We recently had the chance to talk to Tyler Lawrence Gray about his role as Harlan on Wolf Pack, portraying an LGBTQ+ character, what he hopes to achieve in his career and more. Check out our full interview below.
Note: This interview has been edited for clarity.
Nerds & Beyond: You’ve made a transition over to acting from social media. How has that transition been for you, and have you gotten any tips from your more seasoned cast mates like Sarah [Michelle Gellar] or Rodrigo [Santoro]?
Gray: So, by the time I started social media, I was already training and acting. I was like really new at it; it was like my first year of acting. I wanted to become an actor, but I knew it wasn’t just gonna come with like the snap of a finger. And, also, with quarantine and stuff, I was like, “All right, social media is gaining a lot of popularity.” So I was like, you know what? Screw it. I’m going to try TikTok, let’s see what I can do. And it was actually fun! It taught me how to really entertain people creatively, whether you are making relatable, funny content, deep content, or anything like that. It was sort of like training my mind, like “What do certain people like to see and what gets the most engagement?” I guess I can tie that a little into acting because, you know, working with Sarah and Rodrigo, they taught me a lot of things that I realized people do like to see and what people don’t like to see.
It can be as specific as your head tilting or blinking in a scene. Studying that kind of stuff to me is beautiful in the acting world because like it’s true, you can tell exactly how someone’s feeling, just by the way they’re like blinking or even breathing, flaring their nostrils or you know, blinking a lot because they’re thinking or they’re stressed out. Sarah and Rodrigo … they’ve mastered it at this point. So being able to work with them and get that hand-on-hand training from them was like doing a summer camp at the best acting studio that there could be.
So, I want to give you props. I am bisexual myself. So seeing a queer character as a lead on a television show like this means a lot because we’re often relegated to supporting roles or just kind of background roles. We haven’t seen many queer relationships like this on television. So I just wanted to give you props for everything that you’ve been able to do with Harlan so far.
Thank you so much. It’s been such an honor doing that for the community as well, just because I know that Jeff really wanted to make a character like this. A very standout and strong separation that your sexuality does not define who you are. Harlan is still exactly the same as all the other characters and you know, just because he’s gay, it doesn’t even change anything. Jeff just continues to build romance in a storyline, and I’m so happy to see that, especially the reaction of people online. Just as an artist seeing characters like that going through different emotions — especially love and romance –seeing that work effectively on camera is beautiful. So I’m thrilled that you appreciate that. It’s an honor, honestly.
Were you worried about how some may respond to you accepting the role?
I’m just telling a story, and I know that there is a lot at stake, especially with a character like this, sending the message that Harlan has so far. Obviously, everyone online will not agree with you just because everyone has their own opinions and their experiences with that kind of thing. So I really can’t blame anyone for how they feel about this character. But as my job as an actor, I was like, “I need to tell this story the best way I can.” And honestly, the bigger reaction it gets online, in my opinion, the more successful I was at telling the story. So, as far as that, again, it’s just one part of such a layered character. His sexuality really doesn’t define him just like my sexuality doesn’t define me, just like anybody’s doesn’t. But I still had a lot of fun playing this character. But as far as being scared, I think the only thing I was scared about was when as I was about to book it they were like, “Just warning you, there might be partial nudity.” I was just like, “Oh my God. Is my butt really going to be on camera?” And what do you know? It is. So we’re not scared of anything anymore! [laughs]
What was it like working with Zack [Nelson] to bring this queer relationship with Harlan and Cyrus to life? I’m all in on Harlan and Cyrus! Or, Cylan, as I think the fandom calls it.
That’s actually funny. After we were shooting all of our scenes we were like, “I wonder what our ship name’s going to be.” Is it going to be Hyrus or Cyrlan or Cylan? We had no idea. It’s kind of two names that are hard to merge. Zack is one of the chillest, coolest people I know. As soon as I met him I was like, we are about to create one of the best on-screen relationships there is because just like how I felt, Zack was willing to do anything it took to develop what you guys have seen so far.
