While the Freeform series Everything’s Gonna Be Okay is impacting viewers on a weekly basis, it has also left its mark on star Adam Faison, who, because of his time playing Alex, has been able to put a lot of his own life in perspective.
“I think this show opened my eyes a lot to accepting the place that you are at in life and loving who you are in this moment,” he said in an exclusive interview with TrunkSpace.
We recently sat down with Faison to discuss his connection to the series, ghost hunting with costar Kayla Cromer, and why poetry helps him find calm in the chaos.
TrunkSpace: You had a lot of heavy emotional experiences going on in your life when you started your journey with Everything’s Gonna Be Okay, some of which paralleled the narrative of the show. In a way, did the work – being on set – serve as a welcome distraction, and through that, do you feel like you have an even more personal connection to the series/work?
Faison: Yes, so I’ve been pretty open with sharing that before filming, my mom was diagnosed with cancer much like Nicholas’ dad is in the show. So, there was that personal connection. But I also felt a huge connection with the autism storylines in the series. Pretty much all throughout my mom’s adult life, she has been working with kids with special needs, so as a result I was exposed to kids with different abilities from a young age. Her department was called the “Inclusion Department” because it created an equal environment where kids with special needs were included in camp activities with neurnerotypical kids. It was an environment that was really combating ableism. And growing up seeing that, really had an impact on me and was something that made this project particularly so resonant for me. If we get another season, I’m going to try to get one of my childhood friends from camp, Matthew, onto the show as a background actor because all of characters on the show with autism are authentically cast, which is really special.
TrunkSpace: With those parallels present, do you feel like it helped you connect and understand Alex in a way that would have taken you more time with another character or another storyline?
Faison: I think that having a lot of friends on the spectrum growing up led to me having a really instant connection with Kayla (Cromer). We would FaceTime every Sunday and rehearse lines together and we would connect on our love of true crime (Mindhunter in particular), SVU, the paranormal and our crushes (Matthew Gray Gubler will always be her number one).
I remember there was one time we were hanging on set and I told her I might have spotted “an entity” in the rafters of our sound stage and she planned to bust out the ghost hunting equipment the next day. (Laughter) We just had some really fun times together and a really strong bond – I mean like, we call each other brother and sister – and I can’t help but think that made for an ever richer relationship on screen.
TrunkSpace: As a whole, where has Everything’s Gonna Be Okay impacted your life the most? How has it altered your path?
Faison: I think this show opened my eyes a lot to accepting the place that you are at in life and loving who you are in this moment. I think Alex is such a free and unabashedly happy person and me, as Adam, can struggle with that at times just because I have grown up so much of my life being told by people that who I am was too much. So, in a way, Alex feels a bit like the free, uninhibited version of myself when I was younger. Before all of that codeswitching.
TrunkSpace: The best art is always the kind that is saying something – doing more that just entertaining. The kind that leaves the audience, perhaps, thinking about something in a different way than when they began their journey. Do you feel like Everything’s Gonna Be Okay is that show, and what do you hope fans get out of it other than a momentary escape?
Faison: I think it’s really combating stereotypes in that it’s just depicting humans who are living their lives like everyone else. And I think anyone can relate to that. For example, take my dad: he’s a reserved military guy in his 60s and doesn’t exactly fit the demographic of this show. So, when he came to an early screening of the show, I’ll admit I was little nervous to hear what he might think. But after the screening ended, he actually stood up during the Q&A and he said, “At first, I didn’t really know why I enjoyed this show, but I think it’s about human connection. It’s got a lot of heart.” And I hope that’s what a lot of others see as well. This idea that although we may be different in our presenting identities, in the end, we are all just humans with the same basic needs.
TrunkSpace: For fans, the final product of a film or series is always the most memorable part, but for those involved in a project, we’d imagine it goes much deeper than that. For you, what is something about your time working on Everything’s Gonna Be Okay thus far that you’ll carry with you through the course of your life/career?
Faison: I guess, that sometimes life throws you curve balls but nothing is insurmountable. This message rings true in many facets of the show, but in particular I felt this in the relationship between Alex and Nicholas (played by Josh Thomas). Like, going into the season (and kind of throughout, actually), Nicholas has some real baggage he is dealing with, and many potential suitors might have shied away from him. And yet, the character of Alex really meets Nicholas halfway with where he’s at in his life. I think this was particularly inspiring to me personally, in this age of these never-ending dating apps, where it feels like there is no accountability in relationships because everybody is making these fleeting, transactional connections. So conversely, it felt very refreshing to see this couple make a deeply meaningful connection, and it encouraged me to look for something like that in my own life.
TrunkSpace: You write poetry. Is that creative outlet a way for you to work through and understand thoughts and emotions that, perhaps, you wouldn’t be able to gain personal insight on if you didn’t take pen in hand?
Faison: Definitely. What’s amazing about poetry is that I feel I can express what I want to say with no end result. It’s just for me (and for any others whom may connect with it). When I write, it feels like a real catharsis to work through all the levels of emotion that I’m feeling.
For example, sometimes at night, I’m flooded with all of these thoughts gnawing at my brain and it really helps that I can concretize them and expound them into this new form, because it makes them not feel so overwhelming. Poetry helps me find calm in the chaos.
TrunkSpace: Where are you hardest on yourself as an actor and how do you overcome those self-critical insecurities?
Faison: So I’m getting better at dealing with this, but I tend to be a perfectionist when it comes to getting the lines right. In the past, I’ve been a pretty horrible memorizer, and if I know some words are off, I feel like I tend to hyper focus on them. However, I’ve gotten better about first seeing the bigger picture of what’s happening in the scene/ monologue so that it doesn’t feel so daunting.
TrunkSpace: If you could sit down and have a conversation with your 16-year-old self, would he be surprised by the trajectory of your career, and if so, why?
Faison: I think so. My 16-year-old self was just trying to survive and figure out who he was going to sit next to at school the next day so no one would think that he was a loner. He stopped acting for a while because people were giving him so much crap for it. He wanted to go into language studies, go into the CIA, and head abroad where no one would know him. So, I think the fact that he would’ve returned to acting and made it this far – while also being true to himself – would really surprise him.
TrunkSpace: What has been the highlight of your career as a whole thus far?
Faison: Honestly, doing this press tour for the series. I remember interning for a few years at NBCUniversal and I would make talent itineraries: booking cars, hotels, etc, and I can’t believe that I’m technically the talent now. There was a point during TCAs when we were rounding the home stretch of interviews and we were at this Hulu video promo shoot, and I looked over at Kayla and started tearing up just thinking about how far I’d come in this journey. I know it sounds super sentimental/cheesy but in that moment, it really felt like I was the squeaky wheel that got the grease.
TrunkSpace: Time machine question. If you could jump ahead 10 years and get a glimpse of what your career looks like a decade from now, would you take that journey? If not, why?
Faison: I try to be as present as I can and take in what’s happening around me but I definitely do like to look ahead and see what I would like to accomplish. I think it’s important for me to do so from time to time because these career decisions that I make today will ultimately affect the decisions I get to make in the future.
In the next 10 years, I would love to help other marginalized voices find a platform through producing, acting and political change, so most of the projects that I choose tend to be through a lens that will align with that.
Everything’s Gonna Be Okay airs Thursdays on Freeform.