March 16th, 2022

Dylan O’Brien On ‘Teen Wolf,’ Taylor Swift, & ‘The Outfit’

BUSTLE – Minutes into meeting Dylan O’Brien, he lets me in on a secret: Growing up, he was a massive American Idol fan. We’re outside his Bustle photo shoot where he’s bumping Remi Wolf, the soul-pop artist who briefly appeared as a contestant on the show’s 13th season. But O’Brien notes he also rides for the series’ OGs like Fantasia Barrino and Jennifer Hudson. “I’m obsessed with people,” O’Brien says of his enthusiasm for reality TV. “How are you not obsessed with people?”

The revelation is peak O’Brien — a little embarrassing, totally earnest, and altogether endearing —and the rest of the 30-year-old’s time on set is littered with more of these interactions. When an intern sneezes, he compliments her on how “cute” it sounds. After introducing himself to the production coordinator, he marvels that she shares a name with his sister Julia. Once the aforementioned intern lets it slip that he was her childhood crush, he thanks her and compliments her Balenciaga trainers. Disarmament is the former Teen Wolf star’s superpower. But at what cost?

“I really care about making people feel comfortable, sometimes to a fault,” he admits when we decamp to a hotel bar nearby. Once we’re seated, a fan approaches him to record a message for a friend back in Colombia. Naturally, O’Brien obliges. “I think it’s something that I owe myself to embrace, because it’s a good quality, for the most part,” he says. “It’s very important to me that the entire team on every job just feels [good]. I always say I’m not really an actor, but what I bring to the table is a good time.”

His friends and collaborators agree. When co-star Zoey Deutch found herself living in the same London apartment block as O’Brien while filming their new movie, The Outfit, the pandemic was still raging. Days on set were heavy, with O’Brien playing the heir apparent to a vicious cadre of gangsters who operate out of the shop of a Chicago tailor, played by Oscar-winner Mark Rylance. When the pair got home, they would bliss out by watching more reality TV. “He just loves sh*tty TV so much,” Deutch says. For much of the trip, O’Brien was in the throes of rewatching Vanderpump Rules — he calls the show “my Godfather,” when I ask him about it later — while Deutch was “deeply involved” with Love Island U.K., of which O’Brien is also a fan. “It’s such a great quality of his, and so out of character because he’s so smart, intellectual, and interesting,” Deutch adds, Though for the record, the ever-earnest O’Brien thinks the idea that reality TV isn’t intelligent is “insane.”

Being a preternaturally affable, good-vibes-only kind of guy was a survival skill O’Brien picked up as an adolescent, when his family moved from New Jersey to California when he was 12. “[It was] the worst thing to happen to me as a kid,” O’Brien recalls of trying to make friends in a new middle school. He found a salve in YouTube, sharing 14 videos between 2007 and 2009. (His account, moviekidd826, is still live, and it features comedy skits and videos of O’Brien lip-syncing to the Spice Girls’ “Wannabe.”) He signed with manager Liz York, whom he still works with today, off the videos alone, and in 2010, he landed the role of Stiles Stilinski on MTV’s series Teen Wolf. Overnight fame followed. “All of a sudden girls were coming up to me in places, wanting to take pictures,” he says. “It was very scary.”

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