Never judge a book by its cover, or in this case, never judge the personality of an actor by the personalities of their characters. This altered expression goes well with actor Justin Prentice, who currently stars in the Netflix drama 13 Reasons Why as the cruel and unaware high school bro, Bryce. In reality, however, Prentice is a considerate and passionate person who knows how to research his roles to provide his best performances to the characters he portrays.
Prentice has been in this industry for a majority of his life. He has experienced memorable roles and knows the obstacles of taking on certain difficult roles. However, he understands these obstacles and gets through them with intrigue and precision that reveals the realism of the character that he is taking on and the messages he gives out. Growing up, Prentice wanted to take on many professions. It just so happened that acting was the one profession that let him do a little bit of everything.
Cliché: Did you have any influences or reasons why you wanted to go into a career in acting?
Justin Prentice: I remember first mentioning to my mother that I wanted to be an actor. I was 6 years old. Sometimes I wish my call to acting was more profound. Like, “I remember watching Daniel Day Lewis in My Left Foot, and I knew in that moment that I wanted a life in the arts.” In actuality, I would watch Full House and think to myself, “That looks fun. I could do that.”
You have been on amazing TV series such as Criminal Minds, The Middle, Awkward, 13 Reasons Why, and will next be seen on Preacher. Do you have any shows that you believe created any memorable experiences for you?
I think they have all been memorable in one way or another. I reflect positively on all of the shows that I have been a part of. There are, of course, some standouts, or milestones, if you will. For instance, Criminal Minds was my first role in a major production, which was really exciting for me. Malibu Country was my first series regular role, and I learned so much from it (also Reba and Lily Tomlin are living legends). 13 Reasons Why is one of those rare shows that is, through and through, an absolute pleasure to be a part of, from the cast and crew, to the message, to the characters, all of it.
What aspects of 13 Reasons Why interested you?
Initially, I was intrigued with several aspects. For starters, I saw that Brian Yorkey, Tom McCarthy, and Selena Gomez were attached. In addition to that, the story is so gripping. It’s a very relevant subject matter, one that I was praying to get to be a part of.
Before portraying Bryce in 13 Reasons Why, did you have any difficulties or reservations when taking on the character or the actions he takes?
There were no reservations in wanting to portray the character, but there were definitely difficulties in bringing Bryce to life. As an actor, it’s very fulfilling to take on a character like Bryce. Since he is very different from who I am as a person, research is required, and I love research. The difficulties come into play when getting into, and staying in, Bryce’s mindset. It’s a dark place to be.
What lessons do you want people to take away after watching your character in 13 Reasons Why?
I hope that people walk away with a clearer understanding of the broad spectrum that is rape. Rape can come in many forms. A good rule to remember is, if consent is not given, it is rape; if a person is physically or mentally unable to give consent, it is rape. I also hope that with this clear understanding, boys will think twice about their actions and that they will not encourage or cast a blind eye toward their “bros” who may have done or are doing these acts. Friends don’t let friends rape people. Rape is physically and psychologically devastating. It should not be tolerated on any level.
What was it like portraying a character so out of touch with what his friends were going through, unaware of others’ feelings, and in some ways, careless with who he’s hurting?
It was interesting. I tried to ride the line of having Bryce emotionally disconnected in certain aspects, while still trying to keep him human. It was very important to me that people see a real person, perhaps someone they know or have met before, when they see Bryce. Part of what makes him so terrifying is that he, in some ways, is a normal guy who, for various reasons (from lack of education to his environment and upbringing), is capable of doing monstrous acts.
The difficulties come into play when getting into, and staying in, Bryce’s mindset. It’s a dark place to be.
Do you think 13 Reasons Why is an accurate depiction of what high school can be like?
In 13 Reasons Why, the events are dramatized and happen in a concise period of time, which is not always how things play out in the real world. However, we hope that people can at least find something that is relatable for them in the wide array of topics that are covered in the show. High school is its own world, and for many people, it feels like it’s their entire world. Because of this, any one of the thirteen reasons can be really painful for a person to deal with.
Which character do you think you most identify with?
I feel like I might fall somewhere in-between a Clay and a Tony. Though I’m a little more energetic than Clay is, and I’m definitely not as cool as Tony…I also don’t have his suave hair.
Is there anything that you’re working on now or in the future that you can tell us about?
I’m currently doing an arc on season two of AMC’s Preacher. It’s such a fun show to be a part of.
What do you want people to know about yourself?
When I was little, I wanted to be a paleontologist, and a doctor, and a baseball player, and the president, and a lawyer. So I just became an actor instead. Now I can be everything little Justin wanted to be and more.
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Justin Prentice Talks ‘13 Reasons Why’: Photographer: Jason Willheim, Styling: Wilford Lenov, Grooming: Mishelle Parry