Actor Chase Stokes Will Ignite Your Inner-Explorer on Netflix’s Outer Banks
The rising star tells VMAN about his experiences filming the highly acclaimed series and his intentions with his growing platform.
Actor Chase Stokes is undoubtedly convincing as John B, the charming-yet-mischievous ring-leader he embodies in Netflix’s Outer Banks; with his innate eye for exploration and his dashing, beach-dwelling aesthetic, not to mention his expertise in both surfing and boating, Stokes is exactly the type to embark on an epic, at-sea adventure, as John B does in search of his long-lost father’s sunken ship in the young adult series. While the resemblance seems uncanny, the 27-year-old actor admits that there are several nuances in his own personal upbringing that were re-imagined and charged from his past for the creation of his character. “I grew up surfing [at Florida’s Cocoa Beach] and getting myself in trouble,” he says. “I was sneaking into hotels to use their pools, using my fake ID to get margaritas while I was at the beach with my friends, you know, stuff like that.” In actuality, Stokes’ daring, on-screen persona aligns closely with his once rebellious, real-life identity, an intentional choice made by both the producers and the actor himself in pre-production. “We really wanted to make sure that there was an authenticity in the grounding of the character so a lot of [my personal attributes] were translated into John B.”
On landing the self-reflective lead role, Stokes recalls his initial meeting with the series’ showrunner Jonas Pate, an interaction that made the whole experience feel entirely meant to be. When Stokes first arrived in Charleston for final casting decisions, Pate was unaware of the budding actor’s extensive surfing experience. Stokes confidently affirmed his wave-riding mastery, a craft which he’s perfected through his entire adolescence, and Pate recoiled with questions concerning his experience on boats. In response, Stokes casually pulled out his boating license and told him, “I grew up on the water.” In that singular exchange, fate dictated Stokes’ destiny to play John B, and the two took to the ground running from there. “I think Jonas saw a lot of his nostalgic childhood memories in me,” Stokes explains. “He immediately took me under his wing and started showing me everything that he knew.”
Immersed in South Carolina’s ecosystems for the majority of the show’s filming, Stokes immediately fell into the Outer Banks universe as soon as he stepped out of his trailer, but there was something magical about John B’s wardrobe that provided him with a panoramic transformation. “With John B, as soon as I put on his bandana and his converse, I would feel like I was falling into his world right then and there,” he says. One simple-yet-distinct accessory and a beat-up pair of Chuck Taylor’s held an otherworldly, metamorphic power for Stokes, a sensation so vital in his journey of fully encompassing the complex psyche of his character.
To provide context, John B’s mother bailed to Colorado when he was three years old and his father was presumed dead at-sea 9 months prior to the pilot, so it’s safe to say that the 16-year-old protagonist was dealt a rough hand in life. For the lead actor, inhabiting that foreign mindset was the most daunting aspect of taking on the role, especially since John B convinces himself that his father is still alive, so Stokes focused on finding a middle ground where he could mentally conceal his emotions. “I think that ability to create a false reality and think that both of your parents are somehow, someway, going to come back to you is a really dark place to go,” he explains. “Trying to balance that darkness was something I really kept in mind the entire season, whether it was masking it with bravado in a specific scene or trying to rely on my friends and using them as a backbone.” Delving into uncharted mental territory, Stokes layered John B’s emotional trauma with variations of typical coping mechanisms, a tactic that becomes increasingly more evident as the series progresses.
Atop his familial turmoil and expedition to find his father, John B. engages in an adventurous romance with the effervescent queen bee of the Kooks (the wealthy, upper-class members of the Outer Banks) Sarah Cameron, played by Madelyn Cline. Ahead of filming, Stokes and Cline made sure to build a true friendship before touching the script to ensure that their love story came across as authentic as possible. Stokes’ off-camera relationship with Cline was an incredibly important factor of his preparation process, and it certainly informed the ways in which he interacted with her on-camera. “You have to know what’s going to make [the person you’re working with] tick,” he explains. “You have to know what makes them laugh, what’s going to make them cry. In particular, there’s a scene later in the season where I got pretty intense and I knew how to push her buttons. I didn’t realize it, but after the third take, I had actually made her cry. She was scared of me because of what I had created.” It’s those raw moments informed by the actors’ real emotions that bring the made-up world of Outer Banks to life in a highly relatable manner.
Looking back at the experience of filming the entire series, Stokes hopes for his contributions to leave viewers with two overarching messages; the first is the importance of true friendship. “I think the most important thing to me is being truthful with your friends and finding a friend group that you can truly be yourself with,” he says. “And I think especially for the younger generation, we’ve lost that true art of friendship and everything is so hyper-focused on social media and on our image and what we project out into society versus just being present with the people around us.” The show’s creators intentionally removed phone usage from the plot to place a strong emphasis on the fortitude of John B’s friendship with his Pogue crew, an unbreakable bond that unfortunately seems to be lacking in the modern age.
Second, Stokes emphasizes the importance of treating women with respect. As John B develops a relationship with Sarah, the actor admires the consideration his character shows towards a female as a young man and notes the weight of that lesson’s inclusion in young adult entertainment. “John B. respects Sarah’s boundaries and he respects the way that she wants to go about the things that she wants,” he says. “I don’t think we see enough of that in today’s world for younger guys to look at.” Setting an example for the next generation, Stokes’ on-screen performance will certainly inform the psychological development of young audiences, a key factor which he’s taken into consideration with his growing platform outside the show as well.
In the few weeks following the show’s debut, Stokes’ social media presence has grown exponentially, and he’s utilizing his newfound platform to speak on the importance of mental health. Just last week, the rising star stepped into a middle school Zoom class to speak with students about their experiences with anxiety and depression in an effort to normalize those kinds of conversations and motivate children to have an open dialogue about their issues. “I’ve dealt with anxiety and a little bit of depression, and I’ve had experiences in my life that I’ve had PTSD from,” he says. “I want to really champion the fact that it’s okay to accept the fact that anxiety and depression are a normal thing that younger kids are going through. We need to be open about the fight with mental health, and I’m in a position to use my platforms for that.”
With the show’s booming success and the insanity of today’s current climate, Stokes takes a final moment to reflect on his ultimate goals in life. “I want to be remembered for being somebody in this industry who feels like they can be a friend or somebody that doesn’t feel unobtainable,” he says. “I want to be remembered as somebody that’s been open about their struggles and be a true beacon of somebody who’s worked hard. I came out here with a car full of stuff and worked my way through it. There have been nights where I’ve slept in my car. There have been nights where I’ve wanted to go home, and I’ve been open about all of that.” A manifestation of the age-old mantra “never give up,” Chase Stokes, just like his character John B, proves that with dedication, hard work and a will to succeed, truly anything can be accomplished.