Actor Corey Fogelmanis breaks down his “PrankMe” character and the real-life consequences of thirst for social media stardom with Teenplicity.
***SPOILERS FOR SEASON ONE OF “PRANKME” BELOW***
Best known for his role as Farkle Minkus on Disney Channel’s “Girl Meets World”, Corey Fogelmanis emerges onto the post-Disney scene with a show that is dark, thrilling, and thought-provoking.
Having played the nice, smart, and all-around entertaining character for years, the actor looked forward to doing a project that was different from everything he had done before. He had been looking for over a year when the audition for “PrankMe” caught his attention. “I was super pumped just because of the subject matter, the tone, the freedom that this type of character would give me on set,” he enthuses. “I was super excited about it.”
Describing his new series as a social commentary/satire about present day prank culture, Corey goes onto say, “Specifically, the show is about a YouTuber named Jasper Perkins who initially turns to the Internet for the attention he feels he deserves.” Always striving for bigger, better, and more subscribers, his character begins down a winding road of bad decisions and extreme consequences as he loses his grip on reality for the fame he is rewarded with. “As the show goes on, the audience becomes aware that his disregard for others can go very wrong, very fast.”
Audiences get the pleasure of watching Corey come into his own right as a talented actor, taking the helm and steering viewers into a head-on collision of Jasper’s life. Captivating and frustrating all at once, fans will want Jasper to come to his senses and stop this madness all the while wondering just how far he would actually go.
He kind of blindly goes along with whatever they say and they kind of blindly go along with what he does so it’s this really toxic relationship between fan and ‘celebrity’ that we explore there.
“It’s dark but it’s a fun one,” he says of the show’s take on prank culture and social media.
The high energy, in-your-face atmosphere that Jasper carries with him through every video is far from Corey in everyday life, given his more quiet attitude and also his scarce appearances on social media. Director Hazel Hayes sent him a list of references to help him get into character, something he remembers as being really helpful. “Some prank YouTubers and then also some films and articles to kind of saturate my brain in that kind of world because I’m not really part of that,” he explains. “So it was really cool to step into something I’m not a part of in my life.”
Continuing to discuss the differences between himself and Jasper, Corey reflects on his character’s manipulative nature and disregard for taking blame for his actions – something that Jasper’s subscribers constantly fuel.
“I think those character traits [are] the main things that fuel him. He is extremely manipulative – he’ll get whatever he wants.” Corey examples the way he interacts with people, gets them to do what he wants, and then casts them aside after. “I think the way he manipulates people is probably one of the main parts of his character that is responsible for why things go down and how things go down. Also not taking blame and the amount of credit he gives his viewers when it comes to comments – this sort of egging on of this destructive, obnoxious behavior. He really values what they say.”
This drastic codependency that leads to Jasper’s future actions is first seen following the suicide attempt by his fan Carla, who he included in a prank video and later humiliated. Due to her actions, he makes a video saying he might quit pranks and asks for the opinions of his fans. It is their overwhelming enthusiasm and support that he returns to making pranks, getting darker and more daring with each one as he watches the view counts rise.
He cares but not because he really valued the friendship, he valued what he got out of it.
Corey points out this craving for attention that his character has and how he deals with that through social media. “For multiple reasons, he doesn’t have much of that at home, he doesn’t have friends. He doesn’t really have anything other than [YouTube] so he places a really high value on what they have to say. He kind of blindly goes along with whatever they say and they kind of blindly go along with what he does so it’s this really toxic relationship between fan and ‘celebrity’ that we explore there.”
The inspiration for that came from real life situations. In media, there have been multiple instances, across different sectors of entertainment and social platforms, in which people will do just about anything for recognition and devote fans will refuse to acknowledge any wrongdoing.
“We’re kind of seeing that now. We’re seeing obviously people in particular who are doing really reckless, destructive things, that aren’t helping society and they’re not really doing anything except being a nuisance,” expresses Corey. “I don’t really know if there’s a limit to the things these people would do but as we see in the show, there’s not really a limit to Jasper and I don’t really think that the show is that much of an exaggeration.”
He continues to reinforce this fact by the news that this is actually happening on social media. “Some of this stuff we have actually taken from actual videos and things like that,” he says. “People are actually dying – it’s kind of crazy – so I don’t think there’s a limit to the stuff some of these people will do.” Corey even confesses, “I think part of that is people are willing to support their idols or ‘favs’ and kind of have this blind, ‘can-do-no-wrong’ view of these people they support so anything they do, they’re completely loyal, even if it’s awful.”
The conflicts within Jasper as well as his dynamic with his fans were particularly enticing to Corey. “He’s super interesting and that’s another one of my favorite parts of the project – just how complex the character was.”
