November 29, 2012

Never mind his porn-star name. Before working on more adult projects (Eli Roth’s Cabin Fever; the soon-to-be-released graphic novel, Blood Merchant, co-created by his brother, Shiloh, with whom he’s also written and directed a number of award-winning short films), Rider Strong rose to teen-idol status as the harmlessly rebellious Shawn Hunter on ABC’s Boy Meets World. Since the show ended in 2000, we asked the 32-year-old actor where Shawn has been hiding—turns out, he’s been locked in the basement this whole time.
After seven years on your television screen, Shawn Hunter moved to New York City, where he became an alcoholic. No, I’m kidding. He married the love of his life, Angela Moore. That’s not true, either, but he did become a world-famous poet. Actually, last I heard he was the East Coast representative of The Center, a fundamentalist cult.

You may have picked up on the fact that I’m making all of this up. The dark truth is… Shawn has been locked in my basement for 12 years. It’s really best for both of us. I’m able to move on (well, except when people confuse me for him), and, as a fictional character, he’s much safer down there.
Let’s be honest, more Boy Meets World would only further ruin his life. Being The Dramatic Storyline in a 22-minute comedy series takes its toll. It was never easy for him to live a sitcom existence, where poverty can be a punch line, where alcoholic parents can be funny, where no matter how much you learn—no matter how much Mr. Feeny sets you straight— you come back the next week, making the same old mistakes. And the laugh track roars.

Shawn was never meant for that world. He was too dark, too self-indulgent, too whiny. He was a downer! How many times can one character experience loss? Give a heart-wrenching monologue? Go on a soul-searching road trip? Conversely, he’d never survive another genre. Despite his bad-boy posturing, perhaps summed up best by his faux-retro, pseudo-biker look, Shawn wouldn’t have lasted minutes in a drama. He may have acted out with some hijinks, but deep down, Shawn’s pretty vanilla. He never swears. He’s never done drugs. The furthest he’s been from home is Disney World. I think he’s still a virgin. None of this would fly on Breaking Bad, Six Feet Under, or House. For all of his flaws, Shawn’s, well, safe.
He could potentially leave my basement for a cop show. I could see him heading back to Philadelphia to join the cold case squad. Or to become a hard-bitten-but-ultimately-good detective, solving grisly crimes armed with only his street sense and a leather jacket. Or maybe he could find a hot female with whom to partner—just like on Castle or Bones—and their witty banter could lighten the dark underbelly of the city they protect. The problem there? Shawn ain’t that smart. Or perceptive. He’s a C-minus student at best, which seems prohibitive to good detective work. So I think I’ll keep him downstairs for now.

I treat him well. He gets plenty of food and water. He even has a window, a small square that lets him see passing feet—and dogs, if they’re short enough. He tells me he loves that window. For him, it’s like a television, looking out at real people, with real-people problems.

He’s fascinated by how unstructured our lives are, how we drift from one moment to the next, free from the constraints of narrative, the pain of lurching endlessly from crisis to resolution. He covets your formless mood. Your un-episodic joys. The way you catch yourself off-guard. The way you wander, slowly, in and out of love. How you can go back, and revise the story of who you are, because there’s no DVD box set. The way no one wants to know your ending.
Sometimes, I stay down there with him, and we share memories of the good old days. The time he blew up the mailbox with a cherry bomb. The time he peed on the cop car.

But even our best times together are bittersweet: We both know it can’t last. Only one of us can return to the surface and live a semblance of a normal life. I make sure it’s me.

For more character studies from your favorite child stars, go here, here, here, and here.

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The Bullet Shop
July 17, 2012

Lauren Greenfield’s The Queen of Versailles, which opened this year’s Sundance Film Festival and earned the U.S. Directing Award for documentary film, tells the story of David Siegel, a real estate mogul dubbed ‘The Time-Share King” by the media, and his wife, Jackie, a former engineering student who was crowned Miss Florida in 1993. It also tells the story of wealth, classism, and excess in America in the wake of the subprime-mortgage crisis. David’s involvement in the time-share business, a specific brand of mortgage gambling that only succeeds if banks have money to lend, granted them a life of unparalleled opulence, which peaked with the creation of the family’s 90,000-square-foot mansion—10 kitchens, two tennis courts, a bowling alley, and a health spa—modeled after the Palace of Versailles. With the housing market crash of 2008, the banks quit lending to the Siegels’ premier time-share property, PH Towers Westgate in Las Vegas, forcing it into a state of crisis and foreclosure. As we watch the Siegels’ seemingly bottomless wealth dissipate, the emotional repercussions unfold with the swiftness and pitilessness of a Greek tragedy. We’re left with a complex moral about, in the words of Lauren Greenfield, “what is given and what is taken away”—and what, if anything, is deserved in American life.

