The star of our fall cover is Garrett Clayton, an American actor best known for portraying Tanner in the Disney Channel musicals Teen Beach Movie and Teen Beach Movie 2, as well as Link Larkin in the Emmy-nominated NBC special Hairspray Live!. Born in Dearborn, Michigan, Garrett began acting in high school and later attended Oakland University, where he studied musical theater. In the Lifetime movie Holiday Spin, Clayton played the role of Blake, a rebellious teen forced to live with his father after his mother is killed in a car accident. He has also made appearances on series such as Jessie and The Real O’Neals, as well as a recurring role on The Fosters. In 2016, his career took a different spin when he played gay porn star Brent Corrigan, starring opposite Christian Slater and James Franco in the film King Cobra. Earlier this year, the actor starred as Brady Mannion in the horror-thriller Don’t Hang Up.
At just the beginning of his career, Clayton has managed to continually surprise his fans with radically different roles. With even more in store for the young star this year, we sat down to discuss his acting, career aspirations, and future goals.
When did you realize that acting was your calling?
Garrett Clayton: After I quit the drama club my sophomore year in high school. I regretted it right away and found my way back in as soon as possible.
You went from playing high school heartthrob Link in Hairspray Live! to portraying a socially awkward genius in the teen suicide drama Reach. How do you transition between radically different characters? Were you nervous?
It’s always been my dream to jump into radically different roles. I’m always scouting for diverse parts and want to push my abilities as much as possible. I think that’s important for any actor. But, I love character roles and have so much fun creating them, even though making drastic decisions always makes me nervous! My mom told me a long time ago, “If you’re not nervous or scared, it just means you don’t care.”
Do you relate to your characters?
In some form or another, regardless of how I build these characters, I definitely relate to them. At the root of a lot of these people are basic needs that anyone would have, and I use that to build the characters I play. With Reach, for my character Steven, I used a lot of the insecurities I had growing up. I even added things that used to make me self-conscious, so that I could innately inhabit the character and all of his quirks.
Recently, you stripped down to your underwear on stage with The Skivvies in Los Angeles, surprising your Disney fans. How do you choose your projects?
I wasn’t very scared since I’ve already done King Cobra and spent the beginning of this year in a play called God Looked Away at the Pasadena Playhouse. It’s a play about the later life of Tennessee Williams in the early 1980s, and I worked alongside Al Pacino and Judith Light. I was a 19-year-old runaway from Idaho who became a hooker in the big city, and I ended up spending most of the show in my underwear. When The Skivvies called, I just made sure to hit the gym a bit more that week before going on. It was a really fun show to be a part of!
Let’s talk about your role as a young porn star in the film King Cobra with James Franco and Christian Slater. What did you learn from the big names of Hollywood?
Everyone on that film was incredibly nice and so much fun to work with. It was great to see that, at any level of success, if you stay true to yourself and your beliefs, at the end of the day, it’s about your work and work ethic.
You are surrounded by so many famous and talented people. Who inspires you?
Someone that has really been a huge support and has been a big inspiration to me is Jennifer Hudson. When we were working on Hairspray Live!, we got pretty close. Her work ethic is amazing, she has a genuine heart, and it’s so clear how much she cares for her family and friends. She also happens to be one of the funniest people ever!
Your Instagram account is filled with dog pictures. It must be difficult to take care of your pets with your busy schedule!
Right? My dogs literally have my whole heart. I love them so much, it’s crazy. Luckily, I live with four of my best friends, and we’ve all lived together for a few years now. When I have work, someone is home to look after them 90 percent of the time. We’re a very blunt, humored family in my house. Everyone’s involved in the entertainment industry in some way or another, and we always make it a point to support each other. It’s nice since this industry — as everyone knows — can be full of people who will throw you under the bus to get ahead.
What do you like to do in your free time? Do you have any hobbies?
Aside from my usual gamer mindset, I’ve gotten very into gardening since moving into my new house. I have a pretty big backyard now, and I’ve planted a lot of really weird and fun plants. I also like to have a fun place to hang out with friends. So I hung a lot of vintage lanterns in a tree back there, and at night, it looks really cool! Next up: a fire pit!
Your incredible career is filled with so many versatile characters. What is your dream role?
Thank you! My dream would be to find my way into some kind of wizard, superhero, or space-themed project! I think it’d be fun to be part of a really elaborate sci-fi/fantasy world that has its own rules and norms. I also think it’d be really fun to land a unique sitcom. I’m kind of a dork in real life anyway, so getting to play one every week on TV would be awesome!
What’s coming up next for Garrett Clayton?
I have a few things in the pipeline. At the moment, I have to keep my mouth shut, but I cannot WAIT to announce them! I’m just excited to continue working in TV, film, and theatre! It’s great to be able to be a part of different mediums, and they’re all so different in their own ways. The next movie I have coming out is Welcome To Willits, which is in the horror/sci-fi world, and I had a blast making it.
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Photographer: Bobby Quillard
Stylist: Gabriel Langenbrunner
Photographer Assistant: Luis Trujillo
Stylist Assistants: Andrea Radicic, Marina Balayan
Garrett Clayton Groomer: Christina Henry
Location: SOFITEL Los Angeles at Beverly Hills
Fashions: Givenchy, Alexander McQueen, Valentino, Dolce and Gabbana, Cesare Paciotti, Swarovski, Djula, Call it Spring, Asos, Kooples, Allsaints, Theory