At just 22 years old, actor Griffin Gluck has quite literally grown up in front of the public. He caught the bug for acting after watching his sister land roles in school plays and at the local theatre, where he ultimately nailed his first ever audition earning him the lead role in a local production of A Midsummer Night’s Dream. The charismatic young actor continuously booked lead roles in other local productions, until finally at just nine years old, booking the role of Michael, son of Adam Sandler and Jennifer Aniston in the 2011 romantic comedy, Just Go With It. Being his first ever professional job, one might think a role in a film this big would intimidate a young actor, but it wasn’t for Gluck. He credits a little naivety and not really grasping how big the job was for giving him confidence to go for what was ultimately his career-changing audition.
With a blend of youthful charm and remarkable acting prowess, Gluck has rapidly emerged as one of the industry’s most promising actors. He has quite the diverse resume, ranging from the medical drama Private Practice, to Netflix YA film Tall Girl, to playing the teenage best friend to a drug-dealing college dropout (played by Pete Davidson) in the Sundance nominated dramedy film Big Time Adolescence. Most recently, Gluck landed the lead role of Luke Chambers, a straight-laced teen from a prominent family, in season 2 of the Freeform anthology series Cruel Summer.
Season 2 of Cruel Summer is set in the small town of Chatham, Washington. In episode one, it is revealed that Luke is missing, and ultimately (spoiler alert) is found murdered in the idyllic town’s lake. The teen’s murder remains unsolved as the anthology series continues between the summer of 1999, the winter of 1999, and the summer of 2000, showcasing motives for several suspects who could have possibly killed Luke.
In conversation with 1883 Magazine, Griffin Gluck discusses the complexity of his Cruel Summer season 2 character Luke, discovering his love for white wine while filming in Vancouver, and spending more than half of his life on-screen.
You’ve been working half of your life already and have had quite the diverse career so far–
What originally made you want to pursue a career in acting?
That’s such an interesting question. I have to transport myself back to early childhood for a second. So this is the story I tell, which doesn’t necessarily paint me in the best light. Well, you’ll understand in a second.
My story is basically when I was a kid, I did not have many friends. I was kind of like a loner. I liked to just kind of be on my own. I didn’t have a whole bunch of friends. I was kind of a little bullied and stuff. And I saw my sister do plays in theatre – school plays and plays at the local playhouse– and she developed a lot of friends from doing that. She seemed to be having a lot of fun as well so I thought to myself, “I would love to try this out, and maybe make some friends, maybe see if I have fun doing it.” And to everyone in my family’s surprise, I ended up booking the lead roles in all of the plays that I was auditioning for, in the school plays and that playhouse.
I developed a wonderful sense of community, where I was making friends and having fun acting and being on stage, and then really just loving the sense of applause and being appreciated as a kid– it just felt awesome to have that. And then I just fell in love with acting, you know, basically through the community of meeting people and exploring scene work and having fun doing that with them. I just started to attach the feeling of fun and fulfillment and excitement and community right after that so I stuck to it, and now I’m here.
Do you remember what your first audition was?
Let’s see. The first play, I mean, if we’re talking about the very first one, I think it was a school production of A Midsummer Night’s Dream.
Then I was cast in Guys and Dolls, where I played Nathan Detroit at a local playhouse, and then I went to Oliver where I played Oliver at a local playhouse. And then, I think one of my first auditions professionally, I got really lucky. I’m pretty sure this was my first audition, at least it’s the first one I remember, but I auditioned for Just Go With It with Adam Sandler, and that ended up being my first job.
Wow, that’s a big first job.
Oh, it was huge. I remember getting the call that I booked it. I was in Ikea with my family, and we caused the biggest scene. We were running around the storage section going, “yes!!!”
That’s incredible, I would have been screaming with my family too! Was it intimidating walking into such a huge production for your first big job?
I think it would have been, but I was so young that I don’t think I fully grasped how big and daunting it really was, which I think was a good thing for me. I didn’t feel a lot of pressure as a nine year old. I just felt like I was having fun, you know. It felt like I continued to do what made me fall in love with it in the first place, which is find a community and make friends and have fun.
Being your first big job, what was the dynamic working with pros like Adam Sandler and Jennifer Aniston on such an iconic film?