Watching the film made me think about the passage in the Bible that says it’s easier for a camel to pass through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to get into heaven. Wealth used to be thought of as immoral.
And now it’s the opposite. I’ve been working on a book about wealth for the past 10 years. I come from Los Angeles, where class is uniquely defined by money. My first project after college was a photo essay on the French aristocracy, photographing families who didn’t have any money and yet were able to stay in this contained class. Jackie and David’s story is the polar opposite. They were up-by-your-bootstraps people who made their own way in the world. I think it prepared them for the loss that befell them. They were never defined by money.

Money, however, is the very thing that defines most audiences, especially in New York. During the film, we laugh at a real estate agent’s mispronunciation of “Versailles” and the tacky, Walmart opulence of the Siegel mansion. Our response raises the question: Are we classist?

The Siegels are, at times, inadvertently hilarious. Did you worry that we might be laughing at them and not with them?
When I started making the movie, it was more comedic. When everything started falling apart, the thing I got to work with was this narrative arc in their characters and in their story where you kind of start out thinking, “Who are these people? Why would people have these ambitions?” You end up not just empathizing with them but also seeing yourself in them. The film is about our cultural values and what overreaching means in America, and the recalibration that comes after, the looking back and seeing where we might have done things differently. The country started on an amazing ride—the boom! Then we ended up with foreclosed homes and green pools and brown lawns, wondering, “How could we have thought that somebody without a job could have a loan?” That’s the journey I want people to go on. I want them to start out fascinated by, and somewhat envious of, David and Jackie, in the same way that the characters on reality television repulse us.

The Siegel household includes countless animals, live-in help (who steadily dwindle as the Siegels come into hardship), Jackie and David’s seven children, and Jackie’s niece, Jonquil, who was taken in by them to escape a tumultuous and financially unstable home life.

Jonquil is very much the Nick Carraway of the film. She’s experiencing firsthand privilege, but she also knows the other side of things.
You can also see Jackie’s story through her. Jackie made this transition from lower middle class to rich over a span of many years, and Jonquil made that transition overnight. In a way, she’s a case study for how that transition worked out. By the end—even though she says at the beginning that she doesn’t want money to change her—Jonquil admits that once you have everything you kind of get used to it, and it’s not that exciting anymore. It does change you.

For a good quarter of the film, the Siegels get along just fine, despite the increasingly obvious corruption that plagues David’s time-share properties. At one point, David, having boasted that he “got Bush into the White House,” admits, “I can’t tell you how, because I’m not sure it’s legal.” A scene at his Vegas time-share building, a gigantic property whose expensive upkeep is the initial cause of David’s downfall, shows David’s employees getting a pep talk by his oldest son, who encourages them to get people to buy “at least something,” with the understanding that “vacations are healthy.”

When we got to see the pep talk at the Vegas property, it does feel a bit corrupt.
It represents most sales in America. That’s what capitalism is based on. That’s what happened in the housing market—people were sold things they couldn’t afford, and the first people who went down were those who had these terrible loans that they shouldn’t have had. And who’s to blame? Was it the mortgage brokers? Was it the banks? Was it the investors in the public companies? David really sums it up at the end when he says, “It’s a vicious cycle, and we were all a part of it.” He acknowledges that greed and the need to go bigger and better was really at the root of it. The thing about David’s relationship with the bank is that he’s both banker and borrower. He’s selling people this dream of luxury and this time-share that maybe they can’t afford, and then he’s also borrowing huge sums of money from the lenders, and it all works as long as there’s cheap financing. As soon as there’s not cheap financing, none of it works—it all comes to a halt. That’s the story of the subprime crisis. He is both a victim and a perpetrator. In a way, none of us can say we weren’t complicit in that because everybody benefited from the values of their homes going up so much, and borrowing on them, using their homes as piggy banks for whatever they wanted, and now it’s a kind of recalibration.

