It’s summer, so we get it. You’re either out soaking in some Vitamin D or you’re inside binge-watching all of the series you need to catch up on. (Instead of Netflix and chill, isn’t it more like Netflix and sweat?) After you finish the latest season of Orange Is the New Black, hop onto another Netflix original, Anne with an E, based on the 1908 novel Anne of Green Gables. To give you a quick summary, the series is a coming-of-age story about an orphan named Anne who is looking to be accepted and loved by everyone around her. We all know that feeling.
Starring alongside Anne (Amybeth McNulty) is actor Lucas Jade Zumann, who portrays Gilbert Blythe. We had a chance to chat with the rising star who should be on your radar over the next few years. With an impressive role as Gilbert and his previous film 20th Century Women, it’s hard to deny his talent.
Cliché: You come from a family of artists. How did you decide that acting was something you wanted to pursue versus playing an instrument or musical theater?
Lucas Jade Zumann: Well, I do actually play various musical instruments and for the majority of my childhood, I did neighborhood theater productions. I think that I was raised under the general notion to make art.
What was your first acting gig before hitting the small and big screen?
My first ever professional production was the Light Opera Works production of Oliver! I was an ensemble member.
How did your role as Gilbert in Anne with an E come about for you?
It was actually a very fast auditioning process. I sent in a couple of tapes through my agent in Chicago, and then I was asked to fly out to meet the producer, writer, and to read with Amybeth. Then, a couple weeks later, they called and asked if I wanted to play Gilbert.
When you auditioned for the show, what do you think you did that stood out to the casting directors to help land you the role?
I don’t think I based my Gilbert solely off of the Gilbert in the book. Understanding that Moira’s writing style was going to be a little more gritty and interpersonal, I wanted to make my Gilbert fit accordingly.
What did you bring to the role that made him unique to you?
Something that I really found fascinating about Gilbert was his very mature empathy and understanding of other people. I think one of the things that allows him to get along with Anne so well is that he understands her more than I think other people do.
Looking in the mirror, you see a boy from the 1800s instead of ‘Lucas.’
What did you do to get into character? What was your biggest takeaway after being a part of this project?
Something that is great about a period piece is that simply wearing and putting on the clothes is a transformative process. Looking in the mirror, you see a boy from the 1800s instead of “Lucas.” But I think having a general idea of the story helps, too! My biggest takeaway was really about the shooting process of a TV show. This was my first recurring role on a TV show and the pace is really different from a movie. Learning about the pace and atmosphere of TV was something new to me.
I love that in the future you hope to become a meditation guide and spiritual healer. How did that career path come to you? What are you planning to do to achieve this?
I think whatever I end up doing, I want to be helping people. Whether it be as an actor, filmmaker, or in teaching about meditation. From a very young age, I have been practicing Buddhist meditation and I hope to be able to share the helpful properties and qualities that I have found in it with other people.
I read in a previous interview that you’d love to get behind the camera as well. Is there a director or specific film that inspires you the most?
Generally, I am inspired by very stylized work, as in the work of Emanual Lubeski/Alejandro Gonzalez Inuritu and Robert Yoemen/Wes Anderson. They all display very unique ways to express internal dialogue of the characters. Personally though, I find that a lot of the stuff that I write and make is not nearly as stylized. My stories tend to be very character-driven, slow, and interpersonal.
What was the first piece you ever directed yourself?
The first film that me and my friends made was a short film for the One Earth film festival about sustainable transportation. We learned a lot from the process of making the film.
How do you juggle acting and your time outside of the industry?
I think I am very fortunate that I can differentiate my work life and my social life between Chicago and wherever it is that I am filming. My neighborhood is very grounded and my family and friends are very supportive. Even when it’s hard to sometimes find a balance between the two, I know I can count on them to keep me grounded.
What kind of characters do you hope to see yourself portraying in the future?
I really just kind of want to work on projects that will be a challenge for me, or will be fun for me, or will be hard. Because in doing that, one can become a better actor—or a better person, even. You can learn a lot about yourself by working on a character.
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Lucas Jade Zumann Chats ‘Anne with an E’ on Netflix: Photographer: Sam Zachrich