In an interview with The Phoenix, the actors who play John B and JJ on “Outer Banks” spoke about their preparation and characters’ development.
With season three of Netflix’s “Outer Banks” releasing Feb. 23, actors Chase Stokes (John B) and Rudy Pankow (JJ) spoke with The Phoenix about preparing for the upcoming string of episodes and reflecting on their experiences in the show. Their answers have been condensed for clarity.
The Phoenix: How did you prepare for season three?
Pankow: We didn’t. (Laughs)
Stokes: I think when you get in a groove of doing a show for as long as we have now, you kind of know the characters inside and out, and you’ve spent a lot of time with them, so you know where their heart is and where their moral compass is. So, you just kind of go back into the old things that you have and look at it for a second, and it comes to you.
Pankow: Physically, you got to get in shape, because there’s a lot of running, a lot of swimming and you got all that stuff that you do. You actually do have to get physically in-shape, which is something you’ve [Chase] talked about a lot. But then also like Chase said, there’s a groove at the third season where you’re kind of like, “I figured out this character. It’s somewhere inside of me that I know how to pull out.”
Stokes: Part of it goes back to the locations where we shoot, too. It just immediately brings you back to a very nostalgic state. So, that helps as well.
Pankow: And rehearsing.
The Phoenix: How did you both approach your characters for season three? Has it changed from prior seasons?
Pankow: Yes. I would say a theme this year is — I wouldn’t say it’s growing up. It’s more like responsibilities and fear of responsibilities. New dynamics with your [John B’s] father, it’s just kind of shifting. So, maybe it is just growing. It is growing up, and I think you can’t stop that. So, I think approaching how your character evolves has shifted into a talk, a conversation. Trauma studying — I think that’s a huge thing with people in everyday life.
Stokes: Great answer.
The Phoenix: Has the way you’ve related to your character changed throughout each season?
Pankow: If your character is evolving, I think the way that you relate to your character also is changing. So, I think it changes, just like in the story with JJ and John B, and just like yourself. I think that’s the same thing in humanity — if it changes, the way that your relation to that person is going to change.
Stokes: I think that’s the beauty of life, is that things are inevitably going to change, and they have to change in order to grow. And so, in this situation, with the stakes being higher and the dynamics being tested, things have to change. And so yeah, I think my connection to John B changes every season. He’s 17, and so I look at some of his choices sometimes and I’m like, “God. Dude, why?” But that’s the joy of getting to play pretend for a living, is you get to do that and you get to go to work and do something that you maybe would never, ever agree with. But it’s fun, and that’s why we do what we do — go live in somebody else’s body for a little while. I mean, it’s our bodies.
The Phoenix: “Outer Banks” has dealt with a lot of themes surrounding both loss and reconnection. How do you hope these themes resonate with viewers?
Pankow: Oh, I hope it’s relatable. I hope it’s something that it’s like, “Yeah, I’ve felt that. Yeah, I’ve felt that to an extent.” Hopefully not exactly that.
Stokes: It’s fiction for a reason.
Pankow: Yes, drama for a reason as well. I think it’s relatable and I hope they take away a little of, maybe a reflection where they’re like, “Hey, that might be me, and that person did that. Maybe shouldn’t do that.” Or the opposite, where it’s just like, “I think that’s the decision I should make.” And I hope they maybe learn from it, and relate, and take something away where it’s just like, “I can apply that to my life.”
Stokes: I think the show’s been labeled, especially during COVID, as an escapism show. And I hope that people, after they finish this, don’t look at it as an escapism show and they look at it as a reflection type of moment. Because that’s what it feels like to me. As characters — and humans at their core — who are going through a trying time and may have not been set up with the best circumstances. Really, ultimately, the plot of the show is kids who are just trying to find their way in life, and that’s a journey that I think the entire world is trying to figure out, especially post-COVID. And it’s okay to be okay with the unknown. And it’s okay to be a little bit unsure about your journey in life, but not forgetting to live along the way. So if you take away the giant set pieces and explosions and the treasure hunting, it’s really about a group of kids who’s just trying to figure out who they are and what their core is. And that’s what I really hope the audience takes away from this — that it’s okay to not know who you are right now. As long as you’re trying to find your way. That’s the important part.
The Phoenix: What has been your favorite memory throughout filming season three, on set or with castmates?
Pankow: I think when you’re shooting in such a gorgeous place — like Charleston or Barbados — you just see this beautiful scenery and you’re also seeing culture. You’re seeing all this stuff. I have so many memories. There’s a memory from last season where we were shooting on a ranch, and it was just a gorgeous ranch in Barbados. I had a “pinch me” moment where it just was like, “This is a great memory, I’m on a ranch shooting a TV show in Barbados, and it’s absolutely gorgeous.” And I went and climbed a tree. It’s just like, that’s a perfect day.
Stokes: I think, you know, to pinpoint one thing would discredit the entire experience of the 30 episodes. I had a bizarre experience. Very universe-aligning moment, where I finished my 30th episode on the show on my 30th birthday. And I realized how fragile and how beautiful this time period has been. And to be able to tell the story that has touched so many people and been in so many people’s homes and that has been shared with parents and grandparents and children and had that generational pull has been cool. So I think for me, it’s been — from the day we rolled cameras to when I thought I was gonna shit my pants out of nerves, all the way to having my 30th birthday with my found family here and doing it on a boat and finishing my 30th episode of TV — it’s just been a journey. So you can sit and try to pinpoint something, but for me, I just look at it as an umbrella. Like “Wow, okay, this has been a magical experience.”
Pankow: Very well said.
Stokes and Pankow will continue their treasure hunt in “Outer Banks” season three premiering on Netflix on Feb. 23.
Featured image courtesy of Jackson Lee Davis/Netflix