DARREN CRISS To open with a cliché … I can only assume a lot of your interviews have recently begun with, “Well, Cody, it’s been a pretty exciting year for you, huh?” There are so many things that I could ask you about, having gotten to know you over these past couple of years… But I just want to hear your first reaction to the question, “Hey, how have these past two years been for you?”
CODY FERN I’m just still in a state of complete wonder. It’s like I stumbled into some Alice in Wonderland world. There was so much movement going on in my life that I didn’t really have a chance to stop and absorb it. And I think this past six months for me has been about finding a place of stillness and being able to process everything that has been going on. And I’m just so…grateful, I guess is the word. And it’s magical, it’s like a fairy tale. But I’m sure it’s the same for you, right? You just had an insane two years!
DC Oh, come on now, Cody Fern, this is your interview in VMan, not mine! When I meet new actors on set, one thing I’m always interested in is their backstory. But I was fascinated by your story particularly, because you’re not just any Australian! When I asked you [about your backstory], you taught me what is now one of my favorite Australian slang terms, which is “bogan.” And you, lovingly I think, referred to yourself as a bogan—which meant an out-of town, or non-city kind of person. So I wanted you to talk about [growing up with] that “out-of-town” feeling, and how watching TV or films might’ve [played into that].
CF Now the life I was living seems so alien to me, but at the time it was my daily existence. In Southern Cross, we had just under 300 people; Perth [which was about 5 hours away] was the big city to me. There was one store, which was the supermarket. I spent the majority of my childhood catching snakes and genuinely pursuing kangaroos and rabbits. And messing around on farms and going bush bashing at night, which is doing up old cars—we [built the cars ourselves] and then went out into the bush [as a group] of people far too young to be driving. And thrashing the cars around, and hoping that we didn’t crash. Which of course I did, and many others did. I’m lucky to have made it out with my life! I look back, like, [who] let these children do this? [laughs]
DC That’s a huge shift…I can’t imagine a lot of people in Southern Cross are in huge Ryan Murphy [productions]...
CF I mean nobody at that point in Southern Cross had been to university. I was the first person to go to [college]. It wasn’t like a dawning realization that something was very off. I always knew just by looking at the world around me. I always had dreams that were bigger than where I was located [but] every time I expressed them, [I heard] “That’s not possible, that’s not real, that’s not achievable.” I was expelled from school, and went to boarding school, where I heard the same thing. And I’m the kind of person that hears that and digs [their heels] in and goes, “Well fuck you. I’m going to prove you wrong.” In terms of [the choice] to act, it was [initially] that I wanted to express something inside of me, and the only other place that I had seen such things expressed was in cinema. [Although at the time] I didn’t know [to call it] “cinema.” The funny thing is that I remember the exact [turning point], which was when I was 12. I saw Cate Blanchett in Elizabeth, and it was the first time I consciously understood [acting]. That this is not real, she is not the real queen [of England], but I believe that she is, and she’s absolutely the real queen for me right now.
DC Speaking of Australian actors, one of my favorite things [is meeting] people who watch you, and assume you’re American. I go, “You know he’s Australian?” And it suddenly multiplies your street cred by fifty. So kudos!
CF Aw, thanks Darren.
DC Of course, man... I’m going to shift over to the fashion side of things. Considering you once told me you didn’t get dial-up until you were 17, was [your interest] in fashion something you were always able to cultivate? Or how did you first start paying attention to fashion and certain designers and looks?
CF I think it’s what you said: cultivating. I definitely have always been interested in fashion, but I never had a sense of style. I very recently realized how many colors are in the crayon box. And that I’d been using about three of them. And I think a large part of that came from never really having a sense of self. I only very recently, certainly within the last two or three years, have become more comfortable with who I am as a human being. Before, those three colors I had been using were to hide or to fit in or to ameliorate. To make sure that I didn’t stand out at all. Or that I wasn’t perceived as weird. But at a certain point in time, I discovered who I was. And fashion came naturally after that point, because all of a sudden I needed to find different forms of expression. And as an artist, I was really able to say to myself, that’s what I am. “I am an artist.” And it’s a hard thing to come to, right? Because it’s this sense of shame in it. You’re like oh, well I can’t say I’m an artist because I’m not Meryl Streep...yet!