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Interview: Jack Mulhern on 'The Society'.

Interview: Jack Mulhern on 'The Society'.

If you’ve already watched Netflix’s ‘The Society’, chances are you became obsessed with Grizz and Sam’s relationship - and Grizz, played by Jack Mulhern, has become one of the show’s breakout stars, for his portrayal of a shy jock who falls in love with deaf character Sam (Sean Berdy). He even learnt American Sign Language as part of the role.

Mulhern has been humbled by the reaction to the show, sharing with me that: “The response to the show has been great - when the character sort of became a popular character, I was surprised and it was not on my mind at all, like, ‘I really hope I stand out,’ or anything like that. I’m very flattered by the whole thing and surprised by it.”

We caught up with Jack Mulhern recently to discuss starring in the show, as well as learning ASL, and his aspirations in the entertainment industry…

My interest in philosophy, definitely, and interest in the natural world and sustainable agriculture - that’s something that I definitely share with Grizz... I aspire to be like him, I think he’s an aspirational figure precisely because he doesn’t think of himself as being terribly virtuous or important in any way. He just kind of behaves in such a way that ends up shaking out for the good, which is an incredible thing - people that are accidentally virtuous are ones to keep an eye on.

COUP DE MAIN: Hi Jack, thanks for taking the time to talk to me today! How’s your day going?
JACK MULHERN: The day is going okay! I’m in Manhattan, walking around, nowhere to be.

CDM: Are you still currently based just out of New York?
JACK: Yeah, I am. I’m still living at home. It’s right by the water, you can see the Manhattan skyline, it’s on the Long Island Sound. Talking about getting out of the city and the heat, it’s good around this time of the year, you don’t have to be in the chaos.

CDM: Are you working on any projects at the moment? You just finished a one-month thing in Nevada and Utah right?
JACK: Yeah, I just finished that one about two weeks ago, and then I worked a little bit on another thing last week. This is the highest volume time of the year for auditions, so I’m just hitting that and waiting on Season 2 renewal for ‘The Society’. If we come back, we might go back in October - so a lot of things are up in the air at the moment. I’m just taking it a day at a time.

CDM: We love ‘The Society’, and your character Grizz is definitely one of the best parts of the show. What’s it been like seeing such a strong reaction to the show, and particularly to your romance with Sam?
JACK: Thanks very much! The reaction for the show is great, that’s what I wanted. It’s a heavily ensemble-based show, so I didn’t really have any aspirations of, ‘This is my moment!’ Spearheaded by [show creator/writer] Christopher Keyser, everybody had maintained an attitude of peaceful detachment from the results of the show. He’s very wise, he’s been a showrunner on many different things before, and he said that as a creative person, everybody wants every creative project you’re involved in to be the greatest thing of all time, but the fact of the matter is that it’s the audience who determines what a thing becomes. It’s completely outside of our control, so the best thing that we can do is appreciate this time, appreciate each other, and appreciate the great privilege of making this thing together - which I think everybody caught along with, and subsequently we had a fantastic time. So all my aspirations for the show were that I just hope that people like it - this thing that we’ve spent all this time passionately making together. So the response to the show has been great - when the character sort of became a popular character, I was surprised and it was not on my mind at all, like, ‘I really hope I stand out,’ or anything like that. I’m very flattered by the whole thing and surprised by it.

CDM: I also love the way that your love story with Sam didn’t feel gratuitous at all, as is often the case with gay stories on-screen. Was it important for you that the storyline felt natural and also represented an important minority that are often under-represented on-screen?
JACK: In terms of representation, it was definitely an important part of it. When I’m working, I don’t really think in those terms because I think it’s a bit too much pressure to put on yourself to go into a project, you might just stall before you have a chance to start. Sean [Berdy] is a fantastic actor, the writers took a lot of care and time with his character, and I think that our relationship with one another on and off-screen sort of became more about - which I guess people resonated with - our romance being hidden, and feeling like you’ve hidden yourself away and now you’re having a chance to, under these absurd circumstances, expose yourself to another person, which is a tremendously vulnerable thing. It’s funny because Sam has a beautiful monologue a few episodes in about how he’s sold off the idea of love and finding someone, especially in these circumstances, and he feels tremendously vulnerable. And then it’s funny because Grizz I think actually feels twice as vulnerable when the thing actually comes around, he feels super unsure of himself, like anybody who’s ever had to make hard compromises on their identity throughout their life. You can feel like a kid, that you’re going to break into a million pieces when you get close to the issue at hand. I think that it was handled deftly, and I think Sean is an incredible actor. I’m very proud that it went the way it did, and I’m also very happy that people are resonating with it and seem to be labelling it an atypical handling of that kind of a romantic situation, so I’m grateful.

