James Van Der Beek brings his delectable Dawson-ness to Logo
Logo’s NewNowNext Awards are coming at you, with smirk, sass and irreverent, cutting-edge spirit. This year’s 4th annual celebration, which airs tonight at 10pm, will be hosted by none other than TV’s Dawson Leary and Ke$ha’s unicorn-slamming dance partner, James Van Der Beek.
Van Der Beek exemplifies how a “NewNowNext” actor emerged to become a pop culture mainstay and household name. From his recent appearance in Ke$ha’s “Blow” video to his extensive career in television, film and theater. The NewNowNext Awards celebrates all that is buzz-worthy and up and coming in pop culture. Van Der Beek himself, is nominated for the ZOMG Internet Award for his brilliant Van Der Memes.
Fresh off of a night of taking the stage alongside a slue of gay icons including Paula Abdul, Perez Hilton, Carmen Elektra and even being carried on stage in his own Gaga-esque egg by an entourage of drag queens from Ru Paul’s Drag Race, Van Der Beek spoke with me about shooting unicorns, Johnny Weir and why gay men go crazy for his Dawson-ness.
ERIK RAYMOND: Back in 1995, you played a pretty convincing bully in the movie, Angus. How was high-school for you?
JAMES VAN DER BEEK: High-school for me was interesting because I played sports but I also did theater. So, I kind of lived in both worlds. By the time I was 16, I was acting and doing a play in New York, so I was gone a lot. I never felt like I fit in anywhere in high-school so I think that’s why I always gravitated toward characters that didn’t seem to fit in or were outcast in a way.
In light of the “It Gets Better” campaign, what words of wisdom would you give someone who is being bullied?
Bullies are only bullies because there’s some real sadness in them. They’re dealing with their own fears and their own insecurities. They’re looking for a way to deal with it and end up taking it on you. It’s not your fault. There’s nothing wrong with you. Unfortunately, bullies don’t have the tools to deal with their own garbage. Try not to take it personally. In a weird way, I played the characters who were bullies because I thought, ‘wow, this a powerful role’ or ‘people are intimidated. This will be fun.’ It wasn’t until I really delved into the characters that I realized bullies are just not happy people. A lot of bullying comes out of misery. Happy people; mature people don’t bully. So, just be yourself.
On a lighter note, what was your reaction when you were pitched the idea of playing a James Bond-esque version of yourself and shooting at Ke$ha and unicorns with lasers?
[Laughs] I’ve kind of been in this phase of just saying “yes” to anything that sounds like it might be fun, especially if I haven’t done it before. When the director pitched himself to Ke$ha, within his concept was me. So, when I saw it, I thought it was really clever. I knew Ke$ha and just thought it’d be a lot of fun and thought ‘why not?’
What was it like to work with Ke$ha?
She’s great. She’s exactly how you’d hope and expect her to be; a fun, cool, whiskey drinking country girl.
What prompted you to start jamesvandermemes.com?
Basically, I teamed up the guys at Funny or Die. I thought their site was really funny. I set up a meeting with them and told them, “I wanna play.” Then, they told me, almost embarrassed, “I don’t know if you’re aware of this but there’s a clip of you that’s gone viral of you crying.” They showed it to me and I thought it was hysterical that someone had taken that moment and put it on a loop. [Laughs] I was so bizarre and awkward looking and funny. Funny to me, knowing all the sincerity and emotion that was going on in that scene.
Very few celebrities have made the impact on fans that you have by just embracing the hilarity of being James Van Der Beek. Why do you think that is?
[Laughs] You know, of all the shows that I auditioned for between the ages of 15 and 20, Dawson’s Creek was the one that I got. It happened to make an impact on pop culture. I count myself lucky. Even though it was years ago, it seems to be sticking around for some reason. When I first got off the show, I tried to get as far away from the character as possible but now I’ve embraced it. Now in entertainment, fans seem to like their celebrities to be transparent. So, I’m just trying to find the best way to make people laugh.