So I was all the more ready to do this with him, because I really respect him as an actor and as a person. And honestly, we have a lot in common. We’re still really good friends to this day.
So you did mention Jeff Davis and obviously, he worked on Teen Wolf, and I know you’ve talked about being a super big fan of that show. Given the popularity of werewolves across all forms of media, did you take inspiration from any of them for your role as Harlan?
Yeah. I thought they were all really cool, but I knew that with Wolf Pack, Jeff wanted to make something completely new. So I actually read a lot online about like the story of like lichen throat and the actual Wolfman, just to see if there were any slight physical attributes or mental attributes this Wolfman would sort of do. I wanted to make Harlan slightly animalistic. I like how charismatic and sort of careless he is sometimes, because it does show, well he is half-wolf! So, sometimes he won’t think, he’s just going to act with instinct. I like that he and Luna butt heads. It kind of represents a dysfunctional family dynamic. Every family goes through that, so I had a lot of fun creating my version of this werewolf in my head.
As far as the animalistic side of Harlan, we’ve seen that a lot in recent episodes, especially. One of my favorite scenes is when all of you guys are together, and Harlan is upset with Garrett about Cyrus getting taken away and as a pack, you’re just feeding off of each other.
Thank you. It’s funny that you say that, because that was one of my favorite scenes, if not my favorite scene, too. We did that scene, believe it or not, for a full day. We shot that scene, and I cried so many times, and it honestly felt so good.
Personally, one thing I really struggled with in my journey as an actor was making myself cry, because I thought it was this talent that people had where it’s just like flip the switch, tear. And then I worked in person with someone like Rodrigo, and him just being so present and looking at me, I was really able to connect this idea in my head of, “Wow, what if I punched my real dad in the face?” That would upset me so much. Me and my dad have a great relationship, and to betray him after all he’s done for me, after all the care he’s taken and how much he’s protected me to just sort of throw that all back in his face. That had me crying immediately, and I was able to do take after take after take with the crying.
There are a lot of adrenaline-pumping scenes in the series, and one that immediately comes to mind is the pack trying to save the woman in the crash in episode 5. For some reason, the image of Harlan speeding off is so funny. [laughs] Were you able to do most of your own stunts?
There was pretty much only one stunt that I couldn’t do, and it’s in episode 7 when Harlan gets launched into the wall, that was not me. They told me that was a very dangerous stunt. And I was like, you know what? You’re right. That looks very painful. I would rather sit that one out. I was tempted, and then I saw the stunt double do it, and I went up to him after like, “Did that hurt, bro?” And he was like, “Yeah, kinda.”
But yeah, the funny thing about the driving stuff is it looks so hectic because they cut from like an overhead of the car actually driving to us. We didn’t actually drive the car. Except for when it was obviously like a slow, safe pace, but it is funny that the energy of us just yelling at each other and being all over the place gives off the vibe that we were like flying. [laughs]. I asked the director, “He’s hitting like 80, 90 down these streets, right?” He’s like, “Oh yeah, no, he’s pedal to the metal.” So I made sure when I would make sharp turns we were all talking about it like “All right guys, when I turn this way, everyone whip your head this way!”
Aside from Teen Wolf are there any other supernatural shows or films you enjoy?
I loved The Vampire Diaries. That show is kind of before its time. Just the subtle CGI that they would put on the faces with the veins; I thought that was just really neat. And the characters too, all of those people are extremely talented actors, and those characters were very compelling. Another show that’s very grounded and real yet ties into the supernatural aspect. So I really like that. I honestly love a lot of supernatural. Lucifer. All of that stuff. Actually, my cousin is in a show called Evil, which is also on Paramount+.
I also heard you’re starring in an independent film called Feeling Randy, can you talk a bit about that?