These two traits of Jasper continue to play out in multiple ways throughout the series. The lack of concern for his actions leads to blaming others around him. Whether it is his friends, family, cops, the world, Jasper can never be seen taking the blame onto his shoulders, no matter how drastic that consequence has been. Also, his manipulation doesn’t just stop at the people he uses to complete his videos. It passes along to the viewers, as he tries to showcase himself being sorrowful over what his actions led to, garnering sympathy from those who watch him. As a viewer of the series, one has to wonder if they are being manipulated as well, unsure if some of Jasper’s emotions are genuine or not.
It was super freeing to be able to play somebody who doesn’t really have any boundaries.
“I’m not sure,” Corey admits himself when asked if his character has any regret over the fates of new friend Asif or fan Carla, both of whom found their untimely demise due to Jasper’s pranks. “There are a couple lines in the show where he says he feels bad about it or regrets it and the only reason I bring that up is because while we were on set, we always talked about what he really means and what he’s just saying for attention.”
He says that so much of what his character expresses, Jasper doesn’t really mean, but he thinks it goes both ways.
“He cares but not because he really valued the friendship, he valued what he got out of it,” explains Corey. “Asif was his hype-man so he enjoyed that attention, but I don’t think he really valued him for more than that.”
However, the concept and complexity of Jasper’s feelings and his sincerity was as interesting to discuss off-screen as it was to portray on-screen. “That was something we definitely played around a lot, like what he means and what he doesn’t mean as he goes through everything.”
Jasper does go through a lot throughout season one as audiences watch his downward spiral. What had once started as channel featuring videos where he pranked his sister Sienna, Jasper broadened his horizons from pranking fans in extreme situations to tricking his friends into situations that ultimately killed them, under the guise of proving a point. There are no boundaries for Jasper’s pranks, his desire for revenge, and his thirst for more and more fame. As his channel gets taken down and the FBI looks for him due to his actions, Jasper seems to thrive. The live news feeds covering him, other YouTubers giving their opinions, and even his own family pleading for him to stop only fuels him further.
The last prank of the season finds Jasper’s family as the targets once more. He stands crazed before them with a gun, forcing them into a ‘family game night’ as they all are in shock and hesitant to set him off if they don’t comply. Audiences are left wondering how far gone Jasper is to put his family in this situation or what he might be capable of doing to his own blood.
“I honestly don’t know. I haven’t spent much time thinking about it,” Corey says when asked to think about his character’s future. “We end it on a cliff hanger so that could be the end of the story, it could not be. We’ll just have to see but I liked the way we finished it off for season one because it kind of leaves it open to interpretation.”
The fan reactions have been interesting, according to Corey. Although he hasn’t heard of any fan theories for the show – besides the one Teenplicity found online and shared with him which wondered if maybe Sienna could have been a co-conspirator on everything – he particularly thinks of the reactions from those who followed him from “Girl Meets World” to this.
“Just the way they’ve perceived it and supported me and given me room to grow has been really cool,” expresses the actor. “The fan support’s been really awesome.”
Thinking of the switch from Farkle to Jasper, Corey appreciates the differences between the two, especially the style of acting. “As an actor, it was so much,” he says of the change. “It was super freeing to be able to play somebody who doesn’t really have any boundaries. So much of the character and everything, we found on set.” He credits it to the way “PrankMe” was shot, which was him holding a DSLR most of the time, due to the story being told through first-person by Jasper’s vlogs. “I had room to improvise,” he says of this. “I kind of did what I wanted. Hazel and the rest of the crew let me do whatever I want for the most part. We had a script, it was the structure of the scene, but if I wanted to go off – which I usually did – I did that. So the freedom that this character and this show allowed me to have was so different from anything I’ve done before, specifically ‘Girl Meets World’. I think the structure of the show and the character and everything was very freeing and it challenged me a lot. That was super exciting for me as an actor.”
That was a whole other challenge but it was really cool.
Another challenge that came with portraying Jasper was the fact he carried that DSLR around constantly, feeling the need to document his everyday life in addition to his pranks. “It was really interesting,” says Corey of having to play a character that way.
“When we were on set, Hazel who is actually a YouTuber herself – she has a YouTube channel that she does a bunch of film-related stuff on – she was super helpful in kind of being comfortable getting on camera and holding the camera. [She] helped me develop a style for Jasper.” The style, which becomes slightly more crazed and unsteady as Jasper unravels throughout the season, is nearly a character of its own as the camera quite literally feels attached to Jasper.
