One on One with Nolan Gerard Funk
In 2016, most actors get typecast for playing the same role time and time again. While this may provide a steady income and critical acclaim, this isn’t the approach for Nolan Gerard Funk. Our cover boy made a name for himself by headlining a Broadway show, playing Hunter Clarington on Glee, and being shot for Vanity Fair alongside major worldwide artists like Lady Gaga and Donatella Versace. He even starred in an action film with Vin Diesel. I got a chance to chat with this Canadian heartthrob on everything from the thought process behind his role selection and his modelling career to what comes next.
by Anthony James O'Dell
You've made a name for yourself playing a lot of creative roles, were you always a creative person?
It probably got me into a lot of trouble growing up. There were some pretty out there school projects that certainly didn’t help me fit in. I was also an athlete, but to me that was also a way to channel creativity.
Are there any parallels you can take from your career as an athlete that you use in acting?
I would say the main difference is that typically in athletics you have a coach there to yell at you. As an actor, all of the research and time and dedication and creation is fully dependent on you (and coffee). I guess the biggest parallel is that it comes down to the amount of discomfort you are willing to experience in the gym, or in those moments where you are struggling to merge with a character. Not to say I don’t enjoy the research aspect of things, but the fun part is typically the actual filming or performance, and in sports it's the competition.
You just mentioned that the fun part is typically filming or performance. What steps do you take to mentally prepare for a role, and does that differ considerably based on what the role is?
It's incredibly subjective what preparation is required. Sometimes it's physical, sensorial, other times it's mental.
What’s the toughest role you've had to prepare for, and can you talk a bit about the different types of prep that went into it?
I don't know if I can really categorize one role as the toughest, but I would say going to Broadway as Conrad Birdie in Bye Bye Birdie was definitely a challenge because I had never done stage before, outside of an acting class. I worked with an incredible coach, Larry Moss. The level of improvisation and detail and history he inspired was thrilling. I was always trying to make the performance better and he would give me notes constantly. The experience never got stale. The audience always changed and so did the performance. I remember the night Ben Brantley was in the audience reviewing for the New York Times, I wiped out onstage in the middle of the number. That's the beauty of theatre; the preparation is making a mental commitment to yourself to just keep going. There is no one who is going to yell "cut," and that's a great thing.
Would you do theatre again?
I would love to do a Broadway play. That's part of why I moved back to NYC. Though I haven't been on stage since moving back, I was able to do a film this year based on a play called Hello Again, which originally opened at the Lincoln Center. The role was that of a soldier struggling with PTSD and some very active hormones, set in 1902 and then 1942. I've always loved old movies, so it was a bit of a dream to shoot, and also terrifying. The film has some incredible actors, including (six-time Tony winner) Audra McDonald and Martha Plimpton.
Any dream collaborators you haven't had a chance to work with yet?
Too many. P.T. Anderson, Ang Lee, Matt Damon, Baz Luhrmann, Derek Cinefrance, Bernardo Bertolucci, Martin Scorsese, David Fincher, Aaron Sorkin, Joe Mantello, Alex Timbers, Ramin Bahrani, Alfonso Cuarón.
You've already worked with a lot of household names (Lindsay Lohan, Vin Diesel, etc.). Any memorable stories you can share?
The most memorable ones tend to be the most incriminating.
I've read that your biggest fantasy as an actor is to be taken out of your comfort zone. What's next in terms of getting yourself out of your comfort zone?
Well, I'm going to play a character on a Shonda Rhimes show, The Catch. It takes a lot to intimidate me, but that woman is a genius! So there's some nerves involved. I'm also about to work on a series for Netflix called Dear White People… It has the potential to be controversial, so I guess that sort of makes me nervous on a political level. There is a fine line, as an actor, between people knowing you’re acting and thinking that you are your character. After the releasing of my season on Awkward for MTV, I had people send me a bit of hate, thinking that I was a guy who steals girls and does drugs. So I guess the vain part of myself thinks that I need to control what people think of me, but then there is another part of me that is almost encouraged by that response in people; that they believe my performance enough to take it so seriously. In addition to that, I love exploring Europe, as I am a citizen and grew up attending French immersion school and studying German on the weekends. I love the challenge of playing with accents and really enjoy languages, so it’s ideal when projects involve traveling.
Absolutely. Dear White People sounds really interesting. Anything else you can share about that right now?
There is a lot of grey, and it showcases some very different points of view, youth and also conversations that don't seem to ever stop.
You're signed with IMG models, and you’ve been the face of Versace. Is fashion an area you'd consider exploring more?
It's been fun venturing into a world with a different process than film. Whatever you create on set, be it photographs or videos, comes out a lot faster and everything is a little bit more dramatic. I've learned things about myself on a shoot that I didn't know otherwise. I wouldn't consider myself a model. I think vanity is a very dangerous thing for an actor, so it's something that I would keep doing as long as it doesn't mess with my ability to make a fool of myself.
What does your fitness/nutrition regimen look like right now to stay in model shape?
When it comes to exercise, variety is definitely your best friend. The moment your body gets too used to something, it's time to switch it up. I alternate between CrossFit, lifting heavy/light, cycling, boxing, and always making sure that I can hold a handstand for at least 30 seconds. I sort of like to take a bit of a cue from our ancestors about things, doing activities that are key for survival. Even just climbing ropes, swinging on rings and bars. As guys, we avoid working out our legs, but it's what you need to do if you want to get bigger up top because of how it affects you hormonally. Food-wise, I'm definitely an advocate for eating organic and supporting local farming. My friend Leah Adams is an Ayurvedic counselor, so she's been working with me on a few different approaches to lifestyle.
The movie industry is changing faster than ever, with the emergence of original content and international films continuing to play a bigger role in the everyday Canadian’s consciousness. Nolan Gerard Funk continues to reinvent what it means to be an actor in 2016 with his new roles in Hello Again, Dear White People, and international work on the horizon. If his current resume is any indication, you can expect to see plenty of Funk for years to come.
Photographer Peter Tamlin
Fashion Editor Randy Smith
Grooming Julie Cusson
Photographer's Assistant Elijah Yutuch