When Titus Makin, Jr. first auditioned for Star-Crossed , a new CW show premiering on Monday, he thought he knew exactly what to expect.
"The CW was one of the networks that I had always gotten auditions for in the past, and every time I had an audition for it, my friends would kind of laugh and be like, 'good luck, let’s see if this works,'" Makin, Jr. said in an interview with Bustle. "It was just one of those networks that you never expect to actually get cast on, because you saw the type that was typically cast and were just like, 'well, I don’t look like Ian Somerhalder so… good luck with that!'"
He might not be a Damon lookalike, but Makin, Jr., 24, did apparently share his talent; the actor ended up getting cast on Star-Crossed — and now, he said, laughing, "they're my favorite network!"
The change of heart is certainly understandable. Star-Crossed, premiering Monday at 8 PM, is one of the most anticipated new mid-season shows, with acclaimed early reviews and comparisons to Roswell, a cult favorite. Perhaps Makin, Jr. actually isn't so far from Somerhalder after all; many are already hailing Star-Crossed as the new Vampire Diaries, a welcome comparison seeing as the latter show is the highest-rated on the CW network.
It's a lofty title to live up to, but Makin, Jr. believes that Star-Crossed is ready. "People are going to identify with so many of the characters, and be able to just latch onto the story," he said, adding that he was "extremely drawn" to the pilot, one of two, along with the upcoming The 100, that caught his eye last season.
Star-Crossed is described as a "sci-fi romance," but although the show does revolve around the Romeo and Juliet-esque relationship between a human girl and an alien boy, that's only one element of the genre-defying series. According to Makin, Jr., Star-Crossed is "pretty intense," with heavy action sequences and "a lot of cool CGI." And then there's the humor, in which Makin, Jr.'s character, Lukas, the best friend of protagonist Emery (Friday Night Lights' Aimee Teegarden), plays a big part.
"[Lukas] pretty much just acts as the comedic relief," Makin, Jr. said. "He's the guy who kind of cushions the blow of some of the heavy dramatic situations."
And in a show about human-alien relations, there's plenty of drama. Star-Crossed, which takes place in a 2024 world where aliens have crash-landed on Earth, deals with the effects of allowing once-quarantined alien teens to integrate into public high schools. Makin, Jr.'s Lukas, along with Teegarden's Emery and several others, act as the human students witnessing the attempted assimilation.
"We kind of act as an example of whether two species can co-exist," Makin, Jr. said. "If they can, then they plan to allow them to roam free and for all of us to live together, but if they can’t, then it means more war and more confinement."
Prejudice, racism, class wars —it's deeper material than one might typically expect to see on the CW. "It's so relevant to today," Makin, Jr. said. "It's just a future version of modern day issues."
Star-Crossed won't be the first time the actor's dealt with tough material. On Glee, where he had a recurring role as David, a Dalton Academy Warbler, for three seasons, Makin, Jr. saw firsthand how a non-primetime drama TV series can still take on serious subjects.
"Both shows are deciding to tackle the equality issue," he said, adding that the two series are able to make handling topics like race and discrimination "more acceptable than controversial." Of course, there are some differences between the two shows. Glee "had a different energy," Makin, Jr. said. "With Star-Crossed, you're focused on the acting... it's a completely different machine."
Being on Glee certainly had its benefits; other than the career-making aspect of being watched by an average of 9 million viewers every week, the show's musical elements allowed Makin, Jr, a singer/songwriter, to pursue both of his passions at once.
"I would love to put an album out, and have a split focus on acting and music," he said. "Hopefully, they'll compliment each other."
Just a few hours after his interview with Bustle, Makin, Jr. performed an acoustic set at Hollywood's House of Blues. "I'm trying to do as much as I can in the downtime that I have," he said.
Makin, Jr. credits Pretty Little Liars' star Lucy Hale as an inspiration, noting the way that the actress, who started out in Hollywood as a singer, has balanced her two passions with ease. Yet Makin, Jr.'s biggest role model is an actor whose music career has been overshadowed by his film work: Will Smith.
"The path he took, coming from more of a comedic, series regular type role to being well-respected in the film industry, is something that I look up to," Makin, Jr. said. "It's inspiring." And there's Julianne Moore, who Makin, Jr. calls somebody who "everybody trusts" and "respects."
"You know she's gonna put out great work," he said. "Every film might not be Oscar-nominated, but it's always solid work."
For Makin, Jr., that's more important than nearly anything else. "If people respect and trust your ability, then you will continually have work," he said.
And with Star-Crossed, Makin, Jr's set on proving his worth, despite being something of a self-described "underdog" on set. "I definitely did go in feeling like a major underdog, like, I'm definitely gonna be the new guy on campus," he said. "I was with all these established young artists."
Along with Teegarden, best known for playing Julie Taylor on Friday Night Lights, Star-Crossed features 90210's Matt Lanter, The Vampire Diaries' Malese Jow, and The Secret Circle's Grey Damon.
Being one of the lesser-known members of the cast, though, only adds to Makin, Jr.'s appreciation of being part of the show. "I hope it goes into many seasons and has what I like to call "Smallville success," he said, "where it keeps going and going.... not only for the sake of our careers, but also to just see where the story goes."
And if that means Star-Crossed ends up being one of those series where 30-year-olds are still taking their S.A.T.s, so be it. "I don't mind being 30 or 40 and playing high school," Makin, Jr., said, laughing. "As long as I'm working, I'll just say, 'hey, thank you!'"
Hopefully, though, even if Star-Crossed does as well as expected, Makin, Jr. won't be stuck in high school forever. He has a resume full of TV movies, and he's looking forward to eventually taking on more feature films. "My goal is just to be a respected actor, somebody who is working and getting jobs due to the quality of work being put out," he said.
And with his role on Star-Crossed, as well as an EP in the works, the actor's Hollywood career is just getting started.
Said Makin, Jr, simply: "I'm very excited."
Images: Manfred Baumann; The CW; FOX