'Ironbound' Star Shiloh Fernandez On Why He's Breaking Away From Hollywood
Shiloh Fernandez, who audiences may know as Zac Efron's best friend in We Are Your Friends , or as Amanda Seyfried's love interest in Red Riding Hood (many moons ago), is tired of being an "LA actor kid." What Fernandez means to say, at least I think, is that he's sick of being offered the same types of roles — the handsome, pleasant but forgettable, love interest — time and time again. "This feeling snuck up on me. I'm an actor for a reason: I want to explore. I'm not good at that normal shit because it's not that interesting."
Having grown up in California and worked in Los Angeles for almost the entirety of his career, Fernandez jumped ship to the opposite coast in an attempt to embrace the abnormal, and break away from the same, monotonous, film roles. "I wanted to prove to myself that I was a capable actor. It's why I moved to New York. I realized for me, these same [LA-based] roles... it's not something that makes me want to live. I look back at the people who made films stand out and important, and I think that in terms of history they all started here, on the stage."
Fernandez abandoned his LA-lifestyle for a brand new life in the Big Apple, with a specific goal to take a break from film and try on stage productions. He didn't have a job, a bed to sleep on, or even an audition to set his sights on for several weeks. As it turns out, you can star in blockbuster films like Evil Dead and still struggle for your craft. "I was frightened as all hell for weeks before I had my first theater audition," the 31-year-old admits. "The first audition went horribly wrong. I didn't know how to stand on the stage or use the space. Then they said I couldn't get other auditions because I wasn't famous enough to sell tickets, I had no experience, and no one really wants to see me."
Ouch. In that moment, the Los Angeles palm trees and sunshine probably didn't sound too bad. But according to the actor, he never regretted his decision. "It was rough. I was curling up into a ball, but I'm so grateful I pulled the trigger. There was something about staying in LA that was too simple, a little bit too straight forward for me. I wanted to get back to an idea of stretching oneself, and making sure the tools you're using are capable on all platforms."
Luckily, his risky move has paid off — so far. Fernandez is currently appearing on stage in Ironbound, which has garnered rave reviews from The New York Times, New York Daily News, Time Out New York, and more. But even within his new world on stage, Fernandez was initially pigeon-holed, just like in LA. "The role they initially had me audition for was the good-looking, lover type, which is something I'm trying to get away from. I don't think that necessarily defines me," he says.
So instead, he asked to try on a part of 17-year-old freelance rap artist, Vic. "It was appealing to me because I'm interested in playing characters that stretch myself. It's good to be in a position that's uncomfortable. It reminds you to work hard."
Off stage, Fernandez is taking a break from acting in film. And as we chat on the phone, Fernandez reveals that the director of his last film, Long Nights Short Mornings, came to see tonight's performance of Ironbound. The pair are out in the city having a celebratory drink as we speak.
"It's my favorite thing I've ever done," Fernandez says of LNSM. "We shot it last summer, and I haven't made a movie since then, mostly because it was such an enjoyable experience. But it's hard to be patient as an actor, because work is your life. I think about the play all day long. And I don't think a lot of people understand that when you work a 9-5 job sometimes you can put your job on those hours, and come home and live a different life. For an actor it's constant. I'm always looking to work, and explore, and find new ways to play a character. It's hard to be unemployed as an actor."
But for Fernandez, being employed in a role you hate is just as difficult. That's why he feels grateful to have found a character, Vic, he savors playing every night on stage. According to the actor, "Vic appears to be one thing, but is really something else."
Sounds a bit like Fernandez himself.
Ironbound is playing now through Sunday, April 24 at Rattlestick Playwrights Theater.
Images: Sandra Coudert; @shilohfernandez / Instagram