CDM: What was it like learning ASL as well as learning your lines and everything else involved with the show?
JACK: ASL is cool as hell. I wanted to learn the whole thing back to front. We had a great ASL master on-set, Rhonda, and she advised that I should probably only learn as much, in tandem with the amount that the character is learning. All you want to do is become the master of all these things! But it ended up serving me really well just to learn basic signs here and there and piece it together from there, because if we come back for a second season I imagine it’ll be much more advanced. What we’ve been talking about with the show, which would be great in future seasons, is that it bleeds out even from the relationship and it becomes a tool that the community uses together in dangerous situations - like in situations when people are hunting - and it becomes more the adopted first language of the new community, which would be an incredible thing to see on-screen over the course of years.

CDM: One of my favourite Grizz lines is, “If you have a garden and a library, you have everything you need.” Would you agree with his statement?
JACK: Absolutely. That’s my big dream, to buy a farm in New England, and sit there, put roots there, and be able to go off and do projects a couple of times a year and come back and farm. With José, unravel the secrets of everything through our philosophical musings, that’s the big dream. So yeah, I totally agree.

CDM: One of the members of Vampire Weekend between album cycles went off to work on a farm because he wanted to do something totally different.
JACK: Oh wow! I actually have a bone to pick with Vampire Weekend. I have the song ‘A-Punk’ on my iPhone and for some reason whenever I plug it into the dongle in my car it just blasts through the speakers. Every time I try to turn it off it gets louder, and every time I make a turn signal or anything, the song ‘A-Punk’ just comes booming through the speakers, so I’m always screaming at my phone, "No, noooo, nooooo!" Other than that, they’re great, but Vampire Weekend are ruining my car rides, just blasting.

CDM: Have you heard anything about if there’s going to be a second season of the show?
JACK: I haven’t heard anything yet. Netflix are notoriously secretive about their analytics. Usually the way it works is that they give it a little over a month gratis period to see if it’s attracted numbers, so we’re coming up on it. There’s no guarantees, but I’m pretty confident, I feel really good about what we’ve made and I think we’ll come back.

CDM: Do you still want to start a theatre company and make films?
JACK: Films, definitely! Theatre company, I think I still want to do it, but I don’t know when and how. That’s the tough thing about this, is when one aspect of your career starts, then you feel like you’re in a fist fight for five years, trying to edge yourself out until you can come up for air and figure out what you’re going to do. I like the idea of being autonomous and self-sufficient, and being able to just make work from top to bottom. That was why I wanted to get into it - when you start out with this thing you feel incredibly vulnerable, the temptation is to walk around with your hands out and beg for someone to give you an opportunity, and I thought I was too weird to have anybody give me a job, or to try to go and do the ‘Hail Mary LA’ thing. I’d written it completely off, I thought I was too much of a weirdo. So I thought, ‘All right, I’ll go and make my own stuff with my friends, and I’ll work my ass off. Rather than have to ask people to let me show them, I’ll show them what I can do.’ Then quite to my surprise, the exact opposite of that is what I did - I went out and I became an actor. But the theatre company is definitely something I’m interested in. I like to write, I like to direct, and I want to make original stuff all the time. I’ve got some buddies out here in New York - there’s this guy Aaron who’s a really great director; I think he’s working for a travelling company doing music festivals and rigging, there’s a great actor/director out here named Shea, another great sound designer named Gabe - and they’re all awesome. I’d love to do something with all of them in the next couple of years, but we’ll see how things go.

CDM: You’re quite elusive, having only joined Instagram semi-recently, after your cast-mates were having to put up with people messaging them about you! So in honour of that, what’s something about you that people might not know?
JACK: <laughs> People keep asking me how tall I am; I’m not 5'8. It’s just this thing online! I don’t know what it is. You kind of shrug and go, ‘Okay.’ Sometimes I’ll look online, and within the first couple of weeks a full bio was printed of completely false information about me written in broken English. It was somebody saying, 'He’s 5'8, he’s 20-years-old, he was born here, he loves hanging out with his family and playing video games.' Somebody also said: "Jack Mulhern Fact: Jack’s full name is Jackson, and the J is pronounced like a Y." I think I sent them a private message saying something like, "Your source is better than mine." I’m who I am! They tried to tell me I was wrong about what my name is. <laughs>
CDM: So to clear this up, how tall are you?
JACK: I’m 6'2, and my name is Jack pronounced with a J, and I’m 25.

CDM: Do you have five songs you’d like to recommend to our readers as a playlist?
JACK: Totally! Let me see... One of them is ‘Hold Me Close’ by Lucero, I’ve been listening to ‘Avril 14th’ by Aphex Twin, ‘See How Tame I Can Be’ by Joyce Manor, ‘Murderers’ by John Frusciante, and maybe ‘Rest’ by Wicca Phase Springs Eternal.

‘The Society’ is out now on Netflix - watch the trailer below…

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