[WARNING: The interview above and following story contain spoilers about the Season 1 finale of “The Afterparty.” Read at your own risk.]
Dave Franco‘s obnoxious pop star Xavier is the victim on “The Afterparty,” so he doesn’t have his own episode told in its own genre like the other characters do. But that means the actor gets to play, as he puts it, “eight shades of douche” throughout the Apple TV+ whodunnit’s first season. But which Xavier is the douchiest? “I would say the douchiest is in Ike [Barinholtz]’s episode, kind of the action episode, where I’m like aggro douche,” Franco tells Gold Derby (watch above). “Next on the list is maybe Ilana Glazer’s episode where I’m kind of tail-between-his-legs douche. And then I’ll go to Sam Richardson’s episode, where I’m kinda kill-’em-with-kindness douche. Maybe my favorite was the flashback episode where I’m vulnerable, insecure douche. It’s almost like the biggest outlier of all the douchey colors that I play.”
An homage to teen comedies, the fifth episode flashes back to a fateful St. Patrick’s Day during the group’s senior year of high school in 2006 and is the closest thing to a POV episode for Xavier as it paints a fuller picture of how he became the douche that he was. Fans meet the artist formerly known as Eugene Xavier Duckworth, an unpopular, uncool Stanford-waitlisted senior and one half of the band Skape Diem. When Yasper (Ben Schwartz) breaks up the band — and breaks his pal’s heart — Xavier was truly born.
“You get to see the character as Eugene Duckworth. You get to just see why he is the way he is in these later episodes where in high school he just desperately wanted to be cool and to be accepted, but his desperation ended up pushing everyone further away. And even though I don’t condone any of the characters’ actions, I think it’s nice for the audience to see that there’s at least a human inside there and to at least understand why he’s committing some of these horrible acts,” Franco says. “I think because of where he came from, the fame went to his head and he almost overcompensated and he started lording his new power over everyone to almost make up for the times when they all treated him like sh–.”
The episode is also vital once it’s revealed in the finale that Yasper was the one who threw Xavier over the balcony to his death. An A/V installer, Yasper never made it big like his old bandmate did and was hopelessly begging Xavier to bless his track to launch him to mutual stardom.
“Ben and I like to believe that Yasper and Xavier have the real romance throughout the series, where it is a platonic love story but it’s very intense. My character in high school was all in on this band with him and I felt very betrayed when he backed out. And then in the later episodes when he tries to get me to bless his track and try to pretend like none of that happened in the past, it just felt like a huge slight to my character. ‘Where were you when I needed you and now you’re just trying to use me for my fame.’ It’s a very deep, complicated relationship,” Franco states. “I think what’s great about the show is that the killer wasn’t just someone who was walking in the deep background of one scene. It’s one of the main characters, and yes, you understand his motivations and how this character can turn dark enough to actually commit murder.”
The role of Xavier also marked a first in Franco’s career: He had to sing. After creator Christopher Miller — with whom Franco had worked on his and Phil Lord‘s “Jump Street” films and “The LEGO Ninjago Movie” — cast him, he said they could dub his singing voice. “I was like, ‘Whoa, whoa, whoa! I’ve never sang professionally before, so I feel like we should at least give it a shot.’ And it was really liberating for me because no one had any expectations of me,” Franco explains. “And because singing was something was something so far out of my element, I felt like I could just let go and just take huge swings. And the worst case scenario was that I did not sound great and in that case they can bring in someone else and replace my singing voice. But I think with Auto-Tune and with all of the music producers and writers that they surrounded me with, it created a situation where I felt like couldn’t fail.”
It worked so well that “The Afterparty” released a “posthumous” Xavier EP, “R.I.P. Xavier,” on which Franco sings four songs. The lead single “Imma Live Forever” has a full-blown music video. But the next Xavier project that Franco would like to bring to life is “Private Eyes,” the Hall & Oates film starring Xavier as Daryl Hall and Channing Tatum as John Oates (and for which Xavier earned a People’s Choice Award nomination).
“What I am hoping for is the full Hall & Oates biopic. We had so much fun shooting that tiny clip where that scene on the page was probably three lines back and forth and we ended up shooting it for about four hours,” Franco shares. “We just couldn’t stop improvising about which member of Hall & Oates deserves to have the mustache. This is something that I would be very excited about doing if that were ever to come into existence.”
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