Jordan Firstman Plays His Ballsiest Role Yet

Jordan Firstman Plays His Ballsiest Role Yet

Interview by Zach Shucklin / Photography by Ben Prince

Jordan Firstman is probably having a better year than you. He's acting on Netflix and Disney, gracing red carpet after red carpet and seemingly befriending every famous person alive. Influencers around the world are begging ChatGPT to map out the kind of mainstream glow-up that Firstman's achieved. Teaming up with critically acclaimed director Sebastián Silva might be a good place to start...

In Silva's latest film Rotting in the Sun — which had its world premiere at Sundance in January — Firstman plays a fictionalized version of himself in his ballsiest (literally) role yet. After meeting Silva, who also plays himself, on a nude beach in Mexico, Firstman convinces the director to work on a new show with him. But things start to get fishy when Firstman arrives at Silva's Mexico City apartment and the director's nowhere to be found. What follows is a sublimely graphic black comedy that skewers queerness, ketamine, social media and suicidal ideation. And yeah, there are lots of dicks in it.

PAPER caught up with the comedian on a rainy day in LA to discuss the film, Instagram exhaustion and life as a leading man.

Walk me through the genesis of this film. How did you and Sebastián get acquainted?

I went to Mexico to escape the emotions of [my 2021] cancellation. Yeah, like, I got really, really depressed in January and February [of 2021]. March, ran back to my girl Ayahuasca to see if she could help. She said, "no." It was, like, figure it out on your own! And I was like, I need to do something. When I get super depressed, it feels so wrong. For me. It feels like this is not the life I'm supposed to be living, like, some people feel really cozy in their depression... For me, it feels so wrong. So I was like, I need to find my way out of this.

And this led you to Sebastián?

Well, the first weekend there I met this guy. We had this weird, crazy, kind of violent night. I couldn't tell if he hated me. He did hate me a little bit. He was one of those ones that was so anti-Israel that [it felt like] he hated all Jews. And then we go back to his place and we were, like, fighting on ketamine, but it was kind of hot. He was very violent in bed... There was a moment during the sex where I was like, All I know about this guy is that he hates Jews and now he's choking me."

That sounds scary. I'm imagining the “Palestinian Chicken” scene from Curb Your Enthusiasm.

Not dissimilar! So after I was on night two with the violent guy–

Night two?!

I showed him [Sebastián's film] Crystal Fairy & the Magical Cactus. Randomly, I hadn't watched it in five or six years and I don't know why I thought he would like it. Maybe because he was negative and edgy and it's just about dumb white people in South America. And he really liked it. The next day he goes to walk his dog and [he's like], "Meet me at the Plaza Rio de Janeiro" where the movie takes place. And I walk there and I see the [violent] guy flirting with this other guy, and it's Sebastián. We had literally just watched his movie the night before. And I guess I'm freaking out because I don't want to seem like a fan. So I'm sitting there while they talk, like, trying not to say anything. And then, vaguely, I'm like, "Oh, I think maybe we've met. You look really familiar." Like, I'm really trying to play it cool.

Had you?

I had met him once at the Search Party premiere, can't remember, but I loved his movies. But in my early 20s I was very jealous of him. I saw him doing this Q&A and he was super, super pretentious to me. And so I was like, This guy's an asshole but I love his work so much. So I had this weird relationship with him, but I definitely revered him. So [back in Mexico] we ended up at dinner two nights later with some of our friends. And I don't remember what we talked about. He says I asked him about his dick size, which is definitely possible. We definitely didn't hit it off. But [three months later] in June he calls me and is like, "I wanna make the movie."

What was it like working together?

I went [back to Mexico] to help with my character and the script while he was writing it. And then I started to really get charmed by him. But it was rocky. Shooting was hard. We butted heads a lot and it was a big ego clash — our relationship at times was not dissimilar to the relationship we have in the movie. We always had respect for each other, artistically. And also, it was my first time being the lead in a movie. I was playing myself, I was slandering my own name; I was using my dick, using my butt. He was using every part of me. The way he directs is very specific, but he's also very loose. He's like, "If it's bad, I'll tell you it's bad. But if it's good I'm not gonna say anything." So it was a hard shoot because I had no indication whether I was doing a good job or not. But [when we shot at the beach] we mended things and really have so much love for each other.

The film felt very fluid and almost reminiscent of a mid-2000s aughts American Independent style. Run-and-gun. Handheld. Was it ad-libbed?

It was all written out. Because it's a very tight script. The web of miscommunication [in the film] is so tight, it all has to be there. With my dialogue, I kind of made it my own just because English is a second language. I know how I speak. I did a lot of my own dialogue, but it was all written out.

