-Tonight is the night! ABC Family’s new comedy, “10 Things I Hate About You” premieres tonight at 8pm EST. The show is loosely based on the 1999 movie and is one of our favorite new summer shows. We recently had the chance to visit the set of the show where we had the chance to watch filming, chat with the writer and some of the cast. Before we headed out to the set in Santa Clarita, we had the chance to eat breakfast and chat with Ethan Peck who stars in the show as “Patrick Verona.” Learn more about this 23 year old former NYU student below.
When did you start acting? I was offered to be taken to an audition when I was about 8-years old. And I was a very energetic kid and really open to anything. And I was like, “Yeah, let’s do it. Sure.” And I wanted to have an amazing time because it’s like playing make-believe. [That’s what you get to do], of course, which is kind of amazing. And the audition went really well. I almost got cast, and I’ve been doing it ever since. When I was about 8-years old, did a film when I was ten for Showtime called Marshal Law. And then I had a couple experiences doing commercials, guest stars on television. I played Young Kelso on That ‘70s Show. I had a small cameo on The Drew Carey Show, I mean, little things here and there.
Where are you from? Right here in Hollywood. Born and raised at Sunset and Fairfax.
Were you a fan of the original movie? I definitely saw it when I was, I guess, 13, 14-years old. When I got the audition, I hadn’t even recalled the film at the time. They were [like remake], and I couldn’t quite remember what it was, but it’s a great movie. And it’s really exciting to be working under that franchise.
How did Heath Ledger’s version of your character influence your portrayal of Patrick Verona? Well as I said before, I didn’t see the film before I auditioned for it and couldn’t really recall the film and was just having, like, a really bad day, so I didn’t care to go back and look at the film, which sort of worked to my benefit because I think that I brought somewhat of an original interpretation of the material to the audition. So actually after I’d tested for the—actually, yeah, after I tested for the show, I watched the film. And I mean, he’s so different, anyways. With all due respect, I didn’t take any inspiration from him only because this Patrick Verona is a new Patrick Verona really. I mean, the show is completely different from the film for the most part.
How similar to the movie is the show? We’re actually not really sticking close to the storyline of the film at all. [It’s more inspired by the film.] There are two sisters, the Stratford sisters, and the father. And they’ve moved out from Ohio I think, and Padua is supposedly in San Diego. I’m the school badass, as you know. And that’s pretty much it from what I remember. Like, there are big scenes, like, with Patrick in the film sitting on the bleachers and wooing Kat. And I don’t think that that would be included in the series because, first of all, that’s so iconic and particular to that film. And my Patrick wouldn’t do that, I don’t think.
In the movie, Cameron & Patrick have an unlikely ‘friendship.’ Will we see that in the show? Yeah, actually, in this new episode, in six, it’s the first scene I’ll have with Nick Braun who plays Cameron. And he’s—I don’t know how much I’m supposed to say about what’s happening, but he’s got himself in an awkward—a difficult situation, which Bianca, who he’s very interested in, as you know, and he comes to me for help again. But instead of—so in the film, Joey pays Patrick to take out Kat because Bianca can’t go out [that doesn’t happen] —Cameron goes to Joey for that or to—oh yeah, to Patrick for that. Anyways, I think we’ll see them develop much further, as they do in the film a little bit. It’ll be definitely because Patrick is genuinely interested in Kat.
What’s your favorite trait of your character, Patrick Verona, and what part of your personality do you use most in portraying Patrick Verona? My favorite trait about Patrick is that he’ll give attitude and be, like, flat—I guess the humor that we’re arming Patrick with is, like, flat sarcasm because that’s who he is as a person and that’s, like, what makes him a badass because he’s like—there’s a scene where Cameron—it’s the scene where he’s, like, waiting at a vending machine and the soda won’t fall down, of course. And he’s like, “What the heck?” And Patrick comes up and Cameron’s like, “It won’t drop.” And I’m like, “Your testicles or the soda?” [Laughs]
And the great thing about Patrick is, like, he won’t be like, “Oh, I’m just joking,” which is what I would do. And I love that kind of humor that Patrick just is that. And it’s only funny from an outside observer as opposed to the people involved. But I’d like to think that I have a hold on that sort of flat humor with my friends, what we use.
Does Larry Miller improv on the show at all? Yeah, he does. Actually, I haven’t worked with him yet. But Lindsey who plays Kat was all saying how it’s so amazing they’re always improvising. So yeah, he definitely is using his skills.
Patrick really doesn’t talk a whole lot in the pilot. Will that change? For the first, like, three episodes, it’s basically me just being like—[laughs]. I’m like taking off my shirt and being like—or whatever.
Does he have any hobbies or a family? I don’t—we don’t know yet. We just—in this last episode, you see that he’s in the auto shop class at school. He works on his own motorcycle. That’s pretty much all we know. [As far as a family] we don’t know yet.
Any guest stars you can tell us about? Yeah, a guy named Justin Lee who plays this creepy—they called him a perv because he’s always hitting on Kat. But I haven’t really been in contact with anybody else except for Kat yet, which has been interesting for me. [Laughs]
What was it like working with Lindsey Shaw? Lindsey’s like really funny and very—has a very powerful presence. So we sort of talked about that and her humor, and she’s very sarcastic and also like really hilarious and supportive. So it’s difficult to sort of, like, get a sense of people, who they were outside of their characters because, I mean, it’s difficult to distinguish a person from who they’re playing because you see so much of who they actually are and who they’re pretending to be, usually. She’s very, very intelligent.
