Jack Dylan Grazer and Jordan Kristine Seamón discuss working with Luca Guadagnino and what they learned about themselves on set.
From Luca Guadagnino, the Oscar-nominated director behind Call Me by Your Name, comes an all-new exploration of youth and identity in the HBO series, We Are Who We Are. Starring It breakout star Jack Dylan Grazer and newcomer Jordan Kristine Seamón, the eight-part series tells the story of two American teenagers living on a U.S. military base in Italy, where they are confronted with questions about love, gender, sexuality as they experience the “messy exhilaration” of discovering oneself.
Fraser, who audiences first meet in the premiere, is a recent transplant and 14-year-old introvert dealing with a lot of problems, both “internal and external,” Grazer tells ET. Inevitably, his move to Italy leads him on a soul search. “It’s not one he chose to be on, but he has to figure himself out,” the actor explains. “He’s really vulnerable, he’s volatile and he’s in a constant state of self-inquiry.”
Shortly after Fraser's arrival, he meets a group of teens, including Caitlin, who has a much more established life in Italy and exudes far more confidence than he ever could. But as seen in the second episode, which retells the same events of the premiere through her perspective, she is on her own journey of self-exploration and understanding. “It’s a big one and it’s a tough one,” Seamón explains, “and you’re going to see a lot of ups and a lot of downs.”
Despite having grown up worlds apart, the two connect instantly, leading them down a new path together as they tackle life head-on. As the story unfolds over the course of the six remaining episodes, the two find themselves drawn closer to each other while navigating the ever-changing dynamics of their group of friends, which includes the swapping over partners and confidants, as well as their parents, both who are in the military, but have very different perspectives on dedication and service.
“In some way, some shape or form, it’s as if it was supposed to happen,” Seamón says. “The two of them were supposed to meet in a way and it definitely benefits both of them.” Grazer, meanwhile, adds that what draws them together is their shared experiences. “They’re both experiencing similar struggles and they have each other’s answers and they rely on each other and they find solace in one another.”
And as any person who has survived their youth knows, there will be lots of emotions packed into a very formative time. But despite that, Seamón promises that audiences will see Fraser and Caitlin go on a “beautiful journey with a beautiful ending.”
Making the series all that more relevant and resonant now is the fact that the series is dealing with conversations about sexuality and gender in a fresh and honest way. While more films and TV shows have embraced these topics, especially within coming-of-age stories, We Are Who We Are is raw and unflinching in its approach. For fans of Call Me by Your Name, this furthers that emotional look inside internalized conflict. Grazer says other’s approach “seems sugarcoated and it seems like they're palatable when Luca doesn’t give a sh*t about being palatable.”
“The things that are talked about in the show are things that people have gone through for so long,” Seamón adds, stressing the importance and power of visibility onscreen. “I think it’s really good for people to see them on television. Sometimes conversations aren’t started until people actually see it on their screen or hear other people talking about it.”
“Before, it felt like a construct,” Grazer says, whereas “now people [are] being more conscious and more aware of gender fluidity and sexual orientation and race. People are having these conversations.” And that’s what he thinks audiences will really assimilate with.
In order to bring authenticity to the screen, the actors say that the director was open to their feedback and relied on their instincts when fleshing out the characters. His ideology, they explain, is to let the actors who are inhabiting these characters bring out what feels most natural in the moment.
“It’s just a creative input, back and forth,” Grazer adds.
While what’s seen onscreen is ultimately scripted, both actors admit to going on their own journeys of self-discovery, both personally and professionally, while filming the series.
“I’m a very changed person since then,” Grazer says. “There was a lot of awareness that I gained from that show that I didn’t really pay much mind to before. And I learned a lot about myself. Some questions of myself were answered all along the way.”
In addition to picking up Fraser’s instinct and interest in fashion, the actor adds, “I gained so much insight from the other actors, from the story, from the world of the story, and I walked away a totally enlightened, new person.”
Seamón echoes that sentiment, saying that she returned from Italy “a completely different person.” Not only does she look different -- she now sports short pink hair -- she carries herself a lot more confidently now. “I answered a lot of questions and learned a lot about myself,” she says, before adding, “There’s still a lot of questions that I have.” Which is something we all can relate to.
We Are Who We Are airs Monday at 10 p.m. ET/PT on HBO and is also streaming on HBO Max.