Interview: Paul James from Greek

We had the honor of sitting down with Paul James who stars on ABC Family’s hit series Greek to chat about the series and his character. Here’s what he had to say:

Have you done any of your scenes yet with Max Greenfield yet? Have you gotten that far in shooting?

Yes, before the strike happened we had, I guess the eighth episode in this run I shot with Max, we had our first episode together.

And what are you allowed to tell us about what goes on there?

Well, basically it’s about Calvin sort of moving on from Heath a little bit. And Max plays a French TA, he’s a little bit older than my character is and he’s at a different level I guess with his sexuality. And so we sort of enter into a relationship with me being in the fraternity and with Max being a little bit more, I wouldn’t even say open, it was written as flamboyant but Max doesn’t play it flamboyant, but he’s definitely I guess more “gay” than my character is, so that episode sort of deals with the reaction and how that works out.

And where does that relationship stand, as far as you can talk up to?

I think Max is going to be around for I don’t know how many more episodes but he’s definitely in the next script that I have, he’s definitely in, which is fun because Max is a friend of mine. I think it’s going to progress for a bit. I don’t know the plans. I actually haven’t started working yet, so I haven’t really talked to Sean about what the overall arc for the character for the next 16 episodes is, but I think Max is going to play a big role in it for at least the beginning.

I’m curious, how has your thinking or your approach to Calvin changed from season one to season two, if it has?

Oh yes, that’s a really good question. You know, I think the show has changed a little bit. And I think every show does sort of when the actors become more comfortable with the characters they are playing and the material and the writers become more comfortable writing for the actors and they know their voices a little bit more. And it’s always funny because when you audition for a show you just have the pilot, so that’s just what you’re going off of, you never really know where it’s going to go. And I think that’s part of the fun about being on a TV show, you really don’t know what’s going to happen, so part of I guess my change has just been adapting with where Calvin is going.

And it’s difficult because some episodes Calvin definitely is allowed to have a background role and he’s allowed to have a little bit more fun sometimes. And then when there are episodes that deal with Calvin directly he still has fun, because he’s a fun character, but he has to sort of navigate things a little bit more carefully. So, that’s been a really fun thing to talk about with Sean to see where we’re going to go. I realize more now that Calvin is, he’s not one of the only out gay characters on television, but there’s still not that many.

He’s one of the few.

He’s one of the few so it’s like I was reading this great book with Sidney Poitier, it’s called Pictures at a Revolution. It’s a great book. I recommend it. And he was saying how when he was the only black actor working he couldn’t afford to just be a regular actor because every role he did was going to say something about the race or whatever and so he didn’t want to be irresponsible.

Now it’s definitely not to that extent, but Calvin has to make sure that he is being treated like every other character but responsibly. So, I feel like his flaws, which need to be shown, have to be of a certain nature. Do you know what I mean? You don’t want to fall into stereotype. So you don’t want to see so much promiscuity from Calvin’s character. We’ve seen that before. Or you wouldn’t want to see like too many snappy retorts, you know like a bitchiness that we’ve seen before, something like that.

So, I think there is definitely a pressure to make him original, which is good. But we also have to handle the issues that Sean is writing about really carefully since a lot of times it’s going to be, since young people are watching the show it’s going to be their only representation that they’ve seen, a positive representation of a gay character. So, we have to handle that responsibly.

I know you are aware of the controversy that happened over on As the World Turns.

Oh yes, with my buddy Jake.

Yes, with Jake and those characters not kissing and I know that as of so far Calvin hasn’t kissed. Are you concerned?

No. I will tell you, it’s definitely 100% happening.

Oh, it is?

Yes, 100%, you just have to wait for it. But it’s coming.

Okay, fair enough. I was going to ask if you were concerned about going down that road, but I guess…

I wasn’t concerned. Looking back on it, when I look back on the first season, I guess with my interactions with Heath there really was one moment where it could have been appropriate, you know. That was an episode where we wake up in each other’s bed, but even that moment because my character was trying to get out of there he didn’t really want to progress the relationship any further. He was trying to cover. So there really wasn’t a time. And every other time it was in public and these are two guys that are still in the closet at that time, so there wasn’t really a time for it. But you know, now that my character has been out-ed and he’s open to everyone on the show, I think it’s definitely going to happen naturally. But we want to make sure that it’s not this cheap thing. We want it to be like a natural thing that happens, just like every other character.

