DENNY LOVE [LOOKING FOR ALASKA]
WORDS: IRVIN RIVERA
Denny Love plays the character of The Colonel a.k.a. Chip in Hulu’s latest drama series Looking For Alaska. The charming newcomer is the heart and soul that connects the characters and the threads of this beautifully woven coming-of-age story.
Looking For Alaska is author John Green’s first novel and is a big fan favorite. Although it had gone through a lot in its 14-years journey, the eight-episode limited series in Hulu is successfully delivered in a beautiful, a nostalgic poetic way.
Although Love has been acting close to ten years now, you can instantly tell how he is still deeply passionate about the craft. what’s admirable about this man is how he continues to honor his grandma’s memory through acting.
In this interview, we talkED to Denny about his phenomenal role as The Colonel in Looking For Alaska, how he booked the role, his love for his grandmother, Miles Morales in the Spiderverse, and the power of manifestations.
How are you doing today?
I’m good. I am very excited to be shooting with you all. It’s always the sexy vibes when you all come out with the issues.
Glad to have you. Let’s dive straight into the heart of Looking For Alaska.
Have you experienced any loss in your life?
Yeah. Definitely. I’ve experienced loss with one of the most important people to me. I lost my grandmother the year I graduated from college. She was my hero in a lot of ways. She raised me. I got a tattoo that represents her. So I always look at my journey in life as a way to honor her. Me being here right now, having this interview with you, is a beautiful thing because I know she’s excited. She’s watching and can’t wait to see this come out. I’m very excited about what’s happening in my life right now because I know she’s out there pulling strings. You just have to keep their memory alive in honoring them in the ways that you know how.
Did you ever use that experience that you had in the show since the show have to deal a lot about grief?
I don’t, as an actor.
A lot of people use substitutions like something real that happened in their lives to help them in their performances. I tend not do that because I believe it’s hard to come back. For instance, if I’m thinking about my grandma’s death while I’m trying to do a scene, I think that’s a dangerous place to be in as an artist.
So I try and just put myself as deeply as I can in the character’s shoes and imagine how they would feel in that moment because it’s a different relationship. I just try to deal with the grief as honestly as I can through the character’s eyes to not use my real past life situations to bring out a performance.
Let’s talk about your character The Colonel, a.k.a. Chip. How did you book the role?
Oh man, it was a crazy thing.
I believe in manifestation.
I would write everyday that I was gonna book a pilot.
I was just writing it every single day.
I had got so delusional in my belief and said – I know I’m gonna book a pilot. I know this. I just have to know that it is the right thing for me. Hope that it is something that I can sink my teeth in and really dig into.
I remember getting the audition and reading the first episode and I was like, This is it! This is incredible. I was so excited I was telling a friend of mine- I think I found the thing I’ve been wishing for. And she was like, Oh what is it called? Something about Alaska, or I am looking for her or something like that, trying to find Alaska. My friend was like, Wait, is it Looking For Alaska? I’m like, yeah! Oh my god I love that book! It’s a book? And after that I went to Barnes and Noble and got the book and I read it in a day. At that point there’s no doubt in my mind that I’m getting this role. It felt like it was perfect for me.
The audition went extremely well. Patrick Rush (Casting Director) kind of fell in love with me. He was kind of my liaison with booking the role. And after I met with the producers, Josh Schwartz, Stephanie Savage, and the director, Sarah Adina Smith, it’s like a match made in heaven. Me and Charlie Plummer (he plays Pudge in the show) did our chemistry read together and our chemistry was pretty immediate not only as actors but as people. So at that point that was like meeting my new family. And it was very smooth. It was a very easy process.
Did you feel the same thing when you first read the script?
Absolutely! I don’t share this story very often but it is very important. There is a passage in the book, for those who know the story, it’s the barn scene where we play the game called best day, worst day ever. Well my character talks about the best day of his life being the day that he was able to buy his mom a car and give back to her because she pretty much sacrificed everything for him to go to school and get a good education. I remembered reading that and it made me cry. And at that time I was so invested in that speech that I memorized it and I asked Patrick Rush, the casting director in the audition if he would mind if I perform it for him. It’s a very bold thing to do and I wouldn’t recommend doing that. Because it can very well go bad.
But Patrick was actually really impressed by it. He said yeah, I would love to hear you do it. I remember hearing that speech and it was like I wrote those words myself. And after I was done, Patrick asked me, “Is that what you wanna do? Do you wanna buy your mom a house?” And I was like, no, it actually makes me think of my grandma. She passed away recently. To me, my version of buying her a house is what I’m doing now. Chasing my dreams and doing all the things that she prayed for me to do and wished for me to do. So this is my version of buying her a house- Keeping her legacy alive by chasing my dreams. Honestly I think that’s why I booked the role. It’s because of that speech.