But the crisis also had so much to do with the political administration. David’s endorsement of Bush becomes ironic, because the economy probably wouldn’t have crashed like it did without the Bush administration and the war that came out of it.
David would blame the current administration. More important to me, however, was the connection between money and politics, and David would agree. By the end of the film, he was no longer involved in politics because it’s not really much fun—there’s not a lot you can do—without money.

Greenfield didn’t edit out the Siegels’ direct addresses to her in the film. Near the end, we hear David tell her that it’s time to “wrap it up.” 

Why did you decide to leave in David’s directions to you at the end?
People have asked me, “Why would they do this film?” I spent huge amounts of time with them over a three-year period, and they were very much a part of the process. David really opened up in the interviews and Jackie, even though she’s somebody who cares about her beauty and how she looks, allowed us to film her getting Botox and looking swollen. In the beginning, she would always put together her hair and makeup before we started filming, but in that last scene she has no makeup on and she has bare feet. When things started to get really tough with the Vegas property, he finally said, “Okay, we don’t need to dwell on this anymore. Let’s wrap it up.”

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The Bullet Shop
June 14, 2012
Jacket Tripp NYC, T-shirt Alice’s own, White veil Jennifer Behr, Necklace wornas tiara Shourouk, Necklace Chris Habana
Jacket Tripp NYC, T-shirt Alice’s own, White veil Jennifer Behr, Necklace worn as tiara Shourouk, Necklace Chris Habana

I . THE FACTS

Style Icon: Joan of Arc. I like the different interpretations people have had of her over the centuries.

Bands that should be on MTV (if MTV still played music): AIDS Wolf, Kleenex, Necros, Heavens to Betsy, Xiu Xiu, the Sick Lipstick, Discharge, and Carcass should all be on TV. “There should also be a hall of fame for riot grrrl bands like Bratmobile. There should be a museum full of [the band’s founder] Allison Wolfe’s lyric books and guitars. Not the Eagles’.

Vehicle of choice: We have a 1960s police van with a steel cage in the back. It’s unbreakable. We’ve seen people trying to break down the door but they can’t. The thing is designed for riots.

I I . THE MUSINGS

On confrontation… I live for sincere moments. Witnessing the passionate eyes of hate and locking with them makes up for all the phony weather talk. Life without passion is meaningless. I’d rather have confrontation over comfort. I’ll be comfortable when I’m dead.

On technology… I’ve never even had a phone. I prefer booths—any excuse to go outside.

On infanticide… [Crystal Castles’ song] “Black Panther” is about a mother who’s sick of her children and throws them away, drowns them. It’s about being ashamed that something so awful came out of your body. Drown ’em like cats.

On the album art—a young boy pictured in a cemetery—for their second album… It’s about the serene calm that comes from thinking about lots of bodies slumbering in the ground for eternity. There’s nothing more serene than that.

On saying no to huge tours opening for mainstream bands… Fuck it.

On saying no to contributing a song to the Twilight soundtrack… Fuck it.

On saying no to a proposed major network TV show based on her band… Fuck it.

I I I : THE QUESTIONS

“Is it somehow more goth to wear makeup when you know that aluminum, lead, arsenic, and a rainbow of carcinogenic chemicals are potentially now dancing around in your bloodstream?”

“Does coolness matter? Nothing matters. We’re all dust.”

“Do I think that every girl, if they want to, should start a band no matter what the people in their lives think about it? Fuck yeah. If your boyfriend or father disagrees, do it anyway.”

Photography by James Orlando

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The Bullet Holiday Gift Guide
June 12, 2012

SpaceGhostPurrp credits his trademark sound to a childhood spent listening to hip-hop’s original gangsters. His family, he says, played records by UGK and Eazy-E around the house, music that instilled in him a rigid notion of what hip-hop should sound like. “The kids nowadays, they’re used to hearing high-quality, crispy-ass music, and they think that’s hip-hop,” he says of the highly produced music being made by many of today’s mainstream rap stars. “They don’t know about that distortion sound. They hear my music and go, ‘Oh that’s low-budget.’ But they don’t know that’s how all the pioneers made music.”