Absolutely. I’m curious, last week’s most recent episode with you and Dale having the conversation about… and Dale’s homophobia. The show has done a fantastic job with your character and I think you’ve played it in a way that is, as you said, is original. I’m curious if you have any thoughts on how that story arc with Dale went, because even though I really liked what it was saying, I felt a little bad for Dale that he was portrayed in a way that wasn’t necessarily 100% realistic.

How so?

That he was just that insecure about his own sexuality and he couldn’t get rid of his…

Oh, at the end.

He was going to get rid of his CD and he was literally trying to make you smell a rotten banana. It just felt if a gay character was portrayed in such a cliché way I probably would have objected. I just wondered if that occurred to you at all during that?

Yes, you know, Dale’s character is really hard, I think. Dale’s character is hard in general and Clark plays him great. I love working with Clark. But Dale’s character out of all, he’s written in a way that is there for a lot of comedic relief. But he’s also there to be a really good foil to Rusty’s character and to my character. And I think that in that interaction that Dale has become someone that Rusty has definitely become friends with and even Calvin likes Dale to a degree. There’s something that he likes about Dale and I think it’s important that just being like, no, you can’t turn me gay. I think he wanted to sort of work with Dale a little bit to see where he would go.

And I don’t know many people like Dale, but I had a guy I think they do exist. I wasn’t really raised in the Deep South or anything like that or around people that religious, but I think that at the end the most important part of that episode was that there was no happy resolution. That where two people have two different viewpoints and while we will learn to accept one another our views aren’t going to change that quickly because that’s not realistic, you know.

So, in that respect I think it was kind of a good episode. I mean, at the end, I feel like you hear those crazy politicians talk a lot of the time, I feel like there’s a lot of that in what Dale did, there’s a lot of fear. If there wouldn’t be that kind of fear why would people have such a problem with gay marriage when that’s not something that actually affects them personally, do you know what I mean?

So I think there is an element of fear that is involved that sort of lead Dale to do things that were a little bit extreme but were rooted in maybe from his perspective something maybe that that character might have had to deal with. Does that make sense at all?

It does. What is Calvin going to get up to, beyond the stuff with Max Greenfield and maybe Heath if he comes back into it? Does he get… any issues there? Not gay issues, just stuff –

I really don’t know. Like I said, I haven’t been back to work yet. I don’t go back to work till next weekend. I haven’t talked to Sean about the episodes yet, so I have no idea. I know we’re going to go to spring break the last episode of the season. I know that. But as far as with Heath and my character I don’t know.

As far as Rusty and my character, I guess in the next episode we’ll see sort of Rusty and Calvin sort of be pulled in different directions. It’s going to be indicative of what we’ve filmed up to this point of sort of the friendship and it’s kind of true to life where you go to college and you meet a bunch of people and you hang out with them the first week because everyone’s got to be open. And then slowly as you meet more people your first friendships don’t always last.

So that’s kind of what Rusty and Calvin are exploring right now and it’ll double the week after that with a flashback episode, you’ll sort of see what happened to Evan and Cappie. And then the story line is, is that what’s going to happen to Rusty and Calvin or are they going to get back together? I don’t even know that answer yet. Sean might have a little bit more information there, but I’m just not sure.

Can you talk a bit more about where we will see Rusty and Calvin’s relationship go and about whether we would see them being pulled in different directions and how they were going to handle that?

And it’s hard because Rusty’s character right now has a lot of people to talk to, you know he’s got Dale, he’s got his sister, he’s got Cappie, and then in the first season he had me and now that I’m sort of in a different fraternity. I think you saw it two episodes ago you know that Rusty can be real observant and real bright about things but his devotion to his family and his sister kind of one tracks his mind as far as Evan and the Omega Chi’s go. And so for me at the end of that scene, for Calvin it was sort of annoying. It’s like you’re not paying attention to me. You’re not listening to what I’m saying. And we’re going to see how that pulls.

