NEW YORK, Aug. 28 (UPI) — Adrian Grenier says his new mystery miniseries, “Clickbait,” intrigued him because it conveys how technology can be used both as a tool and a weapon.
“Not only does it have all the classic twists and turns of a good thriller, but it has that layer of social commentary,” the actor told UPI in a recent video conference call.
“I don’t call this a ‘whodunnit.’ I call this a ‘who-didn’t-do-it’ because, on some level, everybody’s complicit,” he said. “Everybody creates and consumes media, and so we all have to take responsibility for what we believe and what we act on.”
Grenier plays Nick, a physical therapist and married father who becomes a social media phenomenon when a video showing him beaten and holding up a sign that says “I abuse women” goes viral.
Trying to rescue him — before the clip gets 5 million views and he is killed by his captors — are his order-loving wife Sophie (Betty Gabriel,) wild sister Pia (Zoe Kazan) and the ambitious police detective Roshan (Pheonix Raei.) The eight-episode series is streaming on Netflix.
“It certainly is alarming and anxiety-inducing — all the ways in which our privacy and our lives can be manipulated and invaded. It’s scary,” Gabriel said of how the show’s themes mirror real life.
Grenier described Nick as a multi-dimensional character, since most of his scenes are in flashback and his personality and behavior vary depending through whose perspective memories of him are filtered.
“I get to play my character through the eyes of all the different characters and their perceptions of me, right or wrong,” Grenier said. “I could play the darkest aspect of my character or the most fun-loving family man aspect.”
While all that bouncing back and forth might be confusing for some actors, Grenier insisted it actually helped him portray Nick.
“That’s the thing: I never know who I am. Part of the fun is just to be lost in the character,” he said.
Sophie is a kind, but uptight teacher and mom, harboring secrets of her own.
“There’s so much happening to her and there is so much happening psychologically,” Gabriel said.
She felt lucky to have an enthusiastic and open-minded cast with whom to go through this process.
“We just all said ‘yes’ to the ride, which is very emotionally demanding and crazy-making, but I think that’s what’s so great about this show. It works so well in this dramatic sphere,” she added.
Sophie and Pia have vastly different temperaments and don’t always get along, so it is fascinating to watch them team up to try and figure out what exactly happened to Nick.
“Character-wise, it was very challenging, obviously, but actor-wise it was great to have [Kazan] to play opposite of [in scenes.] She brings so much to the table,” Gabriel said. “I’m really glad I had her to go on this journey with.”
Raei’s Roshan is eager to get ahead at work, much to the detriment of his family life. He is a well-developed and complicated character, something not always true of detectives in psychological thrillers.
“We’re looking at the story from eight different points of view, so we had to make sure that, for example, in Episode 2, it is an intimate story of who [Roshan is,]” Raei said in a separate chat with UPI.
“But, in other episodes, it is how other people see him, so the performance had to change slightly to give that effect,” he added. “It’s nice to be able to take it away from the job and actually bring life to the character.”
In the world of “Clickbait,” security camera footage, cellphone records and social media posts are helpful to police attempting to unravel the mystery surrounding Nick’s disappearance.
But the high-profile nature of the case means hordes of members of the public get in the way of the investigation, contaminating crime scenes and sending cops on wild-goose chases in their eagerness to contribute information, theories and opinions.
Investigators are not always transparent because they are trying to stay a step ahead of the criminals as they build their cases against them, Raei noted.
“When I first read [the screenplay,] I thought, ‘This is a great idea. Why don’t we get more people to look into it?'” the actor recalled with a laugh.
“But then when you read on, it’s not a very good idea because there is a technique to these things. There is a process that needs to happen, especially if you want to take things later on into court.”
Viewers of the show might be more mindful of not only what they post and comment about on social media, but also the real-world damage their behavior could have on other people’s lives and reputations, Raei said.
“That’s one of the hopes of the show,” he added. “One, to entertain. But two, to bring awareness to the possibilities and the dangers that are lurking around the corners when you go online.”