In the film, Sebastian's character hates social media but is bombarded by it. Your character is the most obnoxious influencer in the world. Was one of the messages behind this film that social media kind of rots your brain?

When we met, he didn't know who I was, and then he looked me up after and he was shocked. And he calls me up after and is like, "Some of your videos are really bad. How are you not embarrassed?" He was like, "I've fucking made eight movies, and you get all the success for making an impression of a doorknob." And so he wanted to exploit that [in Rotting in the Sun]. I think he saw a lot of complexity and ways to make fun of what I do. And he was very open about that before he even wrote the script. He's like, "I'm going to be making fun of you. I'm going to be like coming for your livelihood." And I was like, "Yes, please! I need that right now!"

A lot of people know you as Jordan from Instagram, but before that you were writing on shows like Search Party and Big Mouth. Is it ever embarrassing just being recognized for what you do online?

Yeah, I mean, the bane of my existence [is that] at least a couple of times a week people come up and say "Banana Bread's Publicist." And I hate that video. I hate that. I hate what it represents. But it's what people know me from. People just happened to love my least favorite thing that I do.

How similar are you to the Jordan Firstman in the film?

I played the character as 2020 Jordan. That was a very conscious thing. 2021 Jordan was very nihilistic, very negative, very “fuck you." I was in my Justin Bieber, bad boy era. 2020 was all love and light. So [Sebastián's character] doesn't just hate for the success he doesn't have, but it's also for the positivity he doesn't have.

I want to talk about your dick and butt. Obviously a lot of people are going to be shocked by how much unsimulated sex and nudity there is. Not to generalize too much, but sex can be rather NBD in the gay community. Was this the reason for being so graphic?

No. Honestly, the response so far, anyone who's had anything to say about it has been gay. Straight people? Obsessed. They feel like they're getting let into this room. They're fascinated by sex and gay men's sexual relations. Like, straight people fucking die for this movie. Going into it, the energy of the film — we wanted to be irreverent and do things in a way that we haven't seen before. That's why I don't agree with [what you said earlier] about the film looking mid-2000s. That way that it was shot was a direct response to Euphoria and everything having to look like a music video. And Sebastian hates it. He hates how everything looks now. So he was just like, "I want to make this as controlled but messy as possible." With the sex, I had already wanted to explore that. I had been approached by Brazzers to write and direct a comedy porn and my agents didn't want me to do it.

That's kind of crazy. Because in this, I mean, at one point you literally have a real dick in your mouth.

All I can say, is that I hope to continue be sucking dick in some things and on Disney for other things. It's funny, when we screened in Mexico for the first time, no one said anything about the dicks or the sex. And when we were at Sundance, it was, like, "the movie with 30 dicks." That's another reason we wanted to do it. The way Americans perceive sexuality — people are so obsessed with it. How lowkey it is in the movie and how little it means... it's not Chloe Sevigny looking off [at the camera during her sex scene]...

I was gonna say, it's your Brown Bunny moment. Chloe Sevigny, Donald Sutherland, Karl Gluzman. All actors who've done real sex acts on camera. It's pretty iconic.

It's not supposed to be erotic. It's not supposed to be romantic. And to me, it represents how little sex means to gay people. When you're that kind of gay person, you're just sort of sucking dicks all the time. And there's dicks all around you. At the end of the day, it's just a comment on my character's promiscuity and how little sex and connection means to him. Because Sebastián is the only one he really thinks he has a connection with, and he never fucks him.

So you have this under your belt. You were just in Disney's Ms. Marvel and Netflix's You People. What else do you have on the horizon?

I have a TV show that I've done all my work for, contractually. So I'm waiting for an answer about that, if that's going to happen or not. That's a show I've been working on for a while now. I sold it almost two years ago. These things take time. And then I have two movies that I'm working on. One that deals with party culture and growing up, and then another one that's kind of a dark satire. You know, it's so out of my control. All I can do is put good vibes out. I've got a fun part on Dave next season.

Any final things you want to leave me with?

This is the kind of movie I've wanted to be in my entire career so I just hope we're at a moment in culture where it can be appreciated. I hope people like it. It's embarrassing to feel [this] way, but you want people to see it as much as you see it. And I've already been in so many positions, like "Banana Bread Publicist" — I'm like that's the one that hit? You just hope the thing you love, like, people resonate with it as much as you do. But there's nothing you can do. And I've worked on things I don't like that do amazingly, and I've worked on things I love that no one sees. So, we'll see.

Photography by Ben Prince
Makeup by Nick Lennon
Hair by Gregg Lennon Jr
Styled by Branden Ruiz and Dror
Location by Pharos Athletic Club