[Warning: The following contains spoilers for episode one of We Are Who We Are. Read at your own risk!]
There are things in this world we know with absolute certainty: grass is green, water is wet, and Jack Dylan Grazer is a teen icon. You might remember him from his turn as neurotic hypochondriac Eddie Kaspbrak in the It movies, or as the superhero-loving Freddy Freeman in Shazam!, or, maybe most importantly, from his TikTok, where he has a frankly enormous following. But in his latest role as Fraser in HBO’s We Are Who We Are, the audience’s window into the world of the show, he’s doing something different.
In the series created, directed, and co-written by Luca Guadagnino, Grazer plays Fraser, a 14-year-old army brat who, when we meet him, has just relocated to an American military base in Italy with his moms. His unusual presence — everything from his bleach blonde hair to his eclectic, fashion-forward wardrobe, to the way he vibrates with chaotic energy — shakes up the community, and the first episode is dedicated to a day in the life of Fraser, told entirely through his eyes as he feels out new friendships with fellow teens Caitlin (Jordan Kristine Seamón) and Britney (Francesca Scorsese), gets drunk by himself, and physically fights with one of his mothers. For Grazer, the role was a no-brainer with the Call Me by Your Name director attached. “I remember walking out of the theater like, ‘Ugh, I want to work with that director,'” he gushed over Zoom.
TV Guide caught up with Grazer to unpack the first episode, Fraser’s journey with his own masculinity, and what it was like to slap Chloë Sevingy.
I was reading an interview with Luca where he talked about how he had all these ideas for the characters that he ended up throwing away after getting to set and talking with you guys about the show. What kinds of conversations did you have with Luca about bringing Fraser to life?
Jack Dylan Grazer: Luca and I talked a lot about motives and what [Fraser’s] experiencing as a person, and Luca also expressed to me that Fraser reminds him of himself when he was young, when he was that age. Kind of like a young little Luca, and I see that so often, actually. We talked about the music that Fraser listens to, but mostly —I can’t really think of anything specific, but we hashed out a lot of our ideas and we clashed heads in the most brilliant way, and both of our creative inputs were brought into play. It was so great to speak with him about it.
You brought up the music. Pretty much every time we see Fraser, he has his headphones in his ears or around his neck.
Grazer: Fraser is really impressionable to music. It shapes him, and it does with me too, I’m really susceptible to change in my mood when I listen to any music. My mind just goes with music. Luca would be like, “Okay, so in this scene you’re listening to this song,” and on my prop phone they would put, like, a QuickTime of the song that Fraser was listening to. It was the ultimate immersion, among the other parts of immersion that were in play. Actually, I had a Fraser playlist.
What was on it?
Grazer: A bunch of stuff. I put Blood Orange on it, I put Frank Ocean on there. And also, some of the songs that I put in my Fraser playlist — I told Luca to look at my playlist, and he put some of the songs in the show.
One of the most interesting scenes from the first episode is when we see Fraser run through a basketball court where a group of soldiers are playing, and later, he walks in on them all in the shower. He’s surrounded by these very traditional examples of masculinity. What do you think about Fraser’s relationship to his own masculinity?
Grazer: I want to talk about this. So, part of the reason that his relationship with his mom is so demented is because he resents her, and he holds her accountable for the absence of a father. And he doesn’t even know if he really wants one, but he wants to experience it. He wants to experience everything. Because he doesn’t like her, so Fraser’s like, “He’s probably better.” And he doesn’t like her because she keeps tearing him from his home and putting him in places he doesn’t want to be. But I think the absence of having a masculine figure in his life really, in a way, kind of is enlightening to him, like, subconsciously. He realizes that the confines of conventional masculinity are so — it’s just a waste, it’s a waste of a life. To ignore our primal intuition of attraction, which is like, what our purpose is? It’s not even labels. It’s just, “I like this person. I’m attracted to them because they’re an attractive thing.” He comes to that conclusion quite early in his soul search.
While we’re talking about Fraser and his mom, that scene where he slaps her took my breath away.
Grazer: That was real, too.
Was it really? Did you slap Chloë Sevingy?
Grazer: Yeah. A few times, like eight times. She wanted to, it was her idea! She’s such a pro, she’s such a boss, it’s unbelievable. But Luca was like, “We want to do this for real, like a 1940s movie, and this is going to be real.” And she was like, “Oh my god, yeah, that’d be great! Jack, do you feel comfortable slapping me?” I was like, “Do I feel—? Uh, no.” But Fraser does, Fraser feels comfortable slapping her. It’s intense, and the dynamic is so weird. She was pregnant during shooting, and I talked to her on the phone recently, and she was like, “You know something? I always wanted a daughter, until I played your mom and I had a boy inside me this whole time, and I was always kind of disheartened. But pretending to be your mom really made me want to have a son that’s like you.” And I was like, Chloë Sevingy wants to be my biological mom?
Can we talk about the outfits? Fraser has so many great clothes, like that shirt he wears in the first episode.
Grazer: The Raf Simons one? I love that shirt. With the shorts, the shorts were so sick. The wardrobe on that show… Giulia Piersanti was the costume designer, and she’s such a visionary. I wish I could’ve taken some of those clothes home.
Do you have a favorite thing that you wore?
Grazer: Yes. The thing I wore in the fourth episode, the suit, I like that outfit. And there’s this Rolling Stones jacket, with the tongues. That’s one of my favorite all time outfits.
Fraser comes into the show as this outsider. He looks different than everyone, he has a whole different perspective, the way he carries himself is different. What do you think about his place within the friend group he finds himself in? Is he trying to fit in with them?
Grazer: Fraser totally feels like an outsider and misunderstood, but he also doesn’t even really care. He doesn’t put in the effort for other people to understand him, because there’s no use. He doesn’t think people even deserve his intelligence. He’s kind of, I guess, forthright and pretentious in that way, but when him and Caitlin interact, it seems like it’s not a mutual thing, but then they find solace in one another and they’re asking themselves the same questions and they have the answers for each other.
Speaking of Caitlin, what do you think is going through his mind when he takes secret pictures of her?
Grazer: He’s enamored by her. He’s so in awe. Also, he’s a big fan of poetry, the poetry lures him in and to see this beautiful, standing tall and independent woman — that’s exciting.
We Are Who We Are airs Mondays at 10/9c on HBO.