Newly signed by indie-minded label 4AD, SpaceGhostPurrp, who built a rabid online following of art-school kids and skaters, can’t fathom how he’d have peddled his mixtapes without the help of 140 characters or less. “Back in the day, you either had to know somebody or you had to hustle to sell CDs,” he says. “I couldn’t really see myself doing that crap, like selling CDs at the mall and shit. Nah, man, I ain’t about to make a fool of myself like that.” His debut album, Mysterious Phonk: Chronicles of SpaceGhostPurrp, is out today.

Tell me about Miami and the neighborhood you grew up in. What was it like?
It was an African American neighborhood, a lot of crime and drug dealing. Hip-hop had a big impact on youth in the area. At that time, hip-hop was real popular, and everybody be rappin’ and stuff, so, it was a hip-hop infected area.

What are the people you grew up with doing right now, the ones who aren’t making music?
They’re into their regular lives, some of ‘em are locked up. They are dealing with their mistakes.

What are you passionate about besides music?
I like art and fashion. I’m not really deep into fashion, but I like creative stuff, I like to draw, I like graffiti and stuff like that.

How did 4AD find and sign you?
The word got out to one of the people at 4AD, and they met one of the people here, and they was like “Oh, we like this guy we want to meet him.” We met up and it went on from there, and everything was good.

Has getting signed to a label always been your goal, or is it just a byproduct of doing what you do?
I always wanted to be signed, but I just love making music. I didn’t expect it, I was just doing it how I wanted to because I liked doing it.

Talk about your sound.  It’s deliberately murky.
The kids nowadays, they don’t really know about that distortion sound. They’re used to hearing like high quality crispy-ass music, and they think that’s hip-hop. They don’t know about that distortion sound, they hear that and go “Oh that’s low budget.” But they don’t know that’s how all the pioneers used to sound back in the day on the old machines.

You don’t really listen to radio hip-hop?
No, I hate it.

You hate it?
I don’t hate the artists—it’s not that I hate it. I wouldn’t say I hate it, I’m not gonna say that.  It’s that I don’t feel it, it doesn’t trigger me.

Does your music come from a dark place?
Yeah, all of that, everything, at once. I was in a real bad place mentally when I wrote some of the songs on the album.

Are you in a better place now?
Yeah, I’m doing fine, I’m doing better. I’m still going through stuff, but I’m trying to hang in there.

I know you gave up smoking weed. How much weed were you smoking when you were smoking it a lot?
Oh, a lot. Like every 5 minutes.

Why did you give it up?
Just to keep my mind clear, because when I was doing a lot I was just zoned out. I was spaced out, just like, What the fuck? I would write a rap and I’d be just staring at the paper, and I’d fall asleep.

Has it affected your music?
My music hasn’t changed. I’m lyrically better, I can wake up and just go to writing, because I’m not tired from the high from the other night. I can just get up and just go ahead and write, because my mind is clear.

Now that you’re on a label and putting out a proper album, does your music have a better, clearer sound than it used to?
Yeah it does, it’s more crisp. Everything is like HD. The kids these days just want to hear high quality.

How important has the internet been in getting your sound out there?
Back in the day, you either had to know somebody or you had to hustle to sell CDs. I couldn’t really see myself selling CDs at the mall and shit. I was like, instead of going to the mall and making a fool of myself, why don’t I just promote myself online? I would connect all my sites together like Facebook, Youtube, Twitter. And say if I had like a thousand followers at the time, and I posted something on Twitter, I would keep posting that shit until all of those thousand followers saw it and clicked on it.

Photography by Alexander Guerra

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The Bullet Shop
June 5, 2012

Ever since Claire Boucher released Visions, one of the most exciting albums of the year, her life has been unfolding on the road. But when she’s not touring, the artist better known as Grimes is either at a photo shoot, DJing a party, or remixing her friends’ songs. That, or she’s breaching firewalls. “I’m not very good at it yet, but it’s a short-term hobby of mine,” she says of her proclivity for hacking computers. When pressed, Boucher is reluctant to discuss her greatest cyber conquest. “No, seriously,” she says. “If they find out, I’m fucked. I’ve already said too much.”