“Something we talked about on set was the camera was almost like an extension of my body. So if I wanted to emphasize a particular thing, I would shake the camera or bring it up close to my face or the way that I was moving the camera was almost like the way I’d be moving my arm,” he explains. “In a way, it’d be a little bit restricting but also I think it makes the cinematography super interesting because it’s directly related to how I’m feeling. Because his energy levels are all over the place, the camerawork could reflect that.”
It was so interesting adjusting to being that big every day.
While some actors may dread taking on this responsibility or not enjoy it, Corey recalls the experience to be really, really fun. “I got to worry about all my acting notes and everything that was going on in my head but then I also had to keep track of where the camera was supposed to be in specific parts and try to make it realistic.” Though it sounds like a lot, Corey’s voice oozes with enjoyment over the recall of filming. “That was a whole other challenge but it was really cool.”
His portrayal of Jasper may have opened the eyes to some viewers on what they’ve posted online but Corey so far has no regrets. “I think I’ve been pretty happy with everything that I’ve posted,” he says with a laugh. “I don’t think it really made me look at the Internet or anything in a different way,” he begins to explain. “It was just such a different experience for me that there weren’t any preconceived notions about the Internet, so it was just a huge learning process; it wasn’t really redefining anything that I already felt. It was all new.”
What was new for Corey was the intensity that came with portraying Jasper. On these specific, more intense days, he found it to be a bit more difficult to break character following cut.
“For some of the days, I kind of stayed in character most of the day because it was easier to stay in it through lunch and between takes than getting in and out of it,” he reveals. Corey had some help getting out of character thanks to his awesome acting coach, Rebecca Hewett, who he praises to be really, really great. “We’d spend a lot of time at the beginning of the day and the end of the day talking about not only what we were doing that day and what was happening in Jasper’s life but what I would be doing later in the day and where I wanted to go for dinner and things like that, to help differentiate myself from the character.” It was a little bit of a process, according to Corey, but a great one in which he learned a lot about himself as well as himself as an actor. “It was really cool.”
Despite the care that went into getting in and out of character for Jasper each day on set, the most challenging aspect of filming “PrankMe” was keeping up the stamina throughout the day.
“[Jasper is] all over the place and before we started shooting, we broke down each episode and different moments in the script according to the energy levels, where he was at each time so when we went to shoot it, I’d know specifically where he was in his arc because we wanted to make sure his arc stayed intact,” reveals the actor. He recalls keeping track of where Jasper was in each scene, energy-wise, to be a challenge. “Also throughout each day, I think just keeping it up – it was just really tiring,” he continues about the stamina it took to hype up Jasper’s big personality and actions.
Corey reflects this to real life and how the energy levels of most social media personalities are so high. “That’s so different from me and my real life,” he confesses. With a laugh, he admits, “It was so interesting adjusting to being that big every day.”
Due to the toll it took on the cast to perform these grand gestures and actions, life on set was pretty relaxed when the camera stopped rolling. “There wasn’t really anything, actually,” reveals Corey when a fan pondered if they played any light pranks behind the scenes. “I think because we were doing so much on-camera, so many pranks, so much awful stuff, whenever we weren’t rolling, we kind of just all wanted to sit down and not really do anything.” Filming on location in London allotted them multiple tea breaks, which helped to keep the atmosphere much more calming. “Whenever we weren’t shooting, we tried to relax and that sort of thing. There weren’t really any pranks.”
Something fun for fans to wonder about though is the aspect of Corey taking on another role in the series. When asked which other character he would play if given the chance, he laughs and admits, “Oh geez, I don’t even know.” He takes a moment to think before continuing, “It wouldn’t really work now but I think playing Jasper’s dad would be really interesting. He just could not care less about his son and I think that’s such a weird approach to parenting.” The intrigue is clear in Corey’s voice, as if he’s already calculating the kind of mindset someone needs to be like that. “That would be really cool to kind of inhabit that kind of person. So probably Jasper’s dad.”
With all the conversations that “PrankMe” has started up, it’s no doubt that it will influence at least some of its users on their social media usage in a better light. For Corey, he’s still thinking about how he hopes to influence his fans through his social media.
“What I try to do on social media, when I use it – I don’t use it a lot,” he admits, “is just try to be myself. I think if that’s something people can take away from it, that’s great.” Corey continues to express, “I think just being positive and fighting for things that I believe in, and being myself. If that’s something that somebody can take away from my online presence, then that’s great.”
One can only picture Corey giving a shrug as he laughs and says, “I’m just trying to do me.”
Watch all eight episodes of “PrankMe” on Fullscreen now through January!
***ABOVE PHOTO CREDIT TO CATIE LAFFOON