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A warning to Friday Night Lights fans: the clean shaven Zach Gilford you came to know and love as quarterback of the Dillon Panthers will look just a little bit different when you see him next.
The 30-year-old actor, as mild-mannered off-screen as he is on, stars in the upcoming indie In Our Nature as Seth, the quiet, sensitive son of a neglectful father played by Mad Men‘s John Slattery. The pair coincidentally choose the same weekend to go up to the family cabin, each bringing along their respective girlfriends, making for an uncomfortable weekend. While Gil, Slattery’s character, is a big-time lawyer in Manhattan, Seth is an introspective kid living in Brooklyn. And he’s got all the affectations that come with the Williamsburg hipster stereotype: beard, unruly hair, love for vegan cooking.
“When I got the part, [director Brian Savelson] was like, ‘So I need to talk to you. What do you think about growing out your beard?’” he laughed. “I think when I first met him, I looked like this, my hair was about this short, I was shaved. He was like, ‘Grow out your beard, and let’s just see where this takes us.’ And I was like, ‘Alright, but I’m not wearing skinny jeans.’”
It’s a broad coalition, but Gilford said that for the most part, “hipsters” can lack a certain self-awareness, and so there was a danger in taking the part too seriously.
“I think the fun thing was I tried to do that with a little bit of like a wink,” he said of playing a young Brooklynite. “Because I’ve read scripts where those extreme people, an extreme hipster writes a script about extreme hipsters, but there’s no wink-wink, nudge-nudge in it. They just think they’re so cool and entertaining. And it’s brutal. So I’m glad that we kind of poked fun at it a little bit.”
On the other hand, Slattery was in his wheelhouse. Just as he plays the rich older man with the parade of young women on his arm in Mad Men, in this film, he has a much younger girlfriend, played by Gabrielle Union. Just how he got typecast as such a playboy baffles him.
“Who knows. I mean, I think I look older than I am, maybe that’s part of it,” he theorized. “I think I come off as younger in action than I do in physical appearance? But I don’t know. In this business, too, you’re seen as one thing and then people go, ‘Oh, I know a guy who can do that’ if they’ve seen you do it before. So one thing sort of leads to another, maybe? But I don’t know.
He added with a laugh, “I’m not complaining.”
Both actors had television commitments when the film was made (Gilford‘s post-FNL shows, Off the Map and Mob Doctor have since been canceled), and so they only have so many opportunities to shoot a film. In Our Nature was shot in under a month in upstate New York, which made it a feasible film to fit into their schedules. More importantly, it offered the actors a chance to stretch their theatrical muscles — even if it didn’t promise box office blockbuster success.
“It was fairly obvious that the time spent working on this movie wasn’t going to be running around, chasing someone with a gun, it was going to be sitting in a room trying to figure out these relationships, which I found interesting,” Slattery explained. “Both relationships, and the idea of exploring them on film, where you get time to actually play the scenes and play them over again and work on them and figure it out and figure out how best to shoot it. And he was open, Brian that is, to kind of reworking some dialog. I wanted to make a good little film, and I think we succeeded pretty well.”
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