Do you actually ride a motorcycle? No, actually I have my own bike lessons tomorrow. I’ve never ridden a bike before. So right now they’ve got like grips. I sit on the bike and, like, the two grips are like pushing me [laughs]. And in this shot, I have to be like, “Later.” [Laughs] And like, these guys are pushing me on a bike. It’s totally embarrassing. [Laughs] So it’s been rough. For years and years and years, I’ve always said I want to get a motorcycle. And they’re like, “We’re going to get you your license.” I was like, “Oh, Are you okay with that?” “Yeah, let’s do that.” [Laughs] Because I’ve like never had time or the money really to invest, and now I’ve got to. And I guess it is a good skill to have.
You play a highschooler in the show. What were you like in high school? You know, I was such a dork in high school. I like—I played sports. I played in the symphony. I auditioned all the time. I was thrown off the sports teams for auditioning all the time. I didn’t do as well as I wanted to because I didn’t care really. I mean, all across the board because I was doing so many things, but I guess specifically school. I just, like, really didn’t have any interest in, I don’t know, grades and the system. And I didn’t realize it at the time, I just felt really guilty about it. But I found myself feeling like an outsider all the time because I didn’t really understand why people had to have certain groups of friends and why everybody couldn’t just get along.
TV acting is kind of new for you, how is it going? TV acting is a skill I’m being forced to pick up. It’s really different from what I’ve done before, and that’s real exciting. It’s going really well, I think. I mean, it’s sort of difficult because you get into the day and there’s so much going on, and we don’t really know where the character’s going yet and who he is exactly. I think he’s still, out of all the characters, relative to the film. And so it can be kind of stressful and frightening, but at the same time it’s really challenging. And discovering as you go along is a wonderful thing to do, yeah.
What’s the biggest difference between TV and movie acting? For TV, you can’t think about it. Like, for film, I found myself being like, “Oh, well, hmm, yeah, there’s really only one way I can do this.” And for TV, it’s like—working with Gil, for instance, who directed the film, he’s amazing, would you like, “Okay, like this.”
He’ll give me like, sometimes, the information about the lines sometimes because, as I said before, we’re still figuring them out, and we don’t—none of us know how he’s going to be edited. So we’ll get a bunch of different takes of him different people almost, which can be really scary because there’s no completed story or person. And in a script, you read the script and you know what you’re getting into. And with this, it’s just like they’re working with me and we’re all collaborating to create this guy.
Yeah, so the challenge is, like, feeling safe on set and in the work because I really do care a lot about it being good work, and I hope that it will be. So that’s a huge challenge for me not to know—sort of like, running [lineman or forward] and have all these guys being like, “Yeah, go at it.”
How do you prepare for roles? It’s sort of different for all of them at the moment. I’m not really sure how. But typically, it comes down to some basic ideas on how to bring out the reality of the character, some context, obviously. The main thing is, I mean, like—maybe I look at it from a psychological point of view, like are his parents dead, where’s he from, what’s he want to do, where’s he going, where’s he been, very basic and general. And then it really comes down to scenes and who I’m working with and how the director wants it to look and just sort of maintaining a sense of open-mindedness to go work and be whatever I can be while still maintaining those primary ideas that I have about who I want this guy to be, or girl or whatever I’m playing, you know? [Laughs]
Who are your favorite actors? My favorite actors – I love Javier Bardem. I really look up to him. Denzel Washington is a huge inspiration, Bill Murray. Oh, man, I always forget the name of this actress, she’s in [La Vie en Rose]. I’m inspired by a lot of people. I try to be. Those are the four that really come to mind, also Paul Newman. I don’t know. He’s a good idol for me, I think.
What was it like filming the music video for KSM’s cover of “I Want You to Want Me?” [Panel: They have you there just standing and chewing gum] Oh, they used that. Okay, because they had me sing in that, and I was like I don’t know if he would do this. We had this take—it was like the end of a day when we had to do that. And I was like, “Ahh.” It was like I had gotten there at, like, 7:30, and we had to do that at like 6:30 at night after a full day. And I was—kind of miserable. And I was like, “I’m going to chew gum, okay?” And they were like, “Okay.” So I just sat there and looked miserable. I guess it worked.
You said you’re a gamer, what kind? I just a got a PS3. I got Metal Gear Solid 4 and LittleBigPlanet. And I’m waiting for Diablo 3 to come out for PC.
You studied at NYU, what kind of program? NYU, I was at the Experimental Theatre, and they taught me a lot about everything. I mean, not really just acting but about life and people and relationships and intimacy and love and everything. So I mean, they did a lot of that, like, you go in a room and they’re like, “Do what you feel compelled to do,” and you’re like, “[Phhht].” [Laughs] And it ends up with kids, like, crawling on the floor and, like, looking at their hands or like whatever comes to mind.
Is it hard to watch yourself on the screen? I did this film called Tennessee, which aired at Tribeca last year, in April of last year. And I’ve never been, like, more nervous and, like, heart pounding out of my chest in my life. The whole time I was just like, “Oh, my God, this is, like, mortifying.” But it’s also really—a lot of actors say like, “I don’t like to watch the work, I just do it. And if I feel good about it, the director feels good about it, I don’t need to see it.”
But for me, if I want to really pay attention to detail, as I like to in anything that I do, it’s important for me to look and see what happens because I’ll see thoughts, like insecurities that I’ll have that I’ll remember having in the scene, like, if I look away, and then look back, that’ll look compelling or are compelling but they don’t. It just looks like you’re looking away and looking back and you don’t know what you’re doing. And so it’s really helpful for me in that way.
Did your grandfather, Gregory Peck, give you any advice? Not as an actor, no.
Be sure to tune into “10 Things I Hate About You” Tuesday nights at 8pm EST on ABC Family.