'Big Time Adolescence' Director on What Pete Davidson Brought to His Role

Courtesy of Sundance Institute
Pete Davidson

Writer-director Jason Orley found the ideal star for his directorial debut in Pete Davidson.

When Jason Orley wrote Big Time Adolescence, he had no idea who would play Zeke, a college dropout who takes his ex-girlfriend’s little brother under his wing. However, when Orley saw Pete Davidson at the Comedy Central roast of Justin Bieber in 2015, he knew he had found his man.

“I was like, 'that’s the character,'” Orley told The Hollywood Reporter at the New York premiere of the film Thursday night. “I sent it to everyone I knew at SNL. Get this kid the script.” The film premiered at the Sundance Film Festival last year and was picked up by Hulu, where the movie will debut March 13.

It was one of the first films Orley wrote and marks his directorial debut. “I always wanted to tell a story like this about male friendship, about teenage boys and how they grow up and how they always tend to idolize the wrong people,” he said. “I had a lot of Petes in my life growing up. Just that journey of idolizing someone, becoming their friend, and eventually outgrowing them, is something I always wanted to explore.”

In addition to finding his perfect leading man in Davidson, Orley said the comedian brought inspiration from his own life to the role. “I had those guys growing up for me, and I think [Pete] had them growing up for him,” said Orley, who added that Davidson “elevated the character.”

“And I think he wanted to play it the way those kids were like then. He was sending me clothes — this is what I want to wear, this is what should be on the wall, the shoes, the watch. He got to design the character to what felt natural," Orley said of how Davidson shaped Zeke.

Jon Cryer, who stars as a father conflicted by his son’s interactions with Zeke, was impressed by Davidson’s dedication in his first major film role. “He’s a stand-up, but he does sketch comedy on SNL and this is a different thing,” Cryer said. “He rises to the occasion in just stellar form. It’s a perfect combination of actor and part and that’s thrilling to see.”

And Cryer admitted even though Davidson and he have a slight history, all that’s in the past. “Pete had sheepishly admitted that his very first joke in stand-up was about me,” Cryer added. “And I’ve seen that joke. It’s a funny joke so there were no hard feelings. It’s been lovely to know him and that he’s been so up front about his struggles has been heartening to see that he can do this in the public eye and still stay balanced.”