Evan Peters on ‘Pose,’ ‘American Animals’ + Why He Still Goes to Acting Class

Photo Source: Courtesy The Orchard

Evan Peters is making a case for being the most consistently working actor of his generation. And it’s not just thanks to Ryan Murphy (though recurring gigs on “American Horror Story” and now “Pose” don’t hurt). While the ’80s-set “Pose” premieres on FX June 3, Peters first stars in Bart Layton’s “American Animals,” which hits theaters June 1. The true-crime feature combines Layton’s practiced skills as a documentarian and juxtaposes real-person talking heads alongside a narrative film, led by Peters and Barry Keoghan. They play Warren Lipka and Spencer Reinhard, respectively, who in December 2004 conducted a $12 million book heist at Transylvania University in Kentucky. “American Animals” reimagines the lead-up to and aftermath of the crime as told to Layton by the men themselves.

Portraying a real person is different from fiction.
“This is real—it’s a real story. So yeah, I think you do approach it a little differently. There’s more that you have to live up to, obviously, and a level of reality that you want to hit. You don’t want to let down the real guys.”

Despite having access to Lipka, Peters wasn’t allowed to meet him.
“It was so weird because Bart was very adamant that we not talk to the real guys, which I found infuriating. I was so mad about that that I broke the rules and I found Warren on Twitter: ‘Why did you do it, man!? Give me the goods! Give me the juice!’ I wanted to know how he talked, how he moved. And damn Bart didn’t want us to do that. The reason being that he wanted to distinguish between what was real and then this sort of fantasy movie version that was playing out in their heads. So he wanted us to embellish that in a way.”

Peters still finds himself in class.
“I love acting classes. I think they’re great. It’s like working out in the gym. It’s a great place to figure out everything that’s working and what isn’t working. They tell you, ‘That’s wrong,’ or, ‘You’re lying,’ or, ‘That’s crap,’ or, ‘You suck,’ or, ‘Do it better.’ They tell you how to do it and then you’re like, ‘Oh, OK, that feels so much better. That’s how I do it.’ I love that.”

Listen to Ryan Murphy: Energy begets energy.
“One thing that I’ve learned is—and even Ryan Murphy says this: Energy begets energy. At a certain point, I was being really lazy. Sometimes things would just happen naturally, and I was like, ‘Oh, that’s great, and it’s working. I’m working. That’s awesome.’ And then other times, I would sort of expect something to be happening without applying myself as much as I should have been applying myself. It’s [about] finding that little ground of busting your ass and doing the research and memorizing the lines and taking the time and putting in the energy. Then I found that I started to work more! So that was something that I wish somebody kicked me in the ass a little bit when I was being a little shithead in my teens.”

His ‘Pose’ character, Stan, is ‘complicated.’
“Stan is going through a lot, and it only gets progressively worse through the season, or more interesting, more complicated. But yeah, it’s a difficult one. It’s complicated. You know, it’s 1987 in New York City. He’s from Jersey with his wife, Kate Mara, and they have two kids, and he just got a job at the Trump office under James Van Der Beek’s character, Matt. So it’s him trying to climb that—trying to get success and power and money. So he’s trying to do that, and then because of that, I think there’s a lot of pressure and stress and he’s never comfortable in his skin. It’s similar to ‘American Animals’ where they’re not feeling very comfortable in what has been given to them. ‘Why am I doing this? This doesn’t feel like me. This is ridiculous.’ It’s very inauthentic, and he feels a lot of unrest from that. He’s sort of had this thing inside of him for a long time, and sort of acts on that and goes to see what that is and figure out if that’s something that’s authentic and if that’s true to him. Because he’s kind of doing all these things for everybody else, so he’s like, ‘Let me do something for me, finally—whatever that is.’ And unfortunately, it’s very painful to other people in his life.”

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Benjamin Lindsay
Benjamin Lindsay is a senior editor at Backstage, where if you’re reading it in our weekly magazine, he’s written or edited it first. He’s also producer and host of our inaugural on-camera interview series, Backstage Live, taking informative deep-dives with actors across mediums to discuss their craft, their work, and their advice for others getting started in the field.
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