Ever since the unexpected gem that is American Vandal burst onto our screens, it has swiftly become one of the most delightful additions to Netflix this Fall. And it's easy to see why.
Taking a deep bow in appreciation of the streaming platform's most stand-out docuseries in recent years, the 8-episode satire marvel sucks us into the trials and tribulations of high school life, before plunging us right into the baffling question that's been tearing Hanover High School apart: "Who drew the dicks?" Before you do anything else, re-watch the trailer:
For those who have yet to find the time to peep on the refreshing project from co-creators Tony Yacenda and Dan Perrault, it's easy to assume that the premise is a tad juvenile. And yes, while devoting your precious evenings to watching an investigation into a bunch of bellends could be considered slightly immature, #Netflix's whirlwind journey has surprising emotional depth, polishing an age-old dick joke into one of the most engrossing and intelligent pieces of TV around.
The main reason why American Vandal has rapidly become our new true crime obsession is inarguably testament to the talented, young ensemble cast that brings it to life. Yet, while "known dick-drawer" Dylan Maxwell (Jimmy Tatro) is the main subject of the show, it's sophomore documentarian Peter Maldonado who's the true MVP of the storyline's progression. Told through his eyes, he's essentially the glue that keeps the entire series together, our very own Sarah Koenig (of Serial podcast fame) if you will.
And in expertly leading the tense investigation into the mystery of the giant schlongs scribbled over the 27 faculty members' cars at his school, 19-year-old actor Tyler Alvarez steals the show by embracing the tone of conventional documentary-making while maintaining that familiar air of teenage naïvety. Ultimately, his ability to seamlessly do both is what makes the entire satire so captivating and believable, and perhaps why Netflix has once again chosen to mark him out as one of its brightest, upcoming stars — it's actually not his first turn with the streaming giant, having already portrayed Gloria Mendoza's eldest son Benny in Orange is the New Black.
Ultimately, with years of acting recognition under his belt already (with credit also particularly due for Nickelodeon's Every Witch Way and 2017's TV movie High School Lover), Alvarez is an acting talent to watch. And to coincide with the highly-anticipated release of American Vandal, Tyler generously answered a series of Movie Pilot's quick-fire questions about what it was like to work on the true crime satire and perhaps most importantly, what it really takes to draw the perfect dick.
Movie Pilot: Hi Tyler! Thank you so much for finding the time to speak with us. Are you a fan of the true crime genre yourself? Which series did you enjoy the most and why?
Tyler Alvarez: "I am a huge Making a Murderer fan. I love the way it highlights the issues with the correctional system along with all the twist and turns that it takes."
MP: Are you anything like your character Peter Maldonado? Have you ever thought about also becoming a filmmaker?
Tyler: "Me and Peter definitely share some qualities. We're both very ambitious and relentless. And the funny thing is, a year before I booked the role of Peter I actually decided to make a short documentary to submit to film school."
MP: Do you have any tips on how to keep a straight-face on camera? Is there a specific line in American Vandal that made you crack up each time?
Tyler: "Honestly, I really committed myself to the investigation and crime of the series that a lot of the material was pretty easy to digest when I was on screen. Off screen however, I can't say the same!"
MP: Were any of the scenes improvised or was all of the dialogue scripted?
Tyler: "A lot of American Vandal was improvised. We would do an improv take and then a second take sticking to the script. It was really freeing as an actor and it gave us a lot of creative freedom that made the work really fun."
MP: When you were at school, did you pull any pranks that got you into trouble?
Tyler: "At school, I tried to keep it cool, at home however, different story. I decided to prank my sister’s babysitter, who's terrified of ghosts, by tying a bunch of clear fish string to all the items in my mom’s room, knowing that she would put my baby sister to sleep in there shortly. As she was rocking my sister to sleep, the light started to dangle back and forth, the closet door slowly opened on its own, and for my grand finale a teddy bear flew across the room. Don't worry, Karma got me back real fast."
MP: What's the funniest thing that's happened on the set of American Vandal?
Tyler: "That's a hard one. One that comes to mind is when we had our very gentle, innocent, and nice script supervisor read us back our lines just to get her to say words like 'dick' and 'balls.' We were all cracking up."
MP: Did you also have to practice drawing dicks? If so, how many attempts did it take you before you were happy with the result?
Tyler: "Drawing dicks are a lot harder than people think. If you don't proportion the bottom half for the dick to the top half of the dick, you could end up with a foul looking dick. And who wants that on their conscience?"
MP: Could you tell us a little bit more about The Pretenders? What's it like working with James Franco as a director?
Tyler: "The movie is directly influenced and inspired by the classic French noir films. James really emphasized that the cast and crew understand the style and tone of those films, and even hosted screenings of noir films every night after we wrapped. That's why I love working with James, I constantly feel like I'm learning something new."
Ultimately, while dick jokes aren't likely to rear their head in The Pretenders when it collides with our cinema screens in 2018, we can't wait to see Alvarez take on his biggest movie project to date. Playing the role of Doug, he will star alongside Juno Temple, Jane Levy and #JamesFranco (who also directs) in a film that follows a love triangle set in New York in the '80s.
Until then, I guess we'll just have to console ourselves with re-watching American Vandal on repeat because let's be honest, it's worth it.
Have you seen American Vandal? What did you think?