So I actually did that film before I even shot Wolf Pack. I did it around this time last year, and I shot it about a week before I found out I booked Wolf Pack. On the last day of shooting, I got the news that I booked Wolf Pack, and I told the rest of the cast and the director, “I have some big news that I wanna tell you guys, but I can’t.” And the lead, Reid Miller, he goes, “You booked Wolf Pack, didn’t you?” And I was like, “Um, no, I’m still waiting to hear back on that!” but I knew! It was so hard to not tell anyone.
Anyways, about Feeling Randy, that’s a really cool project as well. It’s kind of this journey of a young boy in the seventies discovering his sexuality. Through that journey, along comes my character at some point to help him figure this out with all of their friends.
My character ignites this little trip that they go on basically, and it’s hilarious, super comedic. But the entire movie’s actually sort of darker. So I think my character brings a good sense of levity along with the other characters that come along as well. I don’t know when that movie’s coming out, but I hope at some point this year. It was hilarious to shoot and I had a great time. That was actually my first time working on a set before Wolf Pack, so it was a great little experience before I hopped into the big leagues, you know?
We’re all hoping Wolf Pack gets picked up for a second season, is there something you’d like to integrate or explore more in-depth with Harlan? I feel like there’s so much left unexplored. On the show, at least.
I like that you asked that, because that’s something I’ve actually been thinking about a lot lately. I really hope we can do a season 2, because now I fully understand who Harlan is as a person. You know, the first season, I think with anybody’s character, you’re sort of figuring it out as it goes along. And also our timeline isn’t that far, so far. It hasn’t been like months or years. Everything’s pretty close together since the beginning of the story. People will understand what I mean by this once they see the final episode.
But Harlan has a lot of figuring out to do and a lot to overcome outside of his romantic life. I feel like people right now just see Harlan as the boy who’s just hungry for romance or passion with a significant other or just an other. He sort of goes back and forth with that stuff. But people are going to be pretty shocked by the last episode. I really want to focus on Harlan’s internal struggles that he has to sort of battle and deal with. I’m really excited just thinking about a season 2. So I hope it comes out, because I just want everyone to know that I am still working very hard as an actor, and I am going to bring it again.
Finally, moving on from Wolf Pack, what are some of your biggest career goals that you hope to achieve?
I’ve thought about this a lot. Probably the last year before I really worked or did Wolf Pack, I was like, “I wanna be a superhero.” I still would love to be a superhero. DC, Marvel, any of that, that would be so cool. But after shooting Wolf Pack, I mean, if I’m not a superhero, I’m pretty close. Like I get to play a half-human, half-animal, sort of heroic character in the story. Just because he doesn’t have a mask in a cape, he’s fighting for his own. But as far as other projects, I really want to expand my work and sort of show what kind of depth I have as an actor, because I see some of these actors that I look up to, like Jake Gyllenhaal, Chris Pratt, or some of the older actors like Anthony Hopkins. They’re so specific with each character to where you’re like, how did they do that? How much time did they put into those projects? I want to do that. I want to be able to dive so deep into these characters that people are like, “Wow. I didn’t even realize that was Tyler.” I’m actually in the midst of a project right now, and it’s very different from Wolf Pack. But specifically in the future, I would love to do a war movie. I feel like that could be really impactful. I would love to play an athlete as well, because I used to be an athlete in high school, and I want to live vicariously through my high school self again!
You know what I could really see you doing because you brought up superheroes, if they ever did like a Nightwing —
People have been saying that! People have been tweeting at me saying that!
You would make a great [Dick Grayson]!
Why is that? Do I look like the comic version?
I think so, but also just your vibe. Like I know that they [James Gunn and DC] want to go for younger actors as well. So I think you could pull it off.
Thank you. I mean, I’ve gotten some buzz on social media about that. So you all are manifesting it for me!
We should start a hashtag!
Yeah. Honestly, #TylerAsNightWing or something like that. I would love that. Are you kidding me? That would literally be absolutely insane!
The first seven episodes of Wolf Pack are available to stream on Paramount+. The season finale airs next Thursday. Stay tuned for our recaps and upcoming content and be sure to follow Gray on social media, including Twitter, TikTok, and Instagram.