You probably know Connor Paolo best for his role in ‘Gossip Girl‘ – he played Blake Lively’s little brother Eric Van Der Woodsen. What has Connor been up to since then you ask? He became a series regular on ‘Revenge’ and most recently starred in ‘Friend Request’.
We had a little bit of chit and a little bit of chat and caught up with Connor. We spoke about his new role as Kobe in ‘Friend Request‘ – a spine-chilling new horror, that will leave you thinking twice before accepting another friends request… are you ready?
Can you tell us a little bit about ‘Friend Request’?
Absolutely, it’s a film about a girl (named Laura) who makes friends with the wrong person. Somebody in a college class of hers who is by herself, and maybe someone who needs a friendship. She strikes up a brief relationship with her which gets out of hand, and this person gets attached very very quickly.
This girl feels like she needs to distance herself but that doesn’t go over well and she incurs the raft of a demonic force and sets about trying to make her alone in the world by eliminating the people closest to her.
Can you tell us about your role in the film and what your character is like?
My character’s name is Kobe, he is a good friend of Laura’s and has been for a longtime. He wants more out of their friendship then he’s gotten and has feelings for her which end up influencing a lot of the decisions he makes going forward.
He works with computers and because this spirit is using people’s social media profiles to inspect their lives, he’s trying to rationalise what happened in the world that he understands, which is computers.
But of course this is not natural, this is all in the supernatural. His journey is one of the most reality shattering because the world that he depended on and felt strong in has now turned on him and he can’t really make sense out of it.
What makes this horror film different to others such as ‘Unfriended’ and ‘The Social Network’?
I didn’t see that one, I know that the titles are similar but for me what was different was the relationship to the characters. With a lot of horror films you end up sacrificing the individual people that you’re watching because they’re literally about to be sacrificed.
What I think a lot of directors or a lot of films unfortunately end up pushing towards is the fact that all of these characters are going to die by escalating the mean and gruesome manners. What’s horrifying is the people you love being taken away from you. In my experience this film focused a bit more on that.
Was there a moment on set that was particularly scary, if so can you tell us what it was?
Well, we shot the film in South Africa, which was beautiful – we were in Cape Town but there was one night when we were shooting in an area that has been depressed for quite some time. There’s a lot of violence there, there are gangs and we were shooting in an abandoned factory that little known to our set was on territory. We shouldn’t of been on territory and people showed up with guns one night and thankfully no one was hurt but it was pretty scary.
Obviously you’re best known for playing Eric in ‘Gossip Girl’, but how does this character compare and contrast to him?
With regards to ‘Gossip Girl’ it’s difficult to answer, I did it a while ago when I was younger so how I relate to that experience is that I can look back on it fondly but it’s hard to get specific about it to be honest.
Was there a particular reason why you decided to go into film instead of coming back to TV?
I think you do the work that moves you at the time. I started my career working in films, so that’s always felt a little bit more like home for me.
What is the scariest moment you’ve ever had in your own life?
Haha, I don’t have anything that pops into my mind, which I guess is a good sign. I haven’t really felt very often that my life was in any type of danger which again is a good thing! I’ve been lucky in that respect. But I had moments growing up in New York where I was freaked out about one thing or the other.
What message would you like us to take away from ‘Friend Request’?
I think what’s interesting is what motivates this character Laura for reaching out to this girl, who ends up being the antagonist in the first place is not at all bad – she reaches out to this person because she’s moved by the fact that she seems lonely.
So I hope that’s certainly not something that people start avoiding because they’re afraid of strangers.
I think everyone’s been in a situation where they’ve entertained a relationship that they wanted to remove themselves from but they didn’t know how to do it or they were worried about how they’d look. But it can end up doing a lot more damage by not being honest, you’re better off being straight up.
You’re not very active on social media, is that a conscious decision you’ve made, and if so why?
Yeah it is. It’s just something that’s never really held much appeal for me. I’ve spent more of my life without it so when it suddenly became something to be a part of I wasn’t like “wow I gotta get on this”. I’ve always been pretty slow with trends.
I find that it consumes a tremendous amount of people’s attention and energy. I find that people spend so much time trying to maintain a representation of their lives, and I think that time might be better spent trying to maintain their actual lives. So you’ve kind of got your warning in the film there, beware of how much attention you put on your digital life because it has a lot of power.
‘Friend Request’ is out in cinemas now, send your friend a request to go and see it now… off you go!