You’ve had a broad spectrum of roles. From Varsity Blues to Storytelling to Rules of Attraction, it’s interesting that people seem to only think of you as “Dawson.”
Well, it was a big one. There were billboards, bus placards. It ran for six years so you gotta accept that it’s gonna stick in people’s minds. I feel very fortunate enough in the industry to have been able to play a number of different roles, some completely opposite.
From Storytelling, in which you had a gay sex scene to Rules of Attraction, where you lip-locked with Ian Somerhalder to Ke$ha’s “Blow” video then your “DILF Khakis” sketch and now you’re hosting the NewNow Next Awards, obviously you’re aware that you’ve gained legions of gay fans.
How were you approached to host the NewNowNext Awards?
They just asked. They contacted my publicist because they had seen my stuff on FunnyorDie.com and asked if I’d be interested in hosting. I thought about it for like two seconds and said “why not? It sounds like a lot of fun.”
Johnny Weir, RuPaul, Paula Abdul…How was it being surrounded by so much…gay?
[Laughs] Well, I started out doing theater when I was in high-school so it wasn’t anything that gave me pause. I had a blast! With all the drag-queens and everything. They’re very creative people. I had a ball; improvising with RuPaul; Johnny Weir, who’s a comic genius. He’s one of the funniest individuals I’ve ever met.
Oh, God yes! When I first became aware of Johnny Weir was when he held that press conference after that French-Canadian judge made those comments about him. I caught the press conference online. Johnny made the strongest, coolest response. He talked about how his parents encouraged him to be himself and that he’s proud of who he is. It was so classy. He Tweeted it under the tag line of “Johnny Weir schools critics on what it is to be a man.” I had so much respect for him after that. So, I was psyched to meet him.
Can you tell me more about the pilot you shot for ABC?
It’s a half-hour comedy called Don’t Trust the Bitch in Apartment 23. [Laughs] It’s written by Nahnatchka Khan, who’s written for American Dad, directed by Jason Winer, who directed the Modern Family pilot and some of the producers of Family Guy. It’s a really great crew. I play the bitch’s best friend, an actor named James Van Der Beek who’s single, living New York City and uses the fact that he was on Dawson’s Creek to get laid. [Laughs] I mean, I’m married, have a kid and live in L.A., so we basically just came up with the funniest alternate version of me that we could. He’s this character who shares my name and some of my history. It’s kind of an experiment.
When will that debut?
If it gets picked up, it will be announced in May. And if that happens, it will probably air sometime in the fall. Keep our fingers crossed.
What is the best advice you’ve gotten and who was it from?
The best advice I got was from Jon Voight. I met him right when I was starting to get recognized. Lots of people were asking me for autographs and pictures. I never anticipated any of that. I always though that the most famous I’d be was among the New York theater circle. But then I got this pilot on this network I’d never heard of and started getting noticed. I started wondering ‘what does it all mean? How do I take this?’ I felt weird and I didn’t want to look bad. Jon said, “no. You’re not that kind of guy. It’s very simple. You’re able to make somebody very happy by doing something very simple.” We’re making entertainment. We’re making people forget about their day, we’re able to teach them something, expose them to something; and for all of those reasons we’re very lucky to be able to make people happy by doing something we love.
What was the worst advice you’ve gotten?
[Laughs] Be careful. Be careful what you do next. Be careful what movie you make next. Be careful what you say yes to. Granted, there are some things you should say “no” to but for awhile there I was saying “no” to a lot of projects. I found it’s a lot more fun to say “yes.”
Taking risks, that’s what life’s about.
Totally. Especially now. Yea, take a risk. Have some fun. I mean, what’s the worst that can happen? Yea, sometimes it doesn’t work out but at least I can say I tried.
See + Hear:
Who: James Van Der Beek
What: Logo’s NewNowNext Awards
When: April 11, 10pm ET