But it wasn’t until he starred in Transamerica that Zegers, who was 20 at the time, knew with certainty he wanted to be an actor. In the film he plays Toby, a teenager who journeys with gender-bender Bree, played by Felicity Huffman. The role was transitional for Zegers.
“I think that was the best situation I walked into, where I was the most ready to give whatever it was that I had, and it was very emblematic of the way that I was feeling at that time in my life,” Zegers says, at a white marble table at Tres, a restaurant in the lobby of the SLS Hotel in Beverly Hills. He’s in Los Angeles conducting press for his upcoming movie The Mortal Instruments: City of Bones, the fantasy film based on the book series by Cassandra Clare, and decided to spend the night at the hotel as a stay-cation.
The actor has called the City of Angels home since he was 17. Coming from Canada, the move was a shock to his system. “In retrospect, it was a terrible idea,” he says. “Now I meet a 17-year-old and I can appreciate how young that is to be doing anything.”
Moving at a young age lent itself to indulging in a particular lifestyle, one that now disgusts Zegers at the mere recollection. He remembers “going out and doing a lot of stupid stuff,” which often resulted in lost property. “Once I cleared my head I was like, ‘Where is everything? Where are my suits and my watches?’ People just come to your house and party and leave with all of your shit.”
The partying led to more partying, and then a bout of alcoholism. Sober for two years now, Zegers is matter of fact about the addiction. “I was very uncomfortable around large groups of people. I didn’t deal well with stress, I didn’t deal well with traveling, I didn’t deal well with relationships, and so I found that alcohol was an easy way for me to make all of that okay for a while.”
In the midst of the rocky period, he met his fiancée Jaime Feld, a talent agent at Creative Artists Agency. “I never even thought of myself as the most courageous person, but it was definitely decided with my wife, that [being an alcoholic] would eventually take me down. I wasn’t prepared to do that. I just felt like I still had much left to do.”
Now, Zegers has the focus to pursue the darker roles he craves. He recently wrapped production on The Curse of Downers Grove, based on the novel by Michael Hornburg with an adapted screenplay by Bret Easton Ellis. In the film he plays a sociopathic man who attempts to make a woman fall in love with him in drastic ways. “It’s just the sickest movie. I know that there’s a much darker, weirder part of myself that maybe people haven’t seen.”
Zegers’ hands grip his cup of coffee as he carries on conversation, and I notice the acronym CHIBAW tattooed on his left ring finger. “Confidence. Honesty. Intelligence. Beauty. Ambition. And Wisdom,” he says. They are his parameters, decided at age 17, for the woman he will marry. “I was a heady kid...I mean, what a fucking weird kid.”
Photographer: Davis Factor for artmixcreative.com. Stylist: Cat Wennekamp for ArtMixbeauty.com. Groomer: Thea Istenes for eamgmt.com. Photography Assistant: Brad Lansill.
Grooming Notes: Astringent Toner Pads by Anthony Logistics for Men and Purify Daily Moisturiser Omega 3 by Nude.