It was fantastic. I have a lot of funny stories from that set. I remember Dennis Dugan, the director, was a huge, huge influence on my career, and I don’t know if he really even knows that. But I came from a theatre background, so you know, you have to memorize the entire script. So I showed up to do a readthrough with Dennis on the first day, and he was like, “let’s read through the script.” Everyone pulled out their scripts and I was like, “I don’t need mine. I’ve memorized the whole thing.” And he scolded me, he got so upset. He was like, “you memorized the script?” He then taught me to never do that. He said, “if you memorize the script, then you’re going to memorize your lines like the way that you want to do them, and I won’t be able to do my job as a director to direct your performance and change your performance, so don’t do that.”
Adam (Sandler) is a hilarious guy and he wanted me to play off of him. He likes to improvise and say random things, and he wanted me to improvise with him. Which is what I did. So, you know, Adam and I, at least for a nine year old with like a 30 something year old or however old he was at the time, we had a really awesome dynamic relationship where he’d be like, “Hey man, I’m going to try and make you laugh, but don’t laugh.” It was a lot of fun and I learned so much from him. He was really nice. I got to hang out with his kids at the time as well and he felt like a friend, which was really cool.
As a huge Pete Davidson fan I have to ask – how the hell did you stay in character on set with him in Big Time Adolescence?
Big Time Adolescence was my favourite job I’ve ever done in my life. I know that seems unfair to all the other projects to choose a favourite– it’s like choosing a favourite of your kids, but if I were being honest, Big Time was my favourite. And it was because Pete and I got along so well, it didn’t feel like we were acting. That was one of the reasons he said he liked me for the role. He saw my tape and he goes, “this looks like a guy I would like to hang out with. This seems like a 17 year old that I wouldn’t mind being friends with.” And that’s mostly what we did. You know, when we weren’t shooting, we would just spend most of the days together hanging out– a lot of messing around and we got really close. He was like an older brother to me. I think that’s why, at least in my opinion, our dynamic worked so well in that movie. Because we didn’t have to pretend to get along. We very much had that dynamic already. He’s a super chill guy, and very much like an older brother to me.
That is so lovely. Are you still friends?
Yeah, we’re still friends. He’s super busy. I haven’t seen him in a while. Honestly, I talk to his mom now more than I talked to him.
What was the audition process like? That was pre-pandemic, right?
Yes. Actually, I remember our premiere was like three days before the country shut down. That audition process was great. I remember I went into the room with Jason Orley, the director, and I felt a very strong attachment to the character already. I saw so much of myself in the character. I remember going into the audition room and the scene that I auditioned with was the one where I come back to the house after the cops have possibly caught me and I’m like, “this is all your fault,” and I’m having a panic attack.
I remember going into the room and thinking to myself “alright, let’s do this.” They hit action, and then I actually started to hyperventilate and basically had like a miniature panic attack in the room. I don’t know what happened, but it was probably one of the best auditions I’ve ever done, that I can remember. And I remember after, they said “cut,” and then Jason was silent for a second, and he said “wow, that was great, man. Thank you so much for coming in.” I thanked them and said “see you soon,” and I left feeling really, really good about it.
I was going to ask– I’m sure you were already attached to the character, but did you walk out confident that the part was yours?
Yeah. I mean, there’s a lot of that. It’s tough because when you get super attached to a role, if you don’t get it, it’s the worst feeling ever. I was prepared for that to be the case with this movie, but luckily it wasn’t. I’m looking back and I’m giddy and I’m smiling, just remembering the whole process.
What a great memory!
I remember when Jason called me that we got into Sundance– I’m not even joking, I was in my backyard and he said, “Guess what? We’re going to Sundance.” And I don’t know why, but my initial reaction was me throwing my phone almost into my neighbour’s yard, and then I had to go grab it and I was like, “Oh my God.”
At what point in time was it that you found out about Sundance?
This had to have been maybe six, seven months after we finished shooting. It was my first time, and we had so much fun.
Let’s chat about Cruel Summer season 2! Were you a fan / had you watched season 1 before auditioning?
If I’m being totally honest, no. I hadn’t seen it before I got the audition. I had heard about the show– my friend Chiara played Jeanette in the first season. I told her “I’m such a bad friend, sorry, I didn’t watch your show. Now I’m doing the second season.” And after I got the job, I went and I watched the entirety of season one. I was like, “wow, okay, I’m so sorry. You did such a phenomenal job.”
What originally made you want to audition for the role of Luke?
