. Because, I realized that I have a platform and I have a voice; my end goal is to affect people in a positive way.
Jhake: So Co-op is a prequel from an earlier movie that you wrote and acted. Tell me what was turbulence all about, was it also derived from your own life?
Evan: Well, yes, basically Turbulence was before Co-op happened, that movie showed Alex’s (Evan’s Character in the Series) tipping point. Where you can see his transformation and co-op will take it from there.
Jhake: What sort of person do you think would love The Co-op?
Evan: I feel like in age range, I would say around the 20’s-30. It’s interesting because my co-star in the series Bree Wasylenko has a huge following. She’s like at the Next Step and So you think you can dance. And so a lot of her followers would be looking at this stuff. And so I try to keep that in mind, the tweens generation! Which will be interesting because the show talks about the after thought, of what we thought we’d like to be when we grow up. And then we realize that those things we thought we’ll do, we’d actually never even think about. I’m 28 now and some of my friends are turning 30 and I thought everybody was happy with what they were doing, but apparently almost everybody is second guessing.
Jhake: Do you think, when your following or your co-stars following will have a blast of reality when they see your show? Because, most of these tweens probably have a specific whimsical fantasy in mind about what job or life they’ll have.
Evan: Of Course, definitely at the same time, it’s weird because I feel like I was writing this for myself. But at the same time, all is welcome because the series if compared to other established series out there, it is a mixture of Girls, Shameless, with a little will and Grace. And also, this series is a love letter to my best Girlfriends that I found true love with.
Jhake: What were the biggest challenges on bringing this script to life?
Evan: Well, I don’t really think it’s challenging. But I see it as fun. I have a bucket of things I’d like to write and at some point it’s how you turn the work into a fun experience. Also, it has been an interesting process, because we are living from paycheck to paycheck. And there were times where I needed to sit back and measure my wins from my losses. Like right now, I found a producer who is fantastic and also is going to be directing some of the episodes. I also, just found a co-writer who is amazing!!! And it’s funny because I have been single for four and a half years, and now my dating is like, “Hmm, can I work with you?” and it’s just amazing how you realize that like in dating, not everybody can work with everybody. I mean, there are those people who just work together and there are those people who can make magic. So it’s so cool to say that I may be single but professionally, I’m having the best dating life.
Evan: There’s also that one thing that I’ve been thinking about and questioning myself, that I’m also exploring is that. ” It is bad to come out before you make it?”
Jhake: Do you think it matters?
Evan: Well, it’s this huge elephant in the room. Because, I had one of these experiences and it’ll kind of take place in an episode. And, I’m in a TIFF party (Toronto International Film Fest) and I met this beautiful guy, and he was great, we were flirting, hands on each others laps. And he was like “Do you want to go for a walk?” and we’ve touched etc but things got a little busy so we rescheduled to do it the next day. Then after that I didn’t hear from him. And I was crushed because, there was that connection between us. So, I looked him up and I sort off asked some of my friends who knew the person and they were like “Ohh he’s not gay” and I sort off asked like “are you sure?” and they said “trust us he’s not gay”. And at that point it kind off alarmed the hell out of me, because here I am, at the foot of the diving board ready to jump into this pool not knowing how it’ll be received. And now, I’m thinking how coming out as gay might ruin my entire career. Which is ironic because I’m writing this entire thing, to have a career.
Jhake: I guess fear will always comeback and haunt you.
Evan: Or I’m just writing about this horrible fear trying to see if anyone understands me. Without throwing it on everyones face.
At some point I guess that this comes down to masculinity, and how it defines the idea of leading man which is definitely exhausting. Which in the series my character will realize and somewhat battle with.
Jhake: Do you think, the entertainment industry’s view of masculinity has a huge effect on the gay community?
Evan: Absolutely, I think it somewhat exhausts the whole pool of dating in the LGBT community. Everybody deserves to feel comfortable in their own skin, so that for the people who they want to give themselves they could, and not to be labeled as something. And at the same time it is exhausting because we live in a world where we don’t realize we are making segregation such as titles. And for every title, the ego gets bigger, and people gets offended when we use the wrong word. And it becomes this whole thing where people want to feel like they belong that’s why they want a title.
Jhake: Do you think, it would open the minds of parents? Like, I know that at some point it’s easier to say we accept you but it’s harder to say I Love You.
Evan: Yes, I think what’s really important or my attempt is to not write the struggle. Because a lot of times, people we know, expect hearing that it’s going to be a painful response, and the fact that there are a lot of movies that are showing a painful side of the story. And it’s not easy, because we always get those painful things, but I think if we increase more of the positive things I think people would not think of victimizing. Because, it gets tiring being victimized, and I had a little trouble and bashing coming out at grade 12 and it was crazy. But after that I knew that anything I do for the rest of my life is going to be meaningful.
Jhake: If you were able to pitch it your series and have a bigger celebrity be casted for your character or the whole cast, who’d it be?
Evan: Hmm, as much as I would like to cast a big name, this whole thing is some what of a big fuck you to the industry. Because it’s suppose to give artists voices not to give artists who already have a big voice more presence.
Jhake: Okay, how about just one big name?
Evan: Okay one big name, I kinda feel like I did that with Bree, but if I were to choose just one, probably Rachel McAdams. Because she’s from Toronto, and I truly want this to be more authentic in Toronto. Because the goal is to showcase a lot of the Toronto talent.
Jhake: What’s your acting like? what kind of actor are you? I know for example Jared Leto is a method actor and takes in his character to heart.
Evan: I feel like, as a gay kid, I learned to act when I was really young. One thing is because, I needed to learn what I needed to be. I learned to act to survive. I think for me, I’m just comfortable playing. We’re just big kids that are playing pretend.
Jhake: Last question, is there one type of character you’d like to try and portray?
Evan: OMG, there’s a lot but I think the cold guy, the one who does not have any emotions.
Jhake: is it because you’re always warm and fuzzy? or?
Evan: Definitely not always warm and fuzzy but I think I bring uncertainty with me all the time. So to be that confident, emotionless kind of character would be very interesting.
For more information or updates about “The Co-op” follow Evan Spergel on instagram