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Interview: Dylan Sloane opens up about his role in ‘Grease: Rise of the Pink Ladies’

‘Grease: Rise of the Pink Ladies’ is one of 2023’s most-anticipated shows and last week the first two episodes were released on Paramount+.

A prequel to the original 1978 film, which starred Olivia Newton-John and John Travolta, the series explores the origins of the Pink Ladies as four high school students band together to change the way they, and women, are treated. Dylan Sloane is part of the expansive cast, playing Neil one of the Socs that is friends with Buddy (Jason Schmidt), the on/off boyfriend of lead character, and leader of the Pink Ladies, Jane (Jane Facciano).

I caught up with Dylan to find out about landing a part in the show, discuss the incredible production values, and to talk about his ‘jerk’ of a character Neil…

Having been a ‘Grease’ fan my entire life, I was a bit nervous about this show but I’m pleased to say I really enjoyed the first two episodes…

Oh great! I think we were all nervous going into this because it’s such a beloved IP and it’s such a classic, but it was really handled with ultimate care and love for the original. I think it turned out pretty great.

You can tell the show was made by people who were fans of the original film, and even the divisive ‘Grease 2’. I felt like I was in the same world as those films. What was it like to get into 50s costumes and step into that world?

It was a lot actually. It took a while to dive in, looking at old videos of like kids in the 50s and what it was like, and what the music was like, and what the slang was like; it gives you a better idea of what life in the 50s was. When you put on the costume and you see everybody else in the 50s garb, you just sink into it. It was a fun little process for sure.

The recreation of the drive-in that appears in the first episode is amazing. It took me right back to the original film. What was it like to walk onto sets like that?

That was insane. It was a five-day night shoot. Three of those days was just for that opening sequence so it took a long time but as you can see it pays off. That’s an incredible opening sequence. It was nuts being there. They had 80+ vintage original cars from the 50s that were era appropriate. It was just nuts the scale of this show.

We’re two episodes into the first season and we’ve seen a bit of Neil, your character, so far. I think it’s fair to say he’s not the nicest guy…

Definitely not!

How would you describe the character?

Neil… I think he’s the loudmouth bully that thinks he’s a class clown but he can only make himself laugh. That’s kind of Neil’s stick.

I know you can’t reveal too much but is it safe to assume that Neil’s behaviour is going to get worse as the season progresses?

Yeah… I think you’re just gonna have to watch and see but I don’t think you’re that far off, honestly. Stay tuned and you’ll see how his character develops.

One of the things I’ve found interesting so far is the friendship between Buddy and Neil. They are very different characters and you can tell Buddy is pulled between the Socs and the Pink Ladies. What can you tell me about that relationship between those two characters?

That was something that we talked about, the history of the relationship between the two because they are such contrasting characters right off the bat. They have been friends for such a long time and that’s why they’re still together. They’re really quite different characters. In terms of how Neil may influence Buddy, there’s not too much I can say, again you’re just gonna have to watch and see how that plays out. It’s true what they say, you are who you surround yourself with.

There was a pretty wide casting call for this show. What did it feel like when you got the call to tell you that you were going to be a part of it?

It was an amazing, amazing feeling. It was just under three months, the whole audition process. I went up for quite a few different roles in the show and quite a few rounds of auditions. Ecstatic is probably the best word to describe it. I was at the gym and I remember giving out a big squeal of excitement. People were looking at me and I felt very uncomfortable but I was just so excited to hear the news. Just so happy.

This show is a huge priority for Paramount+ and the biggest original they’ve done so far. With that, I imagine there’s a lot of pressure. How are you feeling now the show has launched?

Because I went to the premiere and I got to see it before it aired, I felt great. When you see all the hard work that went into creating the show and how it turned out, you feel amazing because it you really see it was worth it – all that work that everybody put in really created this beautiful show. The day before my first day of shooting I was so nervous and driving to set I was so nervous. It’s the biggest show I’ve ever worked on in terms of cast and crew. The call sheet was just huge (due to) the amount of people who were working on this set. I was very nervous but after the first week it just becomes normal.

Dylan Sloane
Credit: Jenna Berman

With a role like this, there’s more to it than simply turning up and acting. You have to learn choreography and there’s songs to record too. What was that side of things like?

Yeah, Saturdays and Sundays (were) dance rehearsals. We’d do eight hour days for the rehearsals on the weekends depending on how many dances were going on. It was a lot. I’m not necessarily a trained dancer so that was very difficult for me but there’s so many talented people on set, and so many amazing dancers that during lunch break if you need some help you just ask someone and they’ll break down the dance for you. It really helped being on set with so many talented people because there was just a really great community and everybody brought each other up, you know? It was a lot of work. Those rehearsals were crazy but it was really cool. It was a really great experience.

You sing and songwrite outside of the show so I imagine that side was easier for you to get to grips with?

Yeah, definitely. That’s less nerve wracking for me, for sure, the music aspect, which I didn’t get to do too much in this first season. Season two – we don’t know (if it’s going to happen but) fingers crossed. The dancing was definitely nerve-wracking, to say the least.

What has been the most challenging aspect of playing Neil and being a part of this show?

Being mean to so many great people (laughs) you know because everyone on set is just so nice and so great. To be that much of a jerk to everybody hurts a little bit inside but it’s also fun – don’t tell anyone, I have a little bit of a good time being a bit of an asshole so it’s a double-edged sword. That and the dancing. The dancing was tough. There were some tricky numbers in the show for sure.

Being able to play the jerk, I would think is the most fun character. No one remembers the nice guys do they?

That’s what I think right? I’ve gotten some messages from people where it’s like, ‘oh my God, you’re such an asshole’… all these people who are not happy with the character and that makes me feel great because (it means) I did my job. He’s not really that much of a likable guy from the onset of the show. It is fun to play the jerk.

The fan reaction to the show has been loud. I’ve seen so much stuff since the first two episodes dropped last week. How are you feeling about that?

Really good, (it’s been) really great positive feedback. People are excited and hungry for more, which is nice to see. I’m glad that we’re doing it on a weekly release because it’s really keeping the hype up and people just can’t wait for the next episode to drop. It’s been great so far.

I’m not going to lie to you, waiting for episode three is killing me…

Isn’t it? We just want it now. I wish we got it all at once but it’s good. It’s testing our patience. It’s good for us.

I promised myself I wouldn’t binge both episodes in one sitting and what did I do? Watched them in one go…

It’s impossible not to, it’s too tough the show’s just too good. It’s just too good to show.

What else do you have in the pipeline?

I’ve got an episode of ‘Creepshow’ coming out on Shudder, which should be out in the next month. Later today, I’m going to do a recording for this video game I’m working on. I can’t talk (too much) about that but that should be fine.

And hopefully there’ll be plenty more ‘Grease: Rise of the Pink Ladies’?

Yeah, exactly. Fingers crossed.

‘Grease: Rise of the Pink Ladies’ is available to stream on Paramount+. New episodes drop in the UK on Fridays. Watch the trailer for the show below:

Pip Ellwood-Hughes
Pip Ellwood-Hughes
Pip is the Editor of Entertainment Focus and the Managing Director of agency Piñata Media.

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