Honestly, I just really liked the character and I liked the breakdown. I loved the story that they had written and what was presented to me. It ended up changing a lot from what I auditioned with, but I just really liked the structure of the show and the way they described it to me. In the show there are three timelines, and you play the same person throughout, but three different versions of them. You get to show how your character progresses through three different time periods– for example, they’ve got trouble at home, and they’re falling in love and the nuances of being a young stupid teenager, etc. They also revealed that my character died, which I thought was intriguing. I really loved the character and the story that they had given me. So that’s why I got really into it.
Okay, so you knew Luke was going to die in episode 1?
Oh yeah, I knew!
Did that change the way you approached portraying him at all?
I don’t think that changed much for me. I don’t think the fact that Luke dies is like a defining characteristic for him or something that really needed to be paid a lot of attention to, if that makes sense. Because there’s not a lot of acting in that, you know. No one knows that they’re going to die, no one knows how, no one knows when. So I didn’t have to really use anything for that to prepare, if that makes sense.
Something that was important for me for Luke was just remembering that he, although this is set in like 1999 when I wasn’t even alive yet, is at the heart of it all, he’s just a teen going through the same problems that any teenager nowadays would go through. He doesn’t have a great relationship with his family, and there are a lot of teenagers that can relate to that. He’s stuck in a love triangle, he’s in love with his childhood best friend– all things that are super relatable to a lot of teenagers. All of those things build his character more than the fact that he dies. That really takes a backseat. I just tried to be as honest and truthful about the things that I knew about and knew that I could control.
I feel like there’s a lot of heavy subject matter in this show. How did you prepare for a day of filming?
Let’s see– in terms of preparation, I think we just had a lot of conversations. Talking to the older castmates who definitely lived through similar situations and maybe who were around that age at that time. And you know, the Executive Producers and the showrunner talked to them about what they visioned for Luke. But a lot of it came down to just preparing who I knew Luke was. The scripts changed so often and the story was changing pretty often as well, a day of filming was really unpredictable. So the preparation mostly came in figuring out who the character was and just knowing, you know, how he felt about certain things. That way when things changed, it didn’t mess me up too much because I would be able to roll with the punches. I think that was most of the preparation for a lot of the cast members, just knowing your characters enough that you can play in any situation. Because we had to be ready for literally anything with a show like this– we could get a script the next day that would completely change things about who we thought our characters were and we had to find a way to roll with it.
How would you wind down after a long day of shooting a heavy scene?
Yes, lots of wine. [laughs]
Yeah, it was a big wine phase in Vancouver while we were shooting for me.
I love it. What’s your favourite wine?
Oh, my favourite wine? Let’s see, family friends put me onto La-Vis Adel
Is that red or white?
They have red, but I drink their white. I don’t know if it was Chardonnay – I don’t remember what it was. All I remember was La-Vis Adel, like 2019. I would be able to recognize the bottle.
I could talk about wine all day, but back to Luke. Do you share many similarities with him?
Yeah, a whole bunch. Luke is a stupid teenage boy. Like, that’s me down to a T. But yeah, I mean, obviously I can’t relate to exactly what Luke is going through or what he had gone through or who he was. But there were a lot of aspects to him that I just drew from my life. I mean, I’ve made many mistakes in my past, some that I am not super proud of, some that I wish I could take back, and I know that Luke feels that way about a lot of the things that he’s done. So it was very much kind of just getting in, feeling a connection to that, being a silly teenage boy, making mistakes, trying to learn from them, going against nature versus nurture and figuring out who you are through experimenting and failing and regret and all those things.
You know, everyone goes through that, and I think that’s the part about Luke that I related to the most. I remember thinking, you know, in my past relationships, in my breakups, remembering how I felt afterwards and bringing that to Luke and I also remember feeling like a crazy person after those breakups, and all the hardship. And so that’s kind of something that I definitely wanted to bring to life more with Luke was that, it was cathartic in a sense that I got to like revisit those moments and kind of see that I wasn’t alone and that Luke was going through something similar. And then hopefully, other people can see that and be like, oh, it’s okay to make mistakes. It’s not always your fault. Sometimes you mess up and you have to deal with the consequences.
I think it’s really interesting how Cruel Summer shoots each episode in 3 different time periods. Was that difficult to keep up with when learning the script and filming?
Yes! The short answer is yes. Like I said, things changed all the time, and we would be shooting three different timelines in each episode and we wouldn’t know what happens in the next one. And considering you’re shooting past– well, we’ll just call it past, present, future, even though it’s technically all in the past. It changes things. If you only have a certain amount of information from, you know, past, present, future in the first episode, you follow that along until you carry that through to the next episode. Okay, this is how my character feels, this is what they did, etc. But then the future episodes add more context, and then you see something else from the past that affects the present, that affects the future, and it changes everything. So it was really, really difficult to try and keep up with all that stuff, which is why I said the main preparation that we did was just knowing our characters so that we could handle things like that. I think if you asked anyone in the cast, we would all agree that it was one of the hardest jobs that we’ve done in a while, and one of the most challenging as an actor.