Today, the 24-year-old Vancouver native is Skyping from a schoolyard in her adoptive hometown of Montreal, and with her green hair spilling into her even greener anime eyes, she looks like a cyberpunk kid playing hooky from art history class. After Visions netted universal praise from critics and the video for its lead single, “Oblivion,” went viral, Grimes capitalized on her overnight success with three nights of sold-out shows in New York. Suddenly, everything she says matters to somebody. “It’s nerve-racking because I’m very bad at censoring myself,” she says, tugging uneasily at the sleeves of her black hoodie. “But it’s cool, too. In becoming a pop star, there’s a lot of power to change what people see as beautiful, to make a feminist statement.” Perhaps realizing how self-serious she sounds, she grins and adds, “I still don’t shave my armpits.”

Production-wise, Boucher, who makes all of her own beats, is obsessed with experimental hip-hop. “I love Timbaland, Jedi Mind Tricks, Dungeon Family, Outkast, and Gatekeeper—they’re all amazing,” she says. “But as a producer, I hate that people assume that whoever produced your favorite pop song is a male. It’s like assuming your professor is a male. I was a producer first, not a singer. I’m not even that good at singing. I deal with that by producing like the best.” That means synthesizing filmy electro loops with loopier vocals to create a weirdly familiar yet proto-alien sound, for which she’s become known as “post-Internet”—a category she once bestowed upon herself but now regrets. Whatever it’s called, we hope Grimes keeps hacking it.

I loved that interview you did with Nardwuar, where you held up the Mariah record you’d just bought. She’s the best—a lot of musicians our age reference her, and not in that stupid, sort of ironic, “guilty pleasures” way.
Musically, I think if you enjoy something you shouldn’t feel guilty about it. It’s an inherently flawed idea because you’re judging art based on someone else’s judgment.

Right. The only actual “guilty pleasures” for me are, like, drugs. What about yours?
Drinking alcohol. Or beating up my brothers. Kind of feel bad about that, you know, when I was a kid. One time I smashed my brother in the face with a hockey stick and I knocked out all his teeth.

Are you the oldest? Do you believe in birth-order destiny?
Yeah, I’m the oldest, and I was like the bad one. I did all the bad things and got in trouble. We played a lot of video games—talk about guilty pleasures, fucking video games.

What’s your favourite all-time video game?
Well, The Legend of Zelda was the first video game me and my brothers ever got, and so we all got matching Triforce tattoos.

Seems you’ve been doing a lot of remixes in your spare time, if you can call it that. Who do you most want to remix?
Zebra Katz. I love what he does. I also love female rap vocals. The rhythmic qualities of rapping—you can’t play with that so much in singing vocals. I sing out of necessity because I was like, fuck, I wanna make pop music and I don’t know who else can sing it. I wish I could rap. I’m a good rapper, but I don’t want to be, like, Blondie. When she rapped it was just the worst.

Which female rappers are the opposite of worst?
I love Azealia Banks. Her Twitter is horrible and annoying, but she’s amazing. She’s so ghetto, it’s sweet. Dominique Young Unique is so hot and fucking amazing live. She has the face of a baby. It’s a good package.

You recently had an art show in New York. Are you already planning another one?
I’d like to do something in L.A. maybe when I move there. I’ve been painting a lot since I’ve been home. I also want to have free stuff at shows, or really cheap posters. I just made a series of them.

Which visual artists, or what kinds of visual art, are you into right now?
The art that I’m like, into, I’m just really into music videos. All the art direction for the Marilyn Manson videos. I’m revisiting Marilyn Manson right now. That, and Nine Inch Nails. Like, 2000s mainstream goth stuff is really epic for me right now, better than Lady Gaga. I’m really into buto, the Japanese form of dance. The next music video is buto plus mainstream goth.

Styling by Cary Tauben. Hair and makeup: Leslie-Ann Thomson at Folio Montréal.

Photography by Max Abadian

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The Bullet Shop
May 25, 2012

From the Obsessed Issue Youth Portfolio:

Twenty-one year old Chase Finlay fresh face of the New York City Ballet, returned to the coveted stage last year after an injury, and once again proved to notoriously critical ballet enthusiasts that, despite his age, he “can do it, and do it better than they thought I could.”

