Nolan Funk is one of those people that belongs behind a camera lens. During our Just Jared Spotlight photo shoot, he seamlessly transitioned from one pose to the next, bringing a variety of ensembles to life and often coming up with a playful backstory to accompany each look. And when Jackson 5’s “I Want You Back” came on the radio, he suavely snapped along while flawlessly pulling off a fitted charcoal sport coat.
Funk’s on-the-job confidence should come as no surprise, given that the mere mention of his name conjures up images of a scantily clad six pack-bearing Ryan who seductively romanced Lindsay Lohan in The Canyons. But though he’s a hot commodity to his many admiring fans, in real life, Funk is extremely down to earth. He playfully shrugs off any mention of his ever-growing female audience, and jokes that he refrains from paying attention to all that external noise. “I never really spent too much time thinking about what it means, all of this,” he tells us. “I just feel really grateful.”
Sincerity and a dedicated work ethic has gotten the actor far in just about everything that he’s tackled throughout his career. Prior to his breakthrough role of portraying Nikko Alexander in Nickelodeon’s TV movie Spectacular!, the Canadian native competed as a national gymnast and diver. It was in those days that Funk learned what it meant to climb out of his comfort zone and express himself in front of an audience. “I was an athlete first so that in itself was kind of a performance,” he explains. From there, his career took off, landing him the recurring role of Hunter Clarington on Glee, Collin Jennings in Awkward, and Luna, alongside Vin Diesel, in the Sci-Fi thriller, Riddick.
Funk, who jokes that his audience often sees him as “the villain,” is currently in the midst of promoting his latest cinematic endeavor, a coming-of-age adventure drama titled Wildlike where he stars opposite Ella Purnell.
He tells Just Jared that the role is one he hopes that fans pay extra close attention to as it pushed him out of his typical on-screen bad boy antics. “There is a sensitivity to Tommy,” says Funk. “I feel like I haven’t been able to play that yet. Being able to show a softer side is exciting for me because I don’t think people think of me in that way.”Just Jared: You just had a birthday. How did you celebrate?
Nolan Funk: My birthdays tend to be very unplanned. So I went out with some friends in New York. Sofia Carson actually came out and some other friends. I went to a rooftop and hung out.JJ: How much do you miss the Glee world?
NF: It was a lot of fun working on Glee. I definitely miss playing Hunter. It was a fun character. That was a really crazy time. It was great. It was really cool to be a part of a show that was such an important part of pop culture. Working with someone like Ryan Murphy is exciting and I’d love to work with him again.JJ: You have a new film coming out soon called Wildlike. Tell us about the role.
NF: Wildlike is going to be in select theaters and On Demand on September 25. We’re calling it a coming-of-age adventure thriller. In the film, I play this guy Tommy. The lead character is played by Ella Purnell and she, through a series of unfortunate events, ends up on the run in Alaska. So we meet at this motel there. I kind of represent one of the good guys. There is a romance there.
NF: It’s not so scandalous. I was excited to play that role because I normally play a lot of villains and that was the opportunity to play one of the better guys.JJ: Why do you think you always play the villain?
NF: I don’t know. People just think I’m bad (laughs). I guess it’s just been the characters I’ve played, at least the ones that most people have seen.JJ: You filmed Wildlike in Alaska, which sounds like it was amazing. Any cool stories from working on location there?
NF: What was exciting about filming in Alaska was we got to meet a lot of the locals. A lot of the crew was from there or had moved to LA or New York but actually was originally from Alaska. So getting to experience it with them, hanging out in these lodges, was cool. There were some pretty interesting wrap party shenanigans. It was a blast. We had a really good time. The wildlife there is amazing and you got to see a lot of it in the film. There was definitely a moment or two when there happened to be a wild bear around while we were filming. People were equipped to deal with that though.
NF: I was excited to go back to Awkward this year just because the fans were so great. I had a lot of fun playing Colin. The cast is great and the character obviously took an unexpected turn. It definitely was fun playing the romance of being a passionate writer and first meeting Jenna. I definitely enjoyed the early days before he became a bad guy, before breaking Jenna’s heart. Those earlier scenes in Mr. Hart’s classroom were a lot of fun to play. There are going to be some surprise appearances this year and I’m excited for the fans to see them. The audiences are amazing on that show and I’m grateful for their support.JJ: Vin Diesel announced that there is going to be another Riddick movie and your character has yet to perish. Any chance that you’d come back?
NF: I would love to go back and play in the Riddick universe. Paying Luna was a blast. I definitely would be curious to see him be a bit more of a badass. And working with Vin is always awesome. That would be really great if that happened.
NF: Yeah. I would love to do a Broadway play again. That’s one of the reasons that I’m spending a lot more time in New York. I love it there. I would just love to do a play. Maybe even do a play off Broadway. Working in that world again would be really great. Bye Bye Birdie was a long time ago so going back to Broadway is on the bucket list for sure. I’d love to do a classic, something like a William Inge play. They already did Picnic a few years ago, but something in that world.JJ: In the Arrow world, Mark Guggenheim mentioned they are thinking of bringing Brother Eye back. Would you be excited to go back?
NF: I’d be so excited to go back to Arrow. That was one of the most fun shows to work on. The crew was great, the cast was great, I loved working with Emily [Bett Rickards]. I did hear that Mark said that. It would definitely be great to play in that DC universe. I did go a little bit overboard with my Halloween costume last year channeling some DC comics with my Two Face costume. I’m a bit of a nerd sometimes with that world.JJ: You were the face of Versace’s spring/summer menswear campaign. Do you enjoy modeling?
NF: I don’t know if I’d call it modeling. I’d say it’s a photo shoot where you are working with great artists like photographers and fashion designers. I think making photographs, you’re showing yourself maybe but you’re also showing different sides of yourself, kind of like a character in a movie.
