Hunter Parrish -- an actor known to many as the dreamboat prodigal son on Weeds, Silas Botwin -- may be taking one of the biggest risks of his young, but promising, career. You have to tread lightly when talking about risk in relation to an actor who made his name by playing a character that's frequently semi-clad, romping around with a dance card's worth of women or, at various times and seasons, stealing and dealing the series' titular drug. Or, for that matter, when talking about an actor who's also carried two musicals on Broadway (playing the lead in Spring Awakening and, most recently, taking a turn as Jesus Christ in Godspell). With all this in mind, Parrish's latest move may still be the ballsiest one yet: attempting to break into the recording industry. On the verge of the eighth (and final) season of Weeds, which premieres this Sunday, July 1st, Parrish released his debut EP, Guessing Games, earlier in the week. We caught up with the actor-singer to talk about the upcoming season (including whether Season 7's cliffhanger will be resolved), his new singing career, and what it was like to come of age on Showtime.
So let's talk about this upcoming season on Weeds. Season 7 ended on a major cliffhanger -- will we find out who got shot and who the shooter was during the premiere?
Usually with these, we pick up from where we left off. You figure out [who got shot] quickly and that sort of puts everything in place for the rest of the season. And I can tell you that [the shooter is] a character that people who have watched the show from the beginning will know and will recognize and be like, "Oh it's that guy." So that's kind of exciting for people.
We did a "Best and Worst TV Mothers" post in honor of Mother's Day and we put Nancy Botwin on our Worst Mothers list. Would you agree with that? Or do you think as her TV son, she's actually a good mom?
I think initially on our show she made the choices she had to make, but it's a dynamic where she probably started out as a better mom than she's become, and I think in her liberation from the traditional suburban world and into the drug world, she became selfish. You could say she started out with all the right intentions and then she lost herself along the way. But I can say that in Season 8, we all will return back to where we started and she [does that] in a great way. She definitely discovers that she hasn't been the best mom and so she starts trying to be a better one.
What was it like to have your teenage years played out on camera, especially all of the risqué moments you've had on Weeds?
It's kind of funny because I lost perspective on that. When I read the pilot for Weeds, we were all like, "Whoa, what is this?" but it's so normal now and it's been eight years. At the very beginning, doing a show where I would be naked the entire time and having sex with girls and doing drugs was pretty crazy because I grew up in Texas with a pretty sheltered life. I talked to my parents about it and I was like, "Are you guys okay with this?" And they were like, "Hunter, you know who you are, you know what you believe in, where you stand, you go on this path and see where it takes you, and we'll be here to remind you of who you are."
You have an EP coming out. What can you tell us about it?
I started working on music three years ago and the record is sort of like folk-pop. I gravitate towards pop music and music that is easy to listen to but pop doesn't necessarily mean it has to be Justin Bieber. I've always been a Bob Dylan fan and I listen to a lot of Ryan Adams.
Are you nervous at all about the difficulty that crossover artists have had? You've been on Broadway and have clearly established yourself as a performer and a singer but with the EP it sounds like it's really new territory.
That's the hardest part of this entire thing. I've been making music on my own since I was fifteen but shortly after that, I got Weeds so my life and my career became more about TV. Also, I was told early on to break into music first but that didn't happen for me. So does that mean that you abandon your passion for music? For me, the answer is "no." Am I scared? Sure. You watch these actors try and make albums and if it doesn't hit, they sort of die off. I've always had the desire for music so my intention is to make music whether people really respond to it or not. Hopefully other people will appreciate it but the truth is, I will always be making music regardless. And that gives me a lot of comfort in going forward.
Do you have any people that you look to as a role model -- performers who have been successful at going back-and-forth between music and acting?
To be honest, I don't look at anyone. I hope that I don't do it like any of them. J.Lo comes to mind when you think of actors turned singers. She is a great example of someone who has hits on the radio and people don't hate her in movies. Frank Sinatra, he did movies back in the day but people don't talk about Frank Sinatra and his movies necessarily -- he's such an iconic music guy. He did acting but he only did them because he was Frank Sinatra the singer. And it's important to remember that. As far as other people, Johnny Depp has a band but you don't hear it on the radio. People can ridicule him all they want, but the truth is, he's making music that he wants to make. It's that simple.
And what if people ridiculed you? Would you be content even if the public doesn't respond the way that you might have originally hoped?
I'd like to say that I would. You know, you don't really know what you're going to do until that happens. But I would. Some people know me from the show but it's not like that many people know me so I'm hoping I can surprise people. I think some of the most terrible creativity comes from trying to write what you think people will like and that's kind of why I'm frustrated with our music industry today. Music is written with the idea that it will be put on the radio and it will become a hit. And that's so boring to me. Death Cab for Cutie is one of my favorite bands and they write music that they want to write and it's freaking good. And they have one song that made it on the radio out of all of their records, "I Will Follow You Into the Dark." They write music that they care about because they're real musicians. So I'm trying to go down that path.
And you have other irons in the fire, so you're in a fortunate position.
Exactly! I already have an acting career so music doesn't have to be a compromise at all.