It’s going to be an interesting relationship. I would hope that eventually they would become friends or else I might need to get another show if I’m not friends with Rusty any more at all. But I think it’s going to be good. I think it’s going to give some new things to deal with for Rusty and for Calvin.

Yes, I’m looking forward to it. I think it’s a very realistic process that you go through when you’re in college and you have things like different fraternity houses that…

Completely and it’s funny because you know junior year you’ll see people that you used to be friends with freshman year and you’ll kind of like smile and nod and get into like an awkward three minute conversation, you know, like how’s it going? Great, well I’ll see you around.

It happens later in life too.

Yes, it happens now in L.A. But I remember when I went to college there was a group that I hung out with the first semester we became friends because we were running away from the cops at some party and we became friends and I had like nothing in common with them. And I went to their high school football game because a bunch of them went to high school around and I was like the only black kid at this high school football game and I was like, oh gosh. And then I would see them senior year and we would talk and have a good time but you know we weren’t really friends any more.

What can we expect between these episodes now and before you meet Max. I know it’s been a long time since you’ve filmed so I don’t know if you can even …

Well, I mean the only thing in the episode that is coming up is sort of a big fraternity war when we play pranks on each other, and that tension and my role in that and Rusty’s role in that sort of leads us to have a bit of a falling out. And after that episode I really don’t do anything until I meet Max in the last episode. You know, it’s like there’s a lot of characters on the show and there’s a flashback episode which goes back to freshman year and I have a couple small scenes in but it’s actually a great episode.

And the episode after that is focused on I think Casey. It’s focused on trying for the Omega Chi’s and the Zeta Betas trying to get back to being party buddies and stuff and you meet the president of Omega Chi, which is cool because we always thought it was Evan, including me and Jake, but it’s not. And you get to meet him and you get to see some more of Evan’s motivations and the Evan and Casey relationship becomes a little bit more interesting. Frannie comes back, which is great because she’s great on the show and we miss her so much. And the great thing about Frannie is that you don’t know what’s going on in her mind, you know? Even still you just don’t know. It’s like, I don’t know if you watch Lost, if you ever like watch the character of Juliette?

Yes, I do.

You watch that girl and you’re like I want to like her but I know she’d stab me in the back twice. I don’t know what’s going…

Something is going on with her.

It’s the same with Frannie. And then the last episode that we shot before the strike was all about, which is a really cool one, it’s about all of the different fraternities and sororities and it’s like a big Olympic thing that ZBZ’s throw. And then Michael Copon from Power Rangers and he’s been in a lot of things, guest stars as the character Shane. And that was fun because I think that was one of the episodes that we were all in and we all got to have scenes together.

What has been your favorite thing to film this season and what has been your favorite episode, not necessarily to film?

I think my favorite episode was last week. Not the one with Clark, I like that one too but the week before that with the party, that scene. I was real happy with how that turned out. That was a good story line and it was fun and I got to do the party. My favorite scenes to film, I’m lucky, I have really good relationships with all of the people on the show. I have special relationships with the people that I get to film with, like any scene I have with Amber is a lot of fun. And we’re always usually walking or drinking coffee. Scenes with Clark and Jacob are great just because we just have a good time.

But I think one of my favorite scenes to film was the sixth episode, which was Friday Night Frights when you saw my character and Evan’s character bond. Also because my mom was in town and she got to be on the set, which was fun. But it was really just me and Jake’s character letting loose and having fun and I just had a lot of fun doing that one.

Have you talked with Jake Silverman much about what it’s like to be playing these sorts of roles on television and the feedback you get?

No, I haven’t talked to Jake. You know, because I haven’t been back to New York since, this is actually the first year I haven’t been back to New York in a long time and I usually would see him when I was in New York. So, I haven’t talked to him about that. But I know that it is a little difficult for those two over there for whatever reason, whatever is going on with Procter and Gamble.

Interview By: Emma Loggins

– Greek Official Site


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