“I feel like the audience always wants to see a fresh face. They always want to see who can step up and do that role because it’s the same steps over and over. But if you get a different person to come in and change it up a little bit, then that’s exciting. I get the initial butterflies before the curtain comes up–I think, ‘Oh, shit! I have thousands of people sitting right in front of me.’ But once the curtain goes up and I’m in it, I forget about everything around me. Adrenaline kicks in, which helps. After a while, it’s like I’m up there with my friends and we’re just trying to have a good time.”

Check out our behind-the scenes video of Chase photographed by Jeffrey Graetsch and styled by Evren Catlin.

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The Bullet Shop
May 21, 2012

Pop quiz: What’s the easiest way to quiet the three million thoughts simultaneously running through your brain? It’s easy. Just watch a video of beautiful people wearing beautiful people clothes and doing beautiful people things. Case in point, our new clip, Clubs, which is essentially a behind-the-scenes look at A League of Their Own, a brainy and bawdy fashion story from our spring Obsessed Issue. Using high school cafeteria cliques as their inspiration, photographer Takahiro Ogawa and stylist Aki Maesato re-imagine the glory days of debate clubs, prom royalty, and not-so-secret crushes. So tune in, and tune out.

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The Bullet Shop
April 30, 2012

I think it’s going to blow people’s minds,” says Eve Hewson, the 20-year-old daughter of U2’s Bono and Ali Hewson about her latest project, This Must Be the Place, director Paolo Sorrentino’s tale of Cheyenne (Sean Penn), a washed-up rocker on a mission to find his father’s Nazi persecutor. The film screened in competition at last year’s Cannes Film Festival, and though it has yet to find U.S. distribution, Hewson is currently in the midst of shooting a sure thing. Blood Ties tells the story of two brothers on opposite sides of the law who clash in 1970s Brooklyn, and features an all-star cast including Clive Owen, Mila Kunis, Zoe Saldana, and Marion Cotillard (her husband, Guillaume Canet, is the director).

Let’s talk about This Must Be the Place.

I think it’s going blow people’s minds. In terms of Sean Penn’s acting and his character, I’ve never seen that kind of acting before.

What drew you to the project?

Everything! When your agent calls you and is like, ‘Paolo Sorrentino is directing a movie with Sean Penn in it, they want you to play this young girl they want you go in and audition. The character that I play, Mary, is amazing. She’s something that I don’t think a lot of young actresses get to play anymore. She’s not the sexy, cute girlfriend or the hot girl who’s dating the older man, she’s got her own story and it’s completely different than [that of] any character I’ve ever auditioned for.

How did you land the part?

I didn’t think this movie was going to happen for me. I’d heard the name come up every now and then and I was like ‘okay’—then my agent called and was like ‘your audition’s on Tuesday!’ I auditioned a couple of times with Paolo, on my first audition I was so nervous and I prepared so much, and I went in there and he didn’t even ask me to read. He just sat there and talked to me, and went around with a little video camera like, to different parts of the room and videotaped me at different angles. I was like ‘what is going on?’ And that was it. I was like what the hell just happened? I didn’t even read for him! But I think it was part of his method—he wanted to meet me first, get a vibe, and then I went back in and read for him afterward. It was a really funky process.

When’s the last time you felt growing pains, and why?

The last time I had a conscious growing-up feeling was probably when I started growing boobs. I was like ‘oh, okay this is real. I can’t go back to being ten years old. It’s a devastating moment. I always wanted to be a boy when I was younger—I dressed as a boy, I cut my hair off—I was obsessed with E.T. so I made everyone call me ‘Elliott’.  But I always used to get upset when my mom’s friend’s referenced me as a boy, even though I wanted to look like one. But then I grew up and people couldn’t mistake me for a boy anymore. I think that was pretty upsetting.
What are you excited about for the future?

I’m really excited to graduate from college. I love college but I am excited to not have to write an essay anymore. I’m excited to be independent from any sort of institution. I always loved school, but I also felt it was holding me back from doing things I wanted to do—which is a very adolescent viewpoint, but I’m excited to have my say in what I want to do with my life—not that Hollywood will really let me do that.

Get Obsessed. This and more in the Obsessed issue, out now!

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The Bullet Shop