Gregg Sulkin might be new to the Marvel Universe, but he’s no stranger to working in teen dramas.
Before landing a lead role in Marvel’s “Runaways,” a superhero show based on the comic by Brian K. Vaughan and Adrian Alphona, the 25-year-old had a recurring role on “Wizards of Waverly Place,” “Pretty Little Liars” and starred in “Faking It.”
Josh Schwartz and Stephanie Savage, the minds behind “The O.C.” and “Gossip Girl,” created the new television adaptation currently streaming on Hulu. The new series centers on a group of teenagers who discover their parents are part of a crime organization called the Pride. Sulkin stars as Chase Stein, a lacrosse player with a knack for engineering.
The British actor spoke with Variety about Season 1 of “Runaways,” his thoughts on Hollywood, and what he likes to do around Los Angeles.
Were you a Marvel fan before signing on to the show?
I was a Marvel fan; I like Marvel projects. I had actually never heard of the [“Runaways”] comic, but once I got the role, I then did some research on what “Runaways” was and what “Runaways” meant to people.
How was the project initially introduced to you?
I found out about the role when my team sent me the audition. I didn’t know what the project was for, I didn’t know who was involved, and it was a fake character name. Once I tested, I called Josh Schwartz because they wanted me to sign on to something for seven years that I didn’t know anything about. I was like, “Josh, you’re asking me to sign a seven-year contract without having read a single thing.” But he has a great way of convincing people, so here I am.
What did he say that convinced you?
He kept on reiterating that the show is shot in LA, and I have lived here for nine years, so to sleep in my own bed was a big attraction. Both [Schwartz] and Steph have great success rates and their past track record is incredible, so I felt I was in safe hands. I felt like I was talking to a producer who knew exactly what he wanted, knew exactly what he would be doing with it, and I completely trusted him 100%.
What are some things you learned from working with them?
How to always lighten the mood, if possible. Josh is amazing at that. They have a very interesting dynamic. Josh is very, very outgoing and fun, and Stephanie is a little more of a straight shooter. She’s a little quiet, but when she has something to say, it’s one, very educated, and two, very important. Their dynamic works perfectly together. The main thing I learned from them is always how to treat crew members when you’re in a position of power. They are so lovely to everyone they work with in every department. And I want to get into the production side of things, so to have Josh as a person I can ask questions and be educated by, that’s a big plus for me.
“Runaways” is very rooted in 2017. Do you find it important that the show mirrors current issues?
100%. There are so many things that are touched upon in this show. There’s a little bit of a political standpoint in our show, it’s very subtle, but there’s definitely an opinion shared. It’s important, especially in the political climate that we’re currently in, that people do voice their opinion. It’s important to be heard for the sake of potentially trying to make this world a better place. As long as it’s done in a peaceful manner, not an aggressive one, that’s the way forward.
It’s nice to be on a show that does that in a very smart and educated way. There so many amazing things about the show. We have a lot of diversity, which is great. It’s been a long time since Asian and African American actors have had equal opportunity, so I think that’s crucial. We have a character that is a big feminist and is all about female rights, which is crucial, too.
Have you heard anything about a second season?
I’ve heard that the show has done really well.
Does Hulu release numbers?
They don’t, but inside the Hulu family I’ve been told that they are so happy with the show. I would absolutely love to do a second season. I’m not quietly confident — I’m very confident there will be a second season. And if there’s not, we’ve done an incredible first season. Marvel tends to believe in their projects, and Hulu also tends to give their series a chance. From the reaction of the fans, I would be shocked if we aren’t coming back. But you never know, it’s TV!
You were on “Pretty Little Liars,” which has a really insane fan base. Do you notice the same reaction from Marvel?
It’s a different reaction, for sure, but it’s as passionate. The age groups have changed a little bit. On “Pretty Little Liars” or “Wizards of Waverly Place,” it was teenage girls. The other day I was in Fed-Ex printing something out and a couple of dudes came over and said, “Yo, bro. We love your show.” It was very interesting. Not many 13 or 14-year-old men come up to me usually. It’s nice to be able to meet older dudes and have them in my corner.
With all the sexual harassment allegations continuing to unfold, what are your thoughts on the state of the entertainment industry these days?
This has been going on for years. Even as a young actor, I was very close with someone who called me after a hotel room [encounter] and felt uncomfortable. I didn’t know who it was, she never told me. Unfortunately people have turned the other way. They’ve known this is going on and they’ve chosen not to look into it. It’s not acceptable. I just hope it stops. It’s a very scary time for a lot of people. The positive from [this] is people will now look at themselves in the mirror and they’re making sure their behavior is appropriate. Although it’s a very free industry, there must be boundaries, and people have to feel comfortable going to work. I’ve never experienced it myself.
As a male, do you feel it’s important to empower women to come forward?
Absolutely. If they feel something has happened, absolutely, they have to. If they don’t, this will carry on and carry on. People in general should never be using power to gain anything in sexual advances. It’s completely disgusting.
What are your feelings toward social media?
It’s changed the industry massively. I’ve walked into rooms and booked roles because I have a social media presence, and I’ve lost roles to someone with a larger social media presence. The positive [side] of it is you now have your own voice. You don’t need to go through a media outlet to voice your opinion. Also, if the media outlet says something about you, you can share your side of the story. You can have a true representation of yourself. On the bad side, people are always on their phones. Once you’re into this world, it’s just you and the phone, when in fact, social media doesn’t really make a difference; it’s not reality. When you put your phone down, this is reality. Finding a balance between engaging with your fans and being true to who you are while keeping certain parts of your life private, that’s the goal.
What do you like to do to unwind?
Go on dates [laughs]. Too many, too many. I love to play football. I play with all English boys, so it’s like being back in London. I go to viewpoints, like the top of mountains, and look out because it brings be back to when I first moved out here.
Where do you like to go on dates?
I’m not very LA when it comes to that stuff. I really don’t like fancy restaurants. In all honesty, a perfect date for me would be putting on sweats and a hoodie and going to Panera or Chipotle. It’s ideal for me. I like to break down the barriers nice and early because it’s unrealistic — nobody is going to eat at Catch for breakfast, lunch, and dinner. So why are you going to take somebody [there] and allow them to enter your life? It’s a facade, that’s not who you are. I don’t go to Catch or Nobu every Monday and Wednesday and Thursday. It’s not who I am. I prefer to go to the chill, local spots. In-N-Out is great.
What other venues in LA are you into?
My best friend has a restaurant in Hollywood called Spice, so I sometimes go there. There’s a great place in Sherman Oaks called Public School [818.] There’s a place called Sweet Butter Kitchen, which is a breakfast place in Sherman Oaks. I prefer to eat in the Valley.
And for nightlife?
I’m not a big nightclub person, but I like bars. On The Rox on Sunset is one of my favorites bars because it’s quiet, it’s got a New York vibe, and people dance. It blows my mind that people in LA don’t really dance. They like to go to a table, spend a lot of money, stand there and look across the room to see who else is standing with a lot of money. That’s how it works. I grew up in London, and nobody cares. The more fun you have, the cooler you are. It’s not linked to status or finances.