Adrian Grenier reveals why he's returning to TV with Netflix thriller Clickbait
Netflix's new limited series thriller stars the Entourage alum as Nick Brewer, a man who suddenly goes missing only for a video to then appear on the internet showing him beaten and seemingly held against his will, holding up a sign that reads: "I abuse women. At 5 million views, I die." Is Nick a kidnapping victim who is being framed to look like an abuser, or is he facing karmic retribution for something dark he's hidden in his past? The eight-episode series follows Nick's sister (Zoe Kazan) and wife (Betty Gabriel) as they rush to find and save him, all the while reeling from the revelation in the video — is it a threat, confession, or both? — as they uncover a side of Nick they didn't know existed.
Though Grenier has appeared in a couple of TV movies and voiced a recurring character for the Disney Channel animated series Mission Force One, Clickbait marks his first series regular role in a live-action show since he wrapped his eight-season run as Vincent Chase on Entourage in 2011. And while the actor knows that 10 years is a long time, he tells EW that it wasn't a conscious decision to stay away from TV in the years post-Entourage.
"I'm project-focused, not necessarily quantity but quality," Grenier explains. "I'm always looking for the projects that are going to have a profound impact on people." So when he heard the premise for Clickbait — how it explores "the ways in which our most dangerous and uncontrolled impulses are fueled in the age of social media, revealing the ever-widening fractures we find between our virtual and real-life personas" — he was instantly intrigued.
"It's a very curious series," he continues. "At first blush, just on the surface, it's a thriller; it's a whodunnit. But really, the depth of it is exploring issues of identity, especially in the technology world. It's really very interesting exploring what it's like to be alive at a time of the internet, avatars, catfishing, all those things."
And after reading the first few scripts for Clickbait, Genier was hooked. "I took a look at it and I said, 'Yes, please,'" he says. "And this was even before I knew how it was going to end. And so during the filming, I didn't even know who had done it." He laughs before adding, "I was like, did I do it? Am I the guy? I feel like I'm the guy. But just keep in mind that in thrillers, the twists and turns aren't always what you expect. Wink, wink!"
His priority in bringing Nick to life onscreen was always making sure that he was a fully fleshed-out human being and not just a suspect shown in a bad light. "It was important to show his range as a human being and to establish him as a loving father and a good guy," Grenier says. "Just to set the stage for that tension."
Even though he didn't know the truth about Nick or where the season was heading while filming the first few episodes, he didn't find it challenging portraying Nick as an ambiguous character.
"You don't want to indicate or project a future moment or future scene," he says. "We play each moment, each scene with the reality of that scene, so that's what I did. It takes a lot of faith to know that when you're dealing with a difficult subject matter and uncomfortable moments, the director and producer and creators are ultimately looking out for a larger purpose. They're doing something more, that they have some depth and meaning and something to say about the world."
Grenier doesn't want to reveal any theories he had about Nick's innocence or guilt before he found out how the season ends, because he says that the actual mystery is not as important as the show's overall theme.
"I would say that if I were to encourage the audience to consider anything, it would be not who did it [but rather] how are we all participating in the muddied information landscape?" he says. "There's an information ecology and we're all on some level contributing to the confusion out there with misinformation, fake news, retweets without thinking things through."
That's what Clickbait is ultimately about. "It's what's keeping us from knowing [the truth] truth, whodunnit, what's what, because of all the conflicting information — and much of it untrue information — that's put out. This is really about media literacy and hygiene, in many ways. It's quite good."
Clickbait premieres Aug. 25 on Netflix.