Dylan O'Brien talks playing thirst trap influencer in Not Okay: 'The f---boys are everywhere!'
You've never seen Dylan O'Brien like this.
The Teen Wolf alum has gone full thirst trap influencer f---boy for Not Okay, and his transformation for the movie is absolutely jaw-dropping. With bleached hair, patchwork tattoos covering every inch of his skin, and a thick vape cloud constantly swirling around his head, O'Brien's stoner e-boy pseudo-celebrity looks almost too uncanny compared to the internet's current crop of social media personalities. "I think it was so dead on because it's just like all we see," O'Brien, 30, tells EW of his character Colin. "I feel like, you're just scrolling through news and it's like, 'Oh, thirst trap!' The f---boys are everywhere! Gotta watch out."
Not Okay stars Zoey Deutch as Danni Sanders, a desperate and lonely wannabe writer who fakes a writers retreat trip to Paris while hiding out in her Brooklyn apartment, all so she can post aesthetically-pleasing Instagram photos for the likes. But when a terrorist attack hits Paris minutes after she posts a Photoshopped selfie at the Arc de Triomphe, instead of coming clean about her lie, she leans into it, deciding to take full advantage of the opportunity to become a social media celebrity. She goes viral, "returns" to the U.S. a hero, strikes up an unlikely friendship with teen gun reform activist Rowan (Mia Isaac), and finally gets the chance for romance with the man of her dreams, her clout-chasing coworker Colin (O'Brien), now that she's a bona fide influencer herself. Danni now has the life and audience she always wanted, but it's only a matter of time before she learns the hard way that the Internet loves a takedown.
Deutch first read the script for Not Okay while she was filming mob drama The Outfit in London with O'Brien, but she had no idea O'Brien would eventually follow her to another project. "Yeah, funny enough, completely unrelated to my having any potential involvement, Zoey was telling me about this project when we were working together on The Outfit — find it on your local plane, wherever you're going," O'Brien jokes. "[She] brought it up to me as like something that [she was] excited about. And then I read it that summer like six months later and loved it. I watched [director/writer] Quinn [Shephard]'s first movie and was really impressed and love Zoey and so, in. Totally in."
As he got deeper into developing his role in the movie, O'Brien knew he didn't want to hold back on anything, from his look, to his mannerisms, and even his dialogue. "From the first conversation with Quinn early on, I was just like, 'I want to go full on, just like full tats, bleach the hair,' and she was completely game for all of that," he says. "And when I went for the fittings and the clothes that were pulled and how far we went into it, and then designing the tats, I definitely had this incredible team of people that assembled it entirely for me."
O'Brien jokes that it was "so easy" playing such unlikeable characters, because he and Deutch "are as unlikeable as it gets."
"I loved it. I love doing it," he says. "It was so much fun. It was such a blast. When it was over, it all happened so fast I wish I could go back and do it better."
Deutch, 27, laughs, adding, "I don't think a director would ever say to Dylan or I, 'Be bigger.'"
"Not in this!" O'Brien says. Deutch agrees: "Because we love to go big or go home."
During their scenes together, O'Brien ended up improvising a lot of his lines. Both he and Deutch laugh about how some of their scenes would go on for too long because of how in character and dedicated O'Brien was. "I had to be reined in quite a bit," he adds.
"I was like, 'Could you just say the line?'" Deutch says with a laugh. "I did a lot less improv than he did. No, you were very locked into that character. You weren't trying to be method but you were very locked in. I loved every second of it. It was so fun to watch it. He was really, really amazing and coming up with great s--- all the time."
O'Brien loved improvising all sorts of catchphrases and slang words that influencers and f---boys would use in normal conversations, like when Colin greets Danni at a party with the line: "Come give me a huggie."
"Somebody had tipped me off to, like, a f---boy greeting of like, 'Let me get a huggie,'" O'Brien says. When Deutch pushes him to reveal who told him to say that, he sheepishly adds, "It was a girl I was seeing at the time."
With how much fun O'Brien had getting into the character of Colin, and how much the internet has gone wild over his transformation, it can be hard to forget that you're not actually supposed to like him — or Danni for that matter, even though she's the main character. The movie even opens with the warning that it features "flashing lights, themes of trauma, and an unlikable female protagonist." The powerful, subversive satire on internet influencer culture isn't trying to glamorize or make you root for these characters ... but a certain subset of fans will still thirst after Colin. (Just search O'Brien and Not Okay on social media right now and you'll see.) "I mean, you're touching on a very relevant piece of irony here," O'Brien says.
Playing an unlikeable character was never a concern for Deutch when she signed on to this movie. "I really am so bad about this because I obsessively think about if people like me or not in my real life, but in my work, I'm really not even considering it," she says. "I am considering relatability and I'm considering how people could possibly see themselves in these characters and more than that, what makes this person human. But I get it — she makes misguided and questionable decisions throughout the movie."
Deutch says that meant getting into the character of Danni Saunders was a "very uncomfortable" experience throughout filming. "Because she does such cringe-y things and she does such questionable things that by the end of the shoot, I felt kind of weird, kind of bad," she says. "I went and shot the most beautiful, lovely, holiday romantic comedy after" — Amazon's upcoming Something from Tiffany's, produced by Reese Witherspoon's Hello Sunshine — "because it was like, I need to feel good because I felt so heavy."
The only time O'Brien ever felt uncomfortable during filming was one scene in particular where (mild spoiler alert!) Colin and Danni hook up in the bathroom during an influencer party (for a teeth whitening product, natch). "It was the bathroom scene, for sure," he says. "But it was as comfortable as it could be [because] me and Zoey have a really good communicative foundation."
Their secret to good communication with each other? Never saying, "Let me get a huggie."
Not Okay premieres Friday on Hulu.