NF: There definitely have been a few roles that involved showing some skin but I’m not afraid of showing some skin from time to time. I mean the truth is, when I come home I take all my clothes off anyway so I’m kind of used to being naked.JJ: What was the play, TV show, or movie that made you want to become an actor?
NF: I remember watching Last of the Mohicans probably when I was 4 years old. I think I always wanted to have adventures in my life. I was always kind of a rambunctious kid. And I was an athlete first so that in itself was kind of a performance. When you’re doing individual sports, like for me I was a gymnast, it was doing something very private in a public arena. So I kind of feel like it’s really similar to what I do now. You go through the struggle, which is learning the skill, learning the lines, getting it in your body so you don’t have to think about it anymore, and then actually committing to the experience of that character, which in that world is like I am going to do a double back and not land on my head and die. Kind of similar.
NF: Well definitely not Ryan in The Canyons (laughs). I’m excited for people to see Wildlike because I think that I’ve been able to have the privilege of working in these projects that were more pop culture, sometimes controversial. But they are characters and I think Tommy in Wildlike, there is a sensitivity to him and a love and respect for women. I feel like I haven’t been able to play that yet. So for me, being able to show a softer side in that movie, that’s exciting for me because I don’t feel like people think of me in that way. I don’t think my fans think of me that way. So it will be interesting to see what people think.JJ: What are some of the craziest fan encounters?
NF: My fans are one of the best parts of doing this. I remember hearing something recently where an actor was talking down about the screams of fans. To me, I think we’re very lucky to have people that pay attention to what you do and also get behind you. I recently did something [to support] the Equal Rights Amendment and it was important that my fans took the time to reach out to a rep and actually make a contribution to an issue that is important to me. I would say that I feel really blessed whenever the fans freak out and love it.JJ: Is it crazy to think that you are a hot commodity and people are making Twitter and Instagram fan sites for you?
NF: Yeah. It’s funny. There is an Instagram and Twitter, Nolan Funk Online that also has a Tumblr. And that’s been a really great way for my fans to keep up with me. Amy, the girl who moderates it, she’s managed to get amazing stuff from film festivals I’ve been to and events I’ve been to and fan photos. It’s kind of like a blog but it’s very all encompassing of what I’m up to. I guess I never really spent too much time thinking about what it means, all of this, other than I’m grateful. I just feel really grateful.JJ: Are you dating anyone right now? The fans would love to know.
NF: I’m single right now.JJ: What do you look for in a partner?
NF: I think it’s important to be authentic but also be able to have fun and not be overly controlling or insecure. Dating is just one of those things where it’s kind of when you know, you know. I have been really busy with my career and sometimes I find it hard to juggle the two.
NF: If she tries too hard or is pushy. I like to pursue. For me, I don’t want to sound like an asshole but there needs to be a little bit of a challenge or a little bit of a chase. I like to be the pursuer.JJ: You’re traditional!
NF: I’m a little bit old fashioned. That is one thing I can say.JJ: What is your ideal date?
NF: The best type of date is when it’s an unexpected thing. It could be starting as a friendship or a first meeting where you meet and then you end up talking for 15 hours in a row. That’s kind of where you’re so in sync that it’s just cohesive and it’s fun. I remember in a prior romance where it kind of brought out a much funnier and goofier and sillier side of me. And I think that gets nice when you can kind of be pushed out of your comfort zone. It encourages you to bring out a different side of yourself. But there’s always got to be some good food involved. I enjoy nature. I enjoy being on the beach but it’s not my top priority on a first date by any means.JJ: But good food is?
NF: Good food is always one of my top priorities! So that would just trickle into the date aspect. But I enjoy things like going to a nature spot that’s a little bit more private, where there are not people watching. That’s always nice.
NF: Sweets for sure. I like watching really dumb comedies. I like sleeping a lot, napping.JJ: Do you Google yourself and if so, what is the strangest thing that you’ve ever found while Googling yourself?
NF: There is some interesting fan fiction out there. It took me years to Google myself. I was very awkward about the media when I first started in Spectacular!. I was very, very shy about all of it. I didn’t really have a Twitter account. I didn’t do social media. And I still am very afraid to Google myself. There are some embarrassing roaming photos that I wish weren’t on Google. But I intend to not Google myself. That’s the answer.JJ: Do you remember your very first audition?
NF: Yes. It was for a commercial and it was for some food product. I had to hop around and do an obstacle course and I remember it came down to me and this actor Justin Chatwin who was also living in Canada at the time. He ended up getting it and I was the runner up. It was something like escaping a house and jumping around and running up and down. It was really cheesy. I just jumped on cue.
NF: There was a scene in The Canyons but I can’t mention that (winks).JJ: What about the toughest thing that you’ve ever had to do for a role?
NF: I’ve had to kill someone before and that definitely takes a toll on you. You are committed in that moment and then afterwards it’s a little tough. You have to put your body into it and my mind goes with it for a moment. It definitely was challenging learning some of the stuff for Glee because you would learn the night before and that was tough sometimes because you wanted to know everything and you were learning on the spot sometimes.JJ: What was the most adventurous thing you’ve ever done in real life?
NF: I got a one way ticket to LA on Christmas and never came back. I guess that counts.JJ: Is that how you ended up out here?
NF: Yeah. I’d been here a couple of months earlier. I did a screen test with Mila Kunis and I came down here and I loved the sunshine and palm trees. I just loved the idea of having more opportunities. I was just kind of bored. I got together with my family on Christmas Eve and I was like, “I think I’m going to take a trip to LA tomorrow” and I came down here and I didn’t really have any money or working papers. And then stuff just kind of happened. This was in 2007.