Darren Criss has been a very busy guy. The actor and musician stars as aspiring director Raymond Ainsley on Netflix’s “Hollywood,” on which Criss also serves as an executive producer. He is also creator and star of the new short form series “Royalties,” which debuted its first few episodes June 1 on Quibi with more on the way. In our exclusive video interview recorded in late May (watch above), the Emmy winner talks about reuniting with his longtime collaborator Ryan Murphy, as well as the pressures of juggling two shows at the same time.
Although “Hollywood” and “Royalties” mark Criss’ first credits as a producer in television, the transition came very easily to the actor. “In my mind I’ve always been producing,” he declares, “obviously not to the degree that I have in the past year alone.” Though he is an executive producer on both shows, he was far more hands-on in the making of “Royalities,” on which Criss stars as part of a songwriting duo. “That I truly was doing all of the things,” he says. “I was sort of a microcosm version of Ryan Murphy on that show where I was involved in absolutely every aspect of that show. And had I done that on ‘Hollywood,’ which I did at the same time, there’s no way I would have been able to survive.”
One of the central conflicts for his character on “Hollywood” is his ability to pass as white and hide his half-Asian heritage. It’s a trait visible not only in Criss’ own life– the actor is half-Filipino– but also in his Emmy-winning role of Andrew Cunanan in “The Assassination of Gianni Versace.” He says that the conflicts are similar only on a surface level. “I think Andrew ran away from that stuff because he had an internal hatred for himself in general,” he explains. “Whereas someone like Raymond is scared to bring up his heritage mainly because of the obstacles that that presents for his livelihood.”
One of the appeals of “Hollywood,” Criss says, is its unmitigated optimism. “The optimism in this show is almost so brazen and so grand that it almost seems subversive,” he exclaims. “When everything does kind of get the happy ending, and there is this sort of joy upon joy upon joy series of events, it almost is punk rock.” Criss also believes that there is something truly unique about the series giving 1940s Hollywood the happy ending that it marketed so heavily at the time. “We gave old Hollywood the old Hollywood ending, which is very Ryan Murphy.”
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