“Living is a beautiful yet tragic thing and we all go through a lot of similar emotions like grief, happiness and anger and anger and sadness and I think this show encompasses all of that. Really, to me, it’s a celebration of what it’s like to be human, what it’s like to have strong friendships.”
How long was the filming process?
About five months. We started in March and we wrapped in July. We came out there a few weeks early. Which is rare. You rarely get a time to start early. We, the cast, were out in Louisiana for two weeks early. That’s when we all got super close. We hang out everyday. Got to know each other. I honestly felt like I got to know these people for a very long time. Which I think read on screen because we are actually really close in real life. It just seemed like they casted it perfectly. Everybody just got along well.
As an audience, it really felt like I was part of the group. I felt it.
How deeply invested were you in Chip’s character given the time frame that you spent filming him?
I looked at this process for me as a huge opportunity to introduce myself to the world. A lot of people don’t know who I am. I am the newcomer on the show. So I look at it as a huge opportunity. Actors are rarely given the chance to do work like this. I didn’t know how big Looking For Alaska was before the audition, which I think helped, because I was able to approach the role without a lot of pressure.
I think if I had known that this is John Green’s biggest book, that it was written fifteen years ago, that they’ve been trying to make this for so long, - if I walked into the audition thinking those, it would probably mess me up. But because I walked in bringing my own experiences and my own views to the character, I think it ended up turning out really well.
How did acting start for you?
Shout out to the theatre school at DePaul Universty in Chicago. That’s where I graduated from. But I was doing a lot of theatre. I started acting pretty late. I started in highschool because of my teacher named Holly Walker. I honestly took the theatre class because I thought it was an easy A. I wasn’t the most studious person. I was just playing a lot of sports. I was hoping that basketball would get me to college. But since I took that theatre class, she really just took a liking to me and stuck her claws on me. She was like, you’re going to act. You’re going to audition for a play.
And at that time, I don’t know any theatre kids. I thought theatre kids were weird like nah, it ain’t my thing. But she just stayed on me and I ended up auditioning for a play and I remember getting on the stage and feeling at home in a way that I had never felt before. It really changed my life. That’s when my life kind of became high school musical. I was missing practice to go to rehearsals, I was missing rehearsals to go to practice then it got to a point when my coaches and the principal all sent me in a room and asked me- you gotta decide. You can’t be in both. You can’t miss practices and go to rehearsals. You know, what are you gonna do? It was one of the toughest decisions of my life because I was choosing between something that I had known my whole life- I grew to a sports dad, my brothers play basketball, everybody I know played basketball but then there was this new thing that felt right to me. And I made that decision that I would pick theatre.
And that’s when I started to take everything seriously. And that’s when acting started happening for me.
I feel like I’ve always had that in me. I needed somebody to pull it out. Holly Walker ended up being that person.
Are there any roles that you dream to be in?
If Marvel ever decides to do Miles Morales as the new Spiderman, I wanna be him.
I have a feeling that they will because Tom Holland is killing it and have now become the new Ironman. I do believe they’re gonna open up the whole spiderverse for the multiple spidermans in different dimensions. I just have this theory that it’s going to happen. I don’t know when, but when it does, I would play Miles Morales.
You can definitely play him well.
I think I could! I always love Spiderman. He is this unlikely hero who is one of the funniest and most relatable heroes that we got. He was just kind of thrown into this world. He is not good as a superhero. He just have to figure this hero ting out. It is a coming-of-age story of finding the hero in yourself and I really wanna be a part of that.
The power of manifestation.
Look at my background! (Shows the Miles Morales Spiderman as his phone homescreen background) That’s been my background for 7 months now. So once it happens, I’m ready.
What do you want the audience to take way after watching the series?
I just want people to think that life is a beautiful journey filled with tragedies and beautiful moments. And when you have a strong group of people that you love, that you value, you can really get through anything. I want people to value the power of friendship, and having people you love surrounding yourself with people who have good energy, and people that you care about and also taking in how beautifully complex life is.
Living is a beautiful yet tragic thing and we all go through a lot of similar emotions like grief, happiness and anger and anger and sadness and I think this show encompasses all of that. Really, to me, it’s a celebration of what it’s like to be human, what it’s like to have strong friendships. It is a story about coming-of-age and growing up with people around you and also learning what it’s like to deal with tragedy.
The story is extremely relatable and I think that many young people will be able to see themselves in it and a lot of older people would be able to look back and remember what it was like. I’m just excited for people to see it and dive in and be a part of our world.
If you were a book, what book would you be and why?
I would say The Alchemist, by Paolo Coelho. I’m just a huge believer of manifestation and going on that adventure and figuring out who you are and what life is. I think life is not about standing on your comfort zone. It’s about exploring. We only have one life to live so why not go out and find what it is out there for you. Find The Great Perhaps. I believe we all have the power of Alchemy to shape and create the life that we love. So I always try to preach that.