By Trey Mangum
The upcoming Starz series Now Apocalypse is like nothing you’ve seen on television. Created by revolutionary indie filmmaker Gregg Araki and executive produced by Steven Soderbergh, the show follows Ulysses (Avan Jogia), a millennial stoner “struggling to figure out his life in the surreal and bewildering city of Los Angeles.” The series also stars Kelli Berglund, Beau Mirchoff, Roxane Mesquida, Tyler Posey, and Jacob Artist, all in the thick of their own unapologetic “quests pursuing love, sex and fame.” True to Araki’s earlier work, there are also aliens.
For Jogia — formerly of Nickelodeon’s Victorious and ABC’s Twisted — the sex-positive new series gave him the chance to work with the “legend” Araki and tell an L.A. story from the perspective of a queer, brown “sexual explorer” like Ulysses.
From left to right: Roxane Mesquida, Beau Mirchoff, Jogia, and Kelli Berglund in Now Apocalypse
MTV News sat down with Jogia shortly before the series’s premiere at Sundance Film Festival to talk about this end-of-the-world comedy, his journey in Hollywood, and when he thinks actual change is coming to come to the industry.
MTV News: What made you take on this project and how is it different than everything else that’s on television right now?
Avan Jogia: I’d done a lot of television. I’ve led like three shows. And that’s huge. I’m so happy to have done that. And then I was sort of like… I don’t think I wanted to do television. Unless it’s really, really standout, because it takes a lot of time and it’s a huge commitment, unlike a movie, where you just go in and get it done. So Gregg sent me the script and was like ‘I wrote this part for you,’ and he’s a legend. I had the utmost respect for his work up to this point anyway. We move really quickly, which I like.
Every single episode has some sort of effect on the next episode, which is rare for a half-hour comedy. [The show] tweaks the genre because you still have that situational comedy vibe where its four characters and you get to see them interact, but it also has this thrumming beat of what’s going on with these aliens. What is it? Is he crazy? Is his smoking too much pot? There’s very few half-hour comedies where you come in and you’re guessing what’s next. Our show is unique in that way.
MTV News: Tell us about the character of Ulysses and how important is it for you to portray a queer, brown character on television.
Jogia: He’s a sexual explorer, he’s a friendship explorer. I get a lot of characters who are really driven by a mission or they are super involved with what they’re going to accomplish and what they’re going to conquer. This character’s interesting in the way that he doesn’t have any of those drives. He has different drives and he’s looking for love in a world that increasingly doesn’t value love and everything becomes quick and disposable. He’s looking for something more and I love that about him and I think that’s something we share.
One of the greatest leaps that we have done moving forward in television and film is representation. I wouldn’t be here without the people who have come before me. Representation is really important. It’s a vital part of what’s being done right now.
Tyler Posey and Jogia in Now Apocalypse
MTV News: What does the series have to say as far as making it as an aspiring creative in Hollywood?
Jogia: It’s funny because everyone’s first year in L.A. is really an interesting time. You’re consuming personalities so quickly and you’re jumping from friend group to friend group so quickly and everything’s changing. You just try to figure out who you are in this city, what you want out of it, and who you want to be.
MTV News: You starred in two teen shows, Victorious and Twisted. Is the transition to teen to young adult star difficult or tricky?
Jogia: I think a lot is made of that, you know what I mean? I have a unique experience because soon after Nickelodeon I did Twisted, then I went from that to indie movies that went to Sundance then to Tut. I follow the writing and I work on what I do. I feel like a lot of the time, we’re in an industry that is so much about public opinion and how well someone’s gonna do or how it fits in your brand. I have never given a fuck about brand outside of living ferociously as myself. There’s no part of my personality that wants to cater to what I think is going to be acceptable or logical for people. And that’s not me being like “fuck the system,” but I just find it easier to do the opposite.
If you work on your craft and be good in something, that something will change your perceived industry brand and then you’ll be a different actor. And in this day and age, there are shows being made with influencers. Not to say anything disparaging about that because, again, if they work on their craft, that’s fucking awesome. The multi-hyphenate thing is a real deal. Gone are the days of you do this one thing, that’s what you do, and you wait around for everybody, especially when you’re, like, young and brown and ambitious. We see the doors opening and the way that they are. And I’ve been at those doors for a decade.
MTV News: Do you think representation in Hollywood is making progress or is there a lot of ground left to be covered?
Jogia: I think it’s going to happen a lot quicker than people think. I truly believe that. What’s interesting is the next set of films, the next type of film when people don’t have to make films based on their race… like your merit as an artist isn’t just what you wear in your face. Like, I can go make a movie about a 50-year-old straight white corporate guy and his divorce from his wife. I can make that film. I could write that film. That to me is when we’ve really blown the doors off. Change will come when creators of color are seen as such artists that their artistic merit goes beyond what they present as.
I just hate the rules. Forget hierarchy. I hate the rules of people who say you can only tell these kinds of stories. We have to support with our dollars and we need to adjust with the times and stop putting films in a position to fail. If you want [a project] to resonate with young people, you need to get it to young people. They don’t come to you? Then you get it to them. Don’t resist the change. You think Roma loses artistic value because you have to scroll past an Adam Sandler movie to get to it? Fuck you. The more you don’t concentrate on getting good, quality media to young people, the more they’re just going to devour things that are not good. The media landscape is changing drastically, and we’ve got to get more younger voices making decisions. I always just laugh because every teen show I’ve ever been a part of it, it’s all like 40- to 60-year-old men who are writing about 18-year-old girls. If you want it to resonate with young people, hire young people. If you want to resonate with brown people, hire brown people.
Now Apocalypse premieres March 10 on Starz.