Adrian Grenier admits that the Clickbait ending hit 'too close to home' for him
"I've had my own personal challenges with stalkers and scam artists online," the actor tells EW.
Warning: This article contains spoilers about the season 1 finale of Clickbait.
The Entourage alum recently revealed to EW that he didn't know how Netflix's new thriller ends when he first started filming the limited series, so he was shocked when he learned that his character Nick gets murdered and was not only innocent but also had his identity stolen by a coworker who catfished women (and was responsible for one of the women committing suicide).
"I've had my own personal challenges with stalkers and scam artists online," Grenier tells EW. "So it's a little too close to home. A lot of people out there — in fact, you can look on my Instagram, I have a message that's constantly present on the top of my page about these scam artists who are posing to be me and convincing people to give them money. I mean, that's harmless enough, I suppose, although that sucks. But it could be worse, right?"
Grenier believes identity fraud and cybercrime is an important issue that society has been wrestling with for years, and it's only getting worse. That's why he says people need to "keep in mind, don't believe everything you read, think as critically as possible, and recognize the hidden influence of the way stories are told."
"I'm an actor, I've been in storytelling for a long time, and I have an understanding of behind the scenes and what goes into editing things," he adds. "I've made five documentaries, so I know how to utilize music and words and images to convey an idea, and sometimes you can use that to tell truth and sometimes you can use that to deceive. I think it's time that we all have a better look at the way we use media and convey information and the way we consume it, the way we've got to take responsibility for our own media diet. Because there are a lot of people out there that want to use the ability to hide behind social media to do all sorts of things that aren't necessarily in your best interest."
The finale reveals that Nick's co-worker Dawn (Becca Lish) stole his identity to strike up relationships with other women online, simply because she's bored at home. But when her husband Ed (Wally Dunn) found out, he made her stop, and cutting off contact so harshly and suddenly caused one of the women to take her own life as a result. And when Nick figured everything out, he showed up to Dawn and Ed's house and threatened to expose Dawn's catfishing, so Ed bashed him on the head with a hammer, killing him.
"It's both sad and upsetting," Grenier says of Dawn and Ed's actions. "I tend to try and have compassion for people who are lost and who are troubled and end up hurting people because of their shadows that they hadn't dealt with. I think there's a great sense of relief to understand what happened in all the confusion and everybody who is both a victim and complicit in crime of trust. It's sad, in a world where there is no trust, that trust itself can be your downfall is an unfortunate reality."
Despite loving how Clickbait shows how all actions have consequences, Grenier still wishes Nick could have made it out of the season alive.
"Of course I did!" he says with a laugh. "I want to be in season 2. There's got to be a way to include Nick in a second season. I'm convinced. Maybe he had a twin brother?"
Filming the scene in which the police find Nick's body was "very cold," Grenier adds with another laugh. "I remember filming that scene, [creator Tony] Ayres is like, 'You're going to be laying in the water.' At first I was floating in the water and they changed so that I was just offshore, kind of half in the water. I was like, 'But it'd be so much cooler if I'm in the water, right?' And then they were like, 'Yeah, but we were talking to the health department, and they're like, not this water.' And I'm like … oh. Maybe I don't even want to be anywhere near it! The things that actors do to get the shot."
Before his death, Nick goes through a lot of trauma throughout the season, especially when he's held at gunpoint by the brother of the woman who committed suicide, and he's forced to make a false confession about abusing women. But the most difficult scene for Grenier to film had nothing to do with that moment or his death.
"The toughest scene was when we find out that my wife was cheating on me," Grenier says with a sigh. "Yeah. And it still upsets me. You know, I've been through a lot in my life, so [I used] sense memory. Emotional recall. To me, betrayal or having affairs, it's not so much the affair, it's more just a reminder that we're alone. It's a lonely feeling. So I don't really go into the details of the affair necessarily, but more in my deep loneliness, there's a central anxiety about being alone."
But that's what gives him the most satisfaction through acting. "That's why we do it," he says. "To connect in the emotions that are shared emotions, for the collective experience, for the audience to know that they're not alone, that we actors feel the same, that all humanity has shared common anxiety about the world. And hopefully that's what art does. It gives people a chance to work through that stuff."
And filming Clickbait ended up teaching Grenier "so much" about himself and the world.
"This has been a long filming process with COVID and everything so I changed so dramatically since we started this show," he says. "I just want to underscore that it's so important that we are being more mindful about how we consume content and how we put content out. We're in a sort of post-truth era when it's hard to decipher between what's real, what's fake, what's there to serve our best interest and what's there to manipulate or exploit us. It's really important that we take the time to make those decisions for ourselves as sovereign individual thinkers. And this show is good learning tool."