Cooper van Grootel Is a Cool Guy
Story by Bryan Casey
Photography by Rachel Palumbo
Mud Magazine caught up with the "One of Us Is Lying" star about moving from Australia to LA, his new Netflix film "Go Karts," and playing Nate Macauley.
You may know him as the slicked back, bleach-blond racer who exudes confidence on Netflix’s Go Karts. Dean's the bad boy with the beefed-up kart on his side, and the phrase “I am unbeatable” booming in the back of his head as he starts his engine and waits patiently for the race to begin. He is the favorite to win as the checkered flag waves for the final lap. Yet, playing the antagonist comes with a cost, that being having to take the fall for a happy ending.
This does not matter for Australian actor Cooper Van Grootel. He is simply following the script and performing his part. While the character of Dean is always focused on out-racing his rival, Cooper is focused on, well, other things. One of those being surfing. Growing up in Perth, Western Australia, Cooper fell in love with going to the beach and catching waves.
“Surfing plays a big part in my life and I think that keeps me sane in today’s day and age,” said Cooper.
He also developed a passion for acting, leading to him obtaining his first role at the age of twelve, as Jayden from The Legend of Gavin Tanner. So where does someone who loves to surf, and act go from there? California, of course. Or in Cooper's case, Los Angeles. While the waves are not as big, Cooper has been adapting to this new environment by taking lots of pictures, preferably with his film camera; getting to know his fellow co-stars; and indulging in his favorite American snacks. Cooper’s short year in Los Angeles has already paid off: he landed a part as one of the leads for NBC's upcoming show, One of Us Is Lying.
While Cooper waits for this pandemic to be over so he can resume his acting projects, the Australian actor is spending quality time at home, stocking up on Reese's Pieces, solving puzzles, and listening to "No. 28" by Methyl Ethel on repeat. Although we're bummed that a lot of films and shows are on hold, one thing Cooper told Mud that fans can expect from One of Us Is Lying is a great story and A LOT of chemistry.
B: You were born in Perth and moved to LA last year at just 18 years old. What has been the biggest culture shock from the move?
C: Living in a bigger city. I’m from Perth but I live about 5 minutes from the beach, so being thrusted into a city living environment was very different and tricky to get used to. Having the beach so far away from where I lived was strange but change was inevitable and I really enjoyed adapting to the new surroundings. LA is so cool and I love its vibe.
B: Your Instagram gives off this dope retro film vibe. Is photography one of your hobbies outside of acting? If so, how did you get into taking photos?
C: I’ve always loved photography and messing around with cameras. It wasn’t until a few years back when I bought my first film camera, Canon AE-1, that I really became invested in photography. The whole process of not knowing what the photos were going to look like until they were developed was so fascinating. Film is also super expensive so I have to be careful that I don’t go around just snapping shots aimlessly, the photo has to have a purpose. That’s what is so cool about film.
B: In your Insta bio you have the quote “less is more." Where did this mindset come from and why is this idea so important to you?
C: I feel as though it’s the small things that mean a lot. Small gestures that people give... I’m not about the big grandiose plans and presents, I like to keep things simple. It also speaks to me when it comes to acting. A camera will pick up the smallest detail, or facial expression... it’s really just about showing less and more will come across on screen.
B: In "Go Karts" you play Dean, the tough top racer with an obsessive drive to win. While Dean may be the antagonist, did you resonate with him in any way?
C: Dean’s drive and determination is definitely something I resonate with. I’m always hungry for something that pushes me to break new boundaries and take risks. Moving to America was a big step in my career and it was my excitement for acting and the unknown that drove me to make the decision which is definitely where I resonate with Dean, his will to go on and the need for something bigger.
B: Most of the film was shot on the racetrack. Do you have any funny stories from shooting? Did the team ever take a break from shooting to actually race?
C: To be honest the whole shoot was just a bunch of laughs and a good time. Every time we would shoot Dean and his Dad performing the ‘Pre-race’ mantra, it was a lot of fun. It’s such a crucial thing that Dean needed to do before every race to get into the right mindset but it kind of also seems like a ridiculous thing to do. Damian de Montemas and I would always have a laugh after shooting it, those were the days! Although I think everyone really wanted to take a break and floor it around the track a few times, we never really had the time, the budget was so tight and the shoot days were so limited.
B: Did you learn any tips in case you wanted to become a professional go kart/race car driver?
C: One tip which made the world of difference - have your hands positioned at ‘nine’ and ‘three’ like on a clock. Apparently you look very inexperienced if you don’t know that one so I’m glad someone mentioned that to me early on in the shoot! Lol. Life saver.
B: Our issue's cover, Marianly Tejada, and you are both starring in "One of Us Is Lying." Those who have read the book know about your characters' romantic relationship. What can viewers expect from your character and the on-screen chemistry between Brownyn and Nate?
C: A LOT of chemistry, that’s all I’ll say for now :)
B: Nate is a troubled guy in a complicated situation. What was your process to get into character for the Pilot?
C: Like everyone in this world, people have so much more going on in their life than what they show you. Nate’s similar to an iceberg, he only reveals the top but there’s so much more going on below the water.
I would always write down character thoughts and ideas in a notebook as if it was Nate actually writing it, ideas would just flow from one to the other and that was basically my process. I kept it pretty secret and would read over it every day before set, to remind me of how he’s feeling and what he’s dealing with.
B: What does it mean to be young in today's world?
C: We are living in a world that is constantly, rapidly changing. For example, this whole coronavirus pandemic caused me to move back to Australia and make some hefty life decisions, not knowing what will happen next in the world is somewhat scary but also exciting. Today’s world definitely keeps me on my toes and I have to be ready for anything, adapting in a way so that I still keep a healthy mindset is so important to me. Surfing plays a big part in my life and I think that keeps me sane in today's day and age.
Cooper van Grootel appeared on our ninth issue "from gucci to goodwill." You can read and buy the issue here.
Watch "Go Karts" now on Netflix!
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Photography: Rachel Palumbo https://www.rachelpalumbo.com/