Adrian Grenier is a busy dude, y’all. When he’s not spreading the smart media gospel with screenings of his Sundance doc Teenage Paparazzo for overexposed high school and college students, he’s stomping sustainable grapes, launching a canned craft beer, creating his own app, running an online eco-platform, drumming for The Honey Brothers, and switching local co-ops. (Yes, let’s pause to soak up the OMG-I’m-so-lazy feeling as we click on each of those links.) Oh yeah, he’s also got this side career where he acts and stuff.
Ridic, right? The actor-activist-entrepreneur is pretty dang inspiring -- as I found out firsthand back in 2008 when I was Baracking out at a phone bank for hope and change. We were all stuffed inside this cramped office about to call perfect strangers, some of whom most certainly would get aggro, and we’re getting the welcome schpiel when I look over at the cubicle next to me and see a familiar head of dark curls and instantly think (but manage to refrain from yelling out loud), “Holy crap, Vinnie Chase is at my friggin’ phone bank!”
I do a tiny dance inside and completely tune out that they’ve asked some C-list soap actress to explain why she’s decided to give her precious time to this civic endeavor -- she’s really laying it on thick and going on and on about how this is her duty and why she serves this country and blah blah blah. Meanwhile, I’m just begging myself not to try out any of the unfortunate Aquaman jokes running through my head.
Finally, the soap “star” gets off her soapbox and the campaign staffer looks over at Adrian and says rather grandly, “We have another special guest today, the star of HBO’s “Entourage” -- Adrian Grenier! Adrian, would you like to say something before we start?” And Adrian looks around and simply announces, “I’m just here to make phone calls. So let’s do that.” Boom. Roasted. That’s how it’s done, ladies and gents.
And that’s why I was so stoked to have the chance to legitimately chat with Adrian recently. As luck would have it, it’s another pivotal election year, so I obviously had to pick his brain for some Power of 12 predictions. Read on for Adrian’s challenge to Obama, his take on the Ron Paul phenomenon, and why he thinks the fate of our country might depend on one very special Meatball.
MTV ACT: So now that I’ve awkwardly explained our mutual phone banking experience, I have to ask: are you going to get involved in the presidential election this year?
ADRIAN GRENIER: I don’t know right now. I’m not entirely decided yet, Mr. Obama. I’m still looking for certain signs that he’s gonna support certain things that are dear to me. I know he’s had a lot on his plate over the past four years and hasn’t necessarily been able to politically get to everything. But if he is reelected, I’m hoping that he’s gonna show signs that during his second term he’s really going to buckle down and get to some of the issues that he promised he would.
You mentioned there were some issues that were close to your heart; what are some of those?
Food politics, sustainability issues, supporting green jobs, the labeling acts -- I think food labeling is very important so we know what we’re consuming, we know whether it’s GMO [genetically modified foods] or organic. I go around talking about empowerment -- how can we expect kids to utilize their power if they don’t have the information to be empowered?
Exactly. So many young people were empowered in 2008, in record numbers, but the consensus and feeling now is that a lot of those same young people feel let down.
Obama really has to answer to young people feeling let down. There’s a certain distance between the rhetoric and the promises and the action. It’s one thing to articulate and inspire big ideas that speak to our emotion and our thoughts, but it’s another to actually implement real plans and drive those ideas into reality. That’s where he seems to have balked. Maybe he’s plotting and planning, but s*** or get off the pot, you know? [Laughs]
What’s your take on the Ron Paul phenomenon, especially among young people? Have you noticed support for him on campuses?
I think he makes a lot of sense. He speaks to me quite often. I don’t really consider myself a Democrat or a Republican. I just like the guy. At the end of the day, none of us are Democrat or Republican. We are all just human. We all want the same basic things. We all want peace. I guess you could argue how you get that peace. Some people think you have to take up arms to secure that peace. Some people think we all just need to chill out. Politics and the media make us believe that we’re different, that there’s a conflict. That’s what’s interesting; that’s what sells. Conflict is how you find story. If we can just get past that conceit and realize that we want the same things. You should vote for the right guy, not the party.
Do you think young people will answer the call and get back into politics? Or will the power come from abstaining and refusing to participate?
Yeah, one way of thinking is “The system is just so broken, I’m going to abstain, and the only thing to do is go protest if anything.” I don’t know. I think it really depends on if Snooki votes.
HAHAHA! We just asked Snooki what she would do if she was President for the day. Do you think it’s important for celebrities to engage in political conversations? Does it help get youth involved?
You live by example. It’s not about rhetoric. It’s about demonstrating to the people who may immediately see you participating. That’s why I choose to participate as much as I can, phone banking or whatever, because I’m not just a celebrity, but I’m a citizen. I need to demonstrate that there are things you need to do to be a citizen.
At a certain point though, you cease to be a human being and become a political figure. You’re just giving these “rah-rah-rah” speeches. There was a time when politicians gave, I dunno, six speeches a year. George Washington would write a speech for over a month and then give it. Now it’s every other day that the President has to say something and it has to be meaningful and it has to resonate. At what point will he hit the ground and actually do stuff? You’re battling it out on television as opposed to the real world.