Jack Grazer: It's All Only Appreciating in Value
“I grew up dressing up and dancing in the mirror,” recalls 15-year-old actor Jack Grazer. His mom, who is sitting in on the interview, remembers it as “nonstop but magical.” When I first encounter Grazer, he is sliding his feet into a pair of rubbery, white Valentino sneakers with a matching white puffer jacket. “You look like the Stay Puft Marshmallow Man,” his mom notes as we make our way to the first shoot location. “That’s exactly what I was thinking,” Grazer replies, mimicking the overgrown grumble and bounce of the character.
Grazer’s parents maintain a kind of electricity and youthfulness that has no doubt translated into his personality. His mother tells me, “I opened all of the cupboards and said, ‘Take all of the pots out, bang ‘em. Touch everything. Explore everything!’ I just wanted him to live as much as he could.” It was this kind of encouragement that set Grazer apart. From a young age he would transform himself into as many costumed characters as possible, testing the limits of the laundry basket on a daily basis. “I dressed up as Batman on multiple occasions,” he adds, relaying his love for the caped crusader. “I think I had like four Batman costumes and over 50 of his action figures. I was legitimately obsessed.”
From his breakout role as Eddie Kaspbrak in 2017’s It, to his most recent role in Beautiful Boy as 12-year-old Nic Sheff, and his upcoming role as Freddy Freeman in DC Comics’ Shazam!, Grazer has repeatedly taken on characters who have been part of our pop-culture canon for longer than he’s been alive. I ask about the difficulties of navigating roles rooted in another generation. “I don’t find it that difficult,” he tells me. “I actually think it might be more difficult to play somebody current because I don’t really relate to people from this generation. I’ve definitely been told that ‘I’m an old soul,’ or that ‘I’m wise beyond years,’” he says mimicking the condescending tone of a patronizing adult.
Old soul or not, deep down Grazer is still a Batman-obsessed DC fanboy. Landing his role in Shazam! was a dream come true. Grazer believes Shazam! will live up to the hype and present viewers with another side of DC, something a little more comedic than its Justice League counterparts. Being a 20-something who’s jumped on the “superheroes-are-cool” train, I bring up the old debate surrounding Marvel vs. DC, garnering a few side-eye stares from his publicist. In the end, Grazer doesn't deny either’s importance in the pop canon, but does say DC is personally more nostalgic for him because it’s what he grew up watching, reading, and aspiring to become.
I ask about the pressure of fulfilling the expectations that come with the territory of playing characters with a die-hard, decades-in-the-making fan base. “It’s definitely hard when you have to do an adaptation, or remake because the fandom holds the original in such high regard.” He continues, “It’s hard to even slightly tamper with the original because the audience will look at any small thing as an excuse to say ‘this sucks!’” To avoid this scrutiny, his solution is to bring the character back to their essentials, approaching the source material with the intention of making it his own. “I don't go into one of these projects trying to match something that has already been done before,” he explains. “I really try to understand the character, how they act, and what motivates them. I relate to people more because I’ve tried to understand where they come from.”
This mindfulness is something he brings into his everyday life, where, at his coastal, progressive high school, he insists he’s just another student. “There are no categories of people, and there are no popular people. We are all just one, and we are all into each other.” A shockingly zen take, discordant with the cliché depictions of high schoolers in films like Mean Girls or Bring it On. I am suddenly painfully aware of my age when I realize these movies came out around 2003: the year Grazer was born.
In part, Grazer is your average LA-based teen. He rides a skateboard, takes film elective, and finds time to squeeze in the occasional live stream to his 2.4 million Instagram followers. The latter is not so average. I’d like to amend—he’s your average teenage celebrity. A quick search of his name on Google returns over 4 million results; everything from screen-recorded live streams to fan edits and, of course, the occasional controversy. I ask about the invasiveness of living life in the public eye. “It’s definitely hard to grow when there’s always somebody watching you and somebody there to judge.” he says. He tells me it’s the same as pleasing any other fandom: “You have some 12-year-old fan girls wondering why you said the ’s-word’ or why you’re acting a certain way. But, I mean, this is what I signed up for, and they have every right to do what they do.”
Grazer certainly speaks with a diplomacy beyond his years, but his playfulness off set reveals his infectious wit. “In the majority of the projects I’ve done, there’s been an element of improv, and I love that because it just comes second nature to me,” he says. I ask if he will continue with this kind of work in the future. “I totally want to work more with improvisation in the future,” and with exaggerated dread growing on his face, he adds, “I hope I’m not typecast as some kind of comedian, because I do want to explore deeper and darker roles”.
With what he has achieved by his early teens, Grazer’s career is full of possibility; a veritable “choose-your-own-adventure” map in the territory of film & television. “I definitely want to evolve myself into screenwriting and directing. I do love acting but I want to stretch myself and create a feature-length film.” Like any young superhero in the first ten minutes of a DC blockbuster, he’s just learning to harness his newfound powers. Although he may not be fighting any intergalactic wars in the coming decade, his wit and skater-dude charm gives him a distinct advantage in the battleground of Hollywood’s entertainment industry.