He graced the cover of V magazine this past spring, alongside Russian supermodel Natalia Vodianova, photographed by Mario Testino. His face was the subject of a photo love letter shot by Mark Segal in Interview magazine, who went on to shoot him in Barneys’ not-too-distant Actors campaign, a catalogue featuring promising Hollywood stars styled by the pre-eminent David Vandewal, with clothing by labels including Lanvin, Drakes of London and Giorgio Armani. And lest we forget how he fell effortlessly into the role of pinup boy/Robert Redford circa Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid in BlackBook’s 25th birthday salute to the Sundance Film Festival.
But don’t deduce the career of 25-year-old Luke Grimes down to the sum of these glossy editorials. Grimes is no model. He’s an actor, full stop.
He arrives on set in a flannel, worn jeans, and high cuts, his hands preoccupied in his unkempt hair. It needs to be cut. He timidly asks the hair stylist on set if she knows how to cut. She does and he sits for a no-fuss trim then helps clean up his chopped locks. His manners are impeccable — might have something to do with being from Ohio or the son of a Midwestern pastor.
He’ll be heading back to Ohio for the holidays; he’s got a deer-hunting trip planned with his father. It’s been a family tradition since he was twelve. Besides how difficult it is to image Grimes’s perfectly uncombed locks stuffed under an orange safety cap, rifle in hand, it is even still harder to think of Grimes — whose charisma is of the Dean bloodline — growing up as a devout Christian. “I just wouldn’t know what type of church to go to,” he responds when asked about his current religious beliefs. While he still values the teachings he learned as a child, the actor is undecided on aspects of the modern Christian religion. “It’s sort of like people just want to be a part of a club,” he says, addressing fundamentalists. “And then the club becomes more powerful than the teachings, and everybody thinks they have it the right way, and then it becomes really political.”
Grimes isn’t one for clubs, especially if models make up the team roster. After sifting through the wardrobe, he asks if we’re able to skimp on the “fashion shit” today. He’s been doing a lot of that lately, and he’d rather not pose and play model again — and he’s hungover.
This isn’t an impudent request from Grimes. He’s young but he’s free of pretence, with a low voice and understated charm that imbues everything he says with the perfect modicum of humbleness. He just doesn’t want to jump around in a suit for the camera — “fashion shit.” He wants to do something different, something that reminds him of acting.
Besides, as he explains in our interview after the shoot, it’s a matter of dedication to his career. “I’ve been in interviews before and people have asked, ‘Did modelling help you get into acting?’ and I realized that people were getting a little confused. That’s the only problem with it.”
Pronounced by V magazine to be “the biggest movie star you’ve never heard of,” Grimes has a natural and undeniable star power that will keep him safe from the danger of becoming just another pretty face.
Like the best leading men, Grimes has an appeal that woos mainstream audiences — he’s entering his second season on ABC’s Golden Globe-nominated Brothers & Sisters — and festival followers, with the likes of last year’s Sundance darling, The Assassination of a High School President, starring Mischa Barton and Bruce Willis. And, with yet another festival-bound pic, Shit Year, directed by Cam Archer and co-starring Ellen Barkin, screening at this year’s Sundance Film Festival, Grimes’ star is on the rise.
On the topic of studio pictures versus independent features, the actor does his best to be diplomatic. “Well … I don’t know … I’ve never worked on a big film,” he chuckles. “I just feel like there might be fewer liberties on those sort of films.” Of films in the indie-genre, he says with affection, “They’re perfect, but they’re not perfect, they’re like our version of perfect.” Grimes suggests a link between box office success and palatability: the more palatable, the more attractive to audiences, an equation that doesn’t always work in favour of narratives typically chosen by independent filmmakers. “Instead of wanting to be there on the screen, you realize you are there,” he observes. “It’s hard to swallow.”
Grimes’s signature broody screen presence isn’t far off from the genuine article. He often seems to be in his own head, exuding a distant cool. He’s affable, but not overtly social, and apparently he’s selective. A latecomer to Brothers & Sisters (he joined in season four as Ryan Lafferty, the illegitimate son of William Walker, patriarch of the show’s dynasty family), Grimes has yet to become chummy with his castmates, whom he speaks highly of professionally, but admittedly — seeming almost embarrassed by the truth — doesn’t really know personally. “I’m sort of the outsider. I’m like the character,” jokes Grimes. “Anytime you play it, it sort of happens in real-life in a weird way.” If it’s any indication of the tilt of his tastes, Grimes picks out on-again-off-again cast member and current tabloid staple Balthazar Getty as a would-be-friend. “He seems like a nice guy, we could have really gotten along,” he says of the departed Walker brother, whom had yet to return to the show ruing the time of our interview.
In Shit Year, Grimes reprises the role of the imperially charming, frustratingly guarded mystery man — or more accurately, man-boy. Playing Harvey, the 23-year-old object of an aging actress’ (Ellen Barkin) lust, he exposes nearly everything, but his heart in the role. “In the beginning it’s all fun, and then it gets messy. My character considers it a fling and hers doesn’t,” says Grimes of Harvey’s relationship with Barkin’s character. “He’s a young, emotionally unavailable guy.”
Not too much older than Harvey himself, the actor attests that not all 20-something-year-old males are emotionally undeveloped. “Not in Ohio,” he retorts immediately when asked if that’s the norm. “Everybody’s getting married in Ohio. I’m literally the last person to get married and have a kid!”
For Grimes (who is currently in a relationship), his willingness to focus on that aspect of his life is not a matter of being emotionally available or unavailable, it’s about priorities. “It depends on where you’re at,” he explains. “For me, it was more about my goals and my life’s work, that’s where my energies are focused. I think as my dream starts to fulfil itself, when I feel like I’m in a place where I’m really comfortable with my career and things, then I can put a lot more focus on family and stuff like that.” Grimes has thought about this before; his conversation is earnest and his ambition as apparent as the fact that he didn’t take on this lifestyle for the fame, he is in it to act. He sums up, “I’ve learned how to not worry about what could be and focus on what is.”
Whether Grimes chooses to slip in a few proverbial slashes into his professional title or not, the future of his career in Hollywood has already set upon its course. With a critically-acclaimed television series in pocket, a feature film at Sundance, a demo in the works with his band, Mitchells Folly, and any number of magazine editorials awaiting to champion his celebrity, Luke Grimes is the biggest star you are about to hear of.