Child actors often have a hard time breaking out of their niche and finding their place in an adult-driven industry. Many try to jump from the ranks of Disney or Nickelodeon to embrace edgier roles that push the limits of their audience. In that respect, Garrett Clayton may be one of those lucky few.
The Disney alum stars alongside the likes of Alicia Silverstone, Molly Ringwald, Christian Slater, and James Franco in writer/director Justin Kelly's (I Am Michael) new gay porn crime biopic, King Cobra.
The film depicts the events surrounding the 2007 murder of porn producer Bryan Kocis. Clayton portrays Sean Lockhart, a popular porn star also known as Brent Corrigan. When it emerged that Lockhart was underage at the dawn of his adult film career, controversy became synonymous with the young performer.
Clayton seems to be the perfect fit for such a role, shedding his Disney image to tell a true story of sex and murder. Ahead of the King Cobra premiere at Tribeca Film Festival, we caught up with the young star to ask him our most burning questions, from filming sex scenes to getting into Twitter feuds.
Out: King Cobra has gotten a lot of hype so far --both positive and negative. What do your fans think of it?
Garrett Clayton: I think everyone, from what I've seen, seems excited and interested. People are always gonna be excited or angry that you're making a movie adaptation of any book because I don't think I've ever met anyone who thinks the movie lives up to the book. So we're all crossing our fingers.
It's a pretty risque role considering your past work. Why did you decide to make this transition in your career?
When I finished working with Disney, I think I was just excited that I got to explore something completely outside of the box, and I think that's all most actors can really ask for, to be lucky enough to have a versatile career.
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You work with some pretty amazing actors in this movie. Did you have any star struck moments on set?
I get star struck by really weird things. Like, I got star struck by Grumpy Cat. (Laughs) My mom freaked out that I was working with Christian (Slater) but he's just become a really cool friend, and I just feel really lucky.
Was it intimidating shooting such an intimate scene with an actor of his calibre?
I think... Yes. (laughs) Yeah, the whole thing is kind of crazy. Sometimes I'd have to, like, take a deep breath and just be like, 'It's ok. It's just a role.' Because it's a very intense movie, and there's a lot of intense moments.
You play Brent Corrigan. Were you familiar at all with any of his work or anything surrounding the case?
I initially got a call for the movie from my manager saying 'There's a pretty risque role for this film. They want you to meet with the director for it. I'll send the script. Give it a read and let me know what you think.' And I read it and I'm like, 'Ha, I'm not doing this.' And then looking it up because I didn't really know anything about it, I guess because I was in middle school when it happened, (laughs) I don't know, I guess I freaked out. And I was like 'I'm definitely not doing this.' So I asked to see any of Justin (Kelly's) past work to see how he handles tough subjects or to see if he has in the past at all. And I really liked what he did with I Am Michael. I thought it was very fair handed and very smart, the way he approached it. So I met with him for the movie because I thought I'd give it the benefit of the doubt.
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A few months ago, when it was first announced that you'd be playing him, Sean had a negative response on Twitter. Have you talked to him at all since then?
I haven't spoken to him at all. Actually when I first got the part, I asked if I could meet him and talk to him to try to see his mannerisms and know more about his life. But Justin wanted it to be more separate, because he didn't want people to watch it and then get sucked into what I was trying to be. He wanted it to be more movie-esque and more character, as opposed to trying to imitate him. I think to keep it separate is also a little bit out of respect, because it's such a touchy situation.
So how did you research the role and formulate your own version of the character?
I tried to find the relatability. I tried to find any similarity in that coming from a small town and going into such a big environment and a big city. That was my door into it, I guess, because I'm from Michigan. We're both from small areas where we found who we were, and I think that was my way of getting into the role. He's always said he wants to be an actor, and that's obviously what I've wanted, and what I've been lucky enough to do. I think if things went differently... Nobody can ask for more than to have a good career, and I think right now, I've had one. And it's 'What if things went wrong?', and 'Who chooses to fall into that world?'
The movie exposed the way Bryan (Kocis) abused his power over Sean by not paying him his worth and blocking him from getting other work. Have you ever had similar experiences in Hollywood?
I've always been lucky enough to have the respect of my peers. Nobody's tried to outright take advantage of me or anything. I've kept a pretty good close group of friends, and I try to keep good people with me when I go to events just to make sure I have someone there with me as a support system. You know, sometimes you show up to things where there are huge directors and stars around you, and you're a little bit intimidated. And I think it's good to have an emotional support with you when you go.
In the ten years since the events of this film took place, the LGBT community has come a long way. What's it like being a part of this progressive generation and having the opportunity to play these unconventional roles?
I just think we're in a really cool lucky time where there are films like this that are able to be made, and it's not just some small indie market. It's actually a time where it's commercial. I think Christian is brilliant in this film, and ten years ago, it wouldn't have been able to be made.
Some might say this film sheds a negative light on sex workers' rights. What's your opinion on that?
There's a dark side to every situation. This is just one of the stories. It's not an opinion as much as it's just a fact that this is a story that happened, and we're telling it.
Clayton with Alicia Silverstone