The Talk With Wolfgang Novogratz

Photography/ Nathan Johnson
Interview by Juliet Belkin

Wolfgang Novogratz has risen to fame for his appearance as Drew in the 2018 Netflix original film Sierra Burgess Is a Loser. He previously appeared as Dave in the 2018 action comedy Assassination Nation.  Made his acting debut in the TV series 9 by Design in 2010. He guest-starred in a 2018 episode of the TV comedy Grown-ish and was cast as the romantic lead Patch Cipriano in the romance film Hush, Hush in August 2018 and oh boy! Doesn’t he remind you of Elvis?! I’ve caught up with Wolfgang in Los Angeles.

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You are the oldest in a family of seven siblings. What was it like growing up?

In all honesty, I feel like the luckiest man in the world. There was never a dull moment growing up, good or bad, and my siblings are all wildly different from each other. I have a distinctly unique relationship with each one of my brothers and sisters. As the oldest, I always strived to be a role model and leader for them, but more importantly, someone who they felt they could talk to about anything, without judgement, and I’d always be there for them.

How did you start as an actor?

Well, it’s an interesting story. For as long as I can remember, basketball has always been my entire life. I was preparing to play big time Division 1 college basketball. I trained like a professional athlete and dedicated my whole life to the sport. My senior year of high school, I was extremely fortunate to have many opportunities to make my dream a reality. However, also in my final year, I took drama class for the first time. I had always been fascinated, inspired, and obsessed with movies, but had never acted before. I remember visiting all these colleges that I had worked my whole life towards and thinking to myself, “I did it”. I felt a feeling of completion that I had proved to myself that I could play at the highest level. I now found a new passion, and I wanted to start a new chapter in my life. So, I turned down all these opportunities, and said to my drama teacher, “I’m going to be an actor, what should I do?” He said, “If you want to be a good actor, you should spend some time doing classical theatre in London”. So, the week after I graduated high school, I moved to London to start a new chapter in my life

You are Netflix’s newest leading man. How did you get there?

Haha, I don’t know about all that, but I’ve just tried to make the most of the opportunities that have come my way. I’ve been acting professionally now for around 2 years, and what really helped my career get started was after I did my first movie “Sierra Burgess Is A Loser”, I produced and acted in a production of Kenneth Lonergan’s “This Is Our Youth” in Los Angeles. Doing this play led to me getting my agent, and many more opportunities. I’m in it for the long game though. I continue to study consistently. My focus is on how I can become the most honest, and skillful actor I can be, and if I’m lucky enough, hopefully one day have a body of work that I can look back on and be proud of.

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Share with us about your Netflix roles?

My first film, “Sierra Burgess Is A Loser”, I played the part of Drew.

I first read for the part of Spence. Then, they brought me back in for the lead role of Jamie. I ended up making it to the final five actors reading for the producers and director. I was doing a play in Orange County called “Vanya and Sonia and Masha and Spike” by Christopher Durang when I got the call that I hadn’t gotten the lead part because I had never done a movie before, but that they liked me so much, that they wanted to have me in the film in a smaller part.

A cool little piece of trivia, is that for the football scene, where Drew is the opposing line-backer who tackles Jamie, I asked production to wear number 61, which was my Grandfather’s number when he was an All-American at West Point, the United States Military Academy.

The Last Summer, I played the part of Foster.

When I originally read for the role, Foster was written as a more “stereotypical, two-dimensional, shallow, douchebag”. However, I made the choice that his major motivation behind making this list of girls, and his desperation to get laid, was that he was a virgin. So, when I got the part, I shared all my ideas with the director Bill Bindley, and we started working together on rewriting Foster. I came up with the backstory that he used to be quite overweight, never got attention from girls, and was very insecure about that. Then, for his final summer before college, he has reinvented himself. He’s lost weight, he’s studying good “pick-up lines”, and he’s doing whatever it takes to score. The scene between Jacob’s character Alec and I where we learn he’s a virgin was only written a couple of days before we filmed it. I was based a lot of the character on some guys I’ve known in my life.

The Half of It, I play the part of Trig Carson.

Trig Carson is the big man on campus. He’s the most popular guy in school, the Prom King, Student-Body President, and loved by everybody. However, he is quite narcissistic, shallow, and vain. He’s not a bad guy, but he just doesn’t live his life with a lot of depth, introspection, or complexity. The Director, Alice Wu, and I spoke about making sure he is not like Bradley’s Cooper character in Wedding Crashers. He’s not the prototypical mean boyfriend that the audience says, “Why is the main girl with him and not the nice main character?” On paper, he’s perfect. He’s wealthy, good-looking, nice, and happy. The only issue is, is that he’s just not the guy for Aster Flores. He is in love with the idea of her, but he doesn’t really see or understand the fullness of her.

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 You always land the role of a teenager. How do you manage it?

Well, I only graduated from high school three years ago, so it’s not that much of a stretch to be that age again. However, as a young actor really just starting out, those are where the most opportunities are. There aren’t a ton of movies and television shows being made about kids in college or young adults just starting their lives.  

 What is your dream role? 

First off, the dream is to be a working actor, because there are so many talented and deserving actors who are not. If I am lucky enough to become that and then have choices in my career, the dream is to work with the best filmmakers you can on the best scripts you can, in any genre. I said this earlier, but my goal is to become the leading man I want to be and hopefully be able to work with some of the most creative, talented people in the world. However, being Superman would be out of this world as well!

Any Hollywood actors you look up to?

That’s a long list, but for the sake of time, I’ll try to narrow it down to about 5 actors. I would say Spencer Tracy, Denzel Washington, Robert Redford, Paul Newman, and Tom Cruise.

What is one fun fact about Wolfgang that not a lot of fans know?

Shortly after I was cast in “Hush, Hush”, I was extremely fortunate to get connected with Hugh Jackman. Over the last several months, he has become a mentor, teacher, and friend of mine.

What is next for Wolfgang Novogratz?

I am finishing work on “The Half of It”, and then I’m set for the film-adaptation of the New York Times Best-Selling Book Series, “Hush, Hush,” in the lead part of ‘Patch Cipriano’ opposite Liana Liberato as ‘Nora Grey’.