Pioneer High grad Zack Pearlman starring in new MTV series 'The Inbetweeners'
But when MTV’s new series “The Inbetweeners” - based on a British series of the same name - premieres on Monday at 10:30 p.m., Pearlman’s star will be on the rise again.
“I was approached about ‘The Inbetweeners’ when ‘The Virginity Hit’ had just come out, and I was a little tired from everything that was going on with ‘Virginity Hit’—flying around, doing press,” said Pearlman in a phone interview. “The movie came out, and it was a little disappointing for me—not the movie itself, but the response it got. So I was a little depressed, and for my first audition for the show, I showed up with a full beard. The casting director was like, ‘What are you doing? Go change come back tomorrow.’ I said, ‘Oh, OK.’ I went back in, and luckily, I had a good audition. I went back in for a callback, shaved this time, and from there, I was off to the races. I tested, I was the first one cast, and I was really fortunate to have a little bit of say in who else got cast.”
Pearlman—who now calls Los Angeles home—shot the 13 episode season of “The Inbetweeners” in 2011, from early August through October. But when he first learned that television producers wished to translate the hit British series (which lasted three seasons) for American television audiences, he had his doubts.
“I’ll be honest, when I heard about this, I thought, ‘I don’t know why they’re doing this. Why don’t they just show the original?’” said Pearlman, who’d watched the British series at the suggestion of a friend. “Then when I got involved, they told me it was going to be written by Brad Copeland, who wrote for ‘Arrested Development,’ and I thought, ‘If anybody can do it, an ‘Arrested Development’ writer can.’ And I was lucky enough to be put into the mix. The writers in general are just incredible—the best mix on television. They’re each developing a show or writing on another huge show.”
“The Inbetweeners” follows the adventures of four high school boys who aren’t at the bottom of the food chain, nor the top—hence the show’s title. Pearlman’s character is named Jay Cartwright.
“He’s the leader of the group in the sense that he talks the most,” said Pearlman. “He’s that kid in high school that you’ll sometimes remember and think, ‘Why did I hang out with that guy?’ You want to watch him fail. So I’m kind of playing a scummy villain. He’s constantly lying through his teeth, and he’s kind of a sociopath. But man, he’s so much fun to play. He thinks he’s so much cooler than he is.”
The main differences between working on a television set instead of a film set, according to Pearlman, is that there’s a looseness—a scene that’s filmed and passed over the first time may still potentially show up in a later episode—and momentum, since brand new material is introduced every few weeks.
“The other guys and I are very close friends, which helps the show,” said Pearlman. “We have a very unique, close connection. You don’t always get that when you’re on something for three months. They’re great.”
You might spot Pearlman around Ann Arbor this fall—“I’m excited to come home and go to some Michigan games this year,” he said—but you won’t see him on stage at a local comedy club.
“I really wanted to be stand-up comedian, which is hilarious, because I was terrible at it,” said Pearlman. “Really bad. I thought I was good, but I just had really supportive friends. I stopped doing stand-up when someone was finally honest and open enough with me to say, ‘Dude, your jokes and stories are terrible.’ I’ve since gone back to read my joke book from when I was 18, and I’m like, ‘Oh, my God, all of these are terrible.’ I feel like a bad person just reading them.”
And while “The Virginity Hit” offered an important starting point, its limited release and chilly critical reception convinced Pearlman that he “had to start being an adult. Since then,” he said, “I’ve found my groove. I’m trying to do some producing, writing - I’m doing all the stuff I should’ve been doing years ago. It’s a great outlet, and I have friends out here who are as driven as I am. We’re having the time of our lives.”
Here’s a preview of MTV’s “The Inbetweeners.”