While Frankie Grande used YouTube to rise to fame eight years ago, the 37-year-old actor admits his relationship with social media wasn’t always a healthy one.
“I think social media is a double-edge sword,” Grande tells ET Canada. “It entered my life after broadway and before TV, which were pretty dark years where I would do pretty much anything for likes and subscribers. I would do tripping videos at Disney World and I would hurt myself for a laugh, and eventually I questioned why I was doing that. It was because I was so obsessed with getting a video that would get 1 million views, and of course I got it, but it took a part of my soul with it.”
“Right now my objective is to just bring love, light and laughter into any persons home that follows me,” Grande continued. “It’s a really difficult, dark time out there, so I’ve completely reframed myself so that my social media can be a place to make others smile, as well as a place to get a glimpse into my life, in hopes that it will make them feel happy, sober and strong individuals. That’s it and I’m telling you my likes and clicks came when I had purity of intention. I think it’s a wonderful thing that people can become famous at home, and it’s wonderful that you don’t have to work as hard as I did to become a famous person because that Broadway gig was really tough. But now you can do it from your living room and it’s amazing because there’s a lot of talented people out there.”
The talented folks Grande is referring to are TikTok personalities, including Charli D’Amelio, Chase Hudson and Addison Rae, who all rose the fame within the past year with their witty humour and viral dance videos uploaded to the app. But now that U.S. President Donald Trump has signed an executive order that will effectively ban TikTok from American’s devices unless it’s sold to a U.S. buyer by mid-September due to the video-sharing app’s relationship with China (ICYMI: TikTok was developed and is owned by Chinese company ByteDance), many influencers who got paid for their unique videos are starting to worry they might be soon unemployed.
“First of all, if TikTok actually gets banned, I’d be very, very surprised. I can’t imagine that actually happening, but there are other platforms out there. TikTok came out of nowhere and now all of the sudden it’s the only thing that people use so I know that something will replace it,” Grande said. “Social media is flying and this is the age of consumption, so there will always be a new platform. Don’t freak out [TikTok stars] and listen, if it does get banned, it’s COVID. Everyone has had to start over. I’m sorry, but everyone’s life has been ruined and everyone’s financial situation has been hurt so join the club and be grateful for what you do have.”
Now Grande is using his knowledge about the dangers of social media as his inspiration in Eugene Kotlyarenko’s newest thriller, “Spree”. The film follows a rideshare driver, played by “Stranger Things’” Joe Keery, who figures out a deadly plan to go viral on his social media platforms. And in order to make the film feel like a YouTuber was really going live to viewers on the dark web, the majority of the shots were filmed via the cast’s iPhones and dash cameras.
“It was absolutely bizarre because not only did we not have a crew and cameras in front of us, we didn’t have a director to look at,” Grande said. “There was no one to say go or start again. No one was in the car with us. We were literally just four actors in a car that was driving itself because it was a stunt car that did some crazy things. Honestly, half the time I was acting and the other half, I was just reacting to the fact that the car was driving like a lunatic, which was really fun. Our director was in a walkie talkie underneath the seat and would tell us to go again or ask how we felt the scene went, which was a really neat experience for me. It was almost like being in ‘Big Brother’, but in a car. And the other half of the scene, I shot on my iPhone and they actually used that footage.”
“My character Richard makes just a cameo, but it’s a very powerful one. It’s like WAM, there’s Frankie, Mischa Barton and Lala Kent. We had too much fun shooting it,” Grande continued. “But honestly, I thought I was going to be too campy [for the film]. That was my real initial reaction, but I didn’t get to see the other scenes so I had to trust Eugene, who is unbelievable, I love him. He told me to be as over the top as I want. I was nervous to see my scene, but once I saw the film I was like, ‘Oh no, I’m right in there. I’m in the money zone. This film is wild and I have elevated my level of wild to the correct level in order to be in this film.’ It was really cool to see the whole thing come together. I think it’s great.”
You can watch “Spree” in theatres, on digital and on demand on August 14.