That makes sense because as a viewer, sometimes, if you’re not paying extremely close attention, you get kind of lost in which time period you’re in and you have to go back. At least I’ve had to go back a few times and rewatch a few things so I can imagine how difficult that must have been to keep up. When you guys were filming, did you go back and forth like how the episodes are cut or did you shoot like one time period at a time?
Man, wouldn’t that just make too much sense if we did all the same time periods at once? No, there were days where we’d be like starting off in the summer of ‘99 and then we’d go to the winter in ‘99, and then we’d go to the summer of 2000 and then we’d go back to the winter in ‘99, then we’d go back to the summer of 2000, we’d go back to the summer of 99..
Oh my.. Well you guys did a great job of keeping up with it all!
Yeah, it was a lot. Thank you. Glad it comes across that way because at times we weren’t all too sure.
I read that Bill Purple, the Executive Producer and Director of Cruel Summer, actually directed you in Private Practice 12 years ago. What was it like working with him again?
It actually was a bigger Private Practice reunion than that, with Paul and Katie. Paul plays my dad and Katie plays Sadie’s mom. Paul played my dad in Private Practice and Katie played my stepmom in Private Practice.
Yeah, it was a big family reunion and it was awesome to have Bill there. Actually, Private Practice was, I think, my first dramatic job as opposed to some of my other comedy roles. It was my first dramatic job and Bill directed the very first episode of footage of me crying. My first time crying on camera was with Bill directing me 12 years ago when I was a kid! So it felt like a full circle moment.
Have you stayed in touch over the years?
Not with Bill, no. I was somewhere between 9 and 11 years old or something. I think it would’ve been weird if Bill kept in touch with an 11 year old. [laughs]
That’s fair. Unless you worked on something else together in between.
Exactly. But Paul, Katie and I– we kept in loose contact over the years. They would always congratulate me on stuff they would see me in and I would text them to tell them Happy Birthday, Mother’s Day, Happy Father’s Day, etc. But we hadn’t seen each other in a few years. We kept in contact, but I mean it was nice to be stranded in Vancouver with them because it let us properly catch up.
One thing I love to ask actors – do you have a playlist for Luke? If so, what is on it?
Everyone in the cast has a playlist for their character I feel like, except for me, really. I just had a playlist for like the late nineties / early 2000s. I don’t see Luke as a big music guy for some reason. I very much am, but I don’t see Luke as one.
What kind of music do you listen to?
Pretty much anything. I just like good music, so it doesn’t really matter to me what the genre is as long as it’s got a nice melody or a nice beat and the lyrics actually make me think about something or feel something. This is going to sound so corny, but as long as the artistry is there, then I like it. If it’s a well-made song with purpose and emotion behind it, I can tell and I like it. But it ranges from everything from rap to jazz to, not that much classical, sometimes country, who knows, every once in a while. But literally anything RnB. I love RnB.
What was the last live show you attended?
What was the last live show I attended? Man, it’s been a minute. I wish I could go and watch another one, but I think it was Machine Gun Kelly when he came to Vancouver. This was like a year ago, but that was an awesome experience. I told him I was there with my cast and he let all of us come backstage and then he put us on like the VIP section in the middle of the arena and he pointed at me in the middle of the show. He was like, “shout out Griffin!” I love that guy. So, honestly, that was a good last show to go to. And then I think I went to Kendrick Lamar and Peach Pit in Vancouver. Those were great.
For someone who hasn’t watched the show yet, what would you tell them to convince them to do so?
That’s a tough question. I hope people enjoy the suspense and the intricacy of the writing. I know a lot of effort was put into that. So I hope people enjoy the twists and don’t see anything coming. And I’m a big fan of the cliffhanger end of a plot twist, and the show is filled with them. So that’s usually my leading point. It’s like, if you like twists, which, who doesn’t? And if you like suspense, who doesn’t? This show is filled with it, and it’s for you.
Cruel Summer season 2 episodes are released weekly, streaming on Hulu.
Interview Rachel Martin
Photography Devin Kasparian
Stylist Willyum Beck
Grooming Valissa Yoe