Chase Stokes Turned Down ‘Outer Banks.’ He’s Glad He Reconsidered.
Before Chase Stokes started playing John B., the teenage treasure hunter at the center of “Outer Banks,” on Netflix, he played a fictional Hollywood manager, mass emailing talent agencies to tout an up-and-coming young actor named Chase Stokes.
He also worked as a bartender and a food photographer to make ends meet, and he spent months couch-surfing and occasionally sleeping in his 2009 BMW in the parking lot of the Ovation Hollywood (formerly Hollywood and Highland) mall as he took acting classes.
Despite his circumstances, Stokes said he initially turned down offers to audition for “Outer Banks” — it felt like a “Goonies” remake, and he didn’t want to besmirch a classic, he said. But eventually an apartment eviction notice and his car’s overheating engine and expired tags convinced him to give it a shot. He considers himself lucky that he did.
“But I think luck is when consistency and determination and hard work meet,” Stokes said.
“Outer Banks” is a teen drama about a group of attractive young adventurers (known as “pogues”) battling their island community’s rich kids (“kooks”) and chasing treasure linked to the disappearance of John B.’s father. It debuted in 2020 but broke out when its second season premiered in July 2021, becoming Netflix’s most watched English-language series globally for four weeks. A fan event to promote the third season drew more than 4,000 attendees to Huntington Beach, Calif., on Saturday, to watch performances by acts like Khalid and Lil Baby. The cast also took the stage to announce that the show had already been renewed for a fourth season.
Season 3 of “Outer Banks” begins on Thursday, following John B. and the other pogues as they take on new territory in another quest for gold after the first two seasons saw them successfully scavenge and subsequently lose treasures in the Outer Banks of North Carolina. The crew was last seen on a deserted island they had named Poguelandia, and the unexpected discovery of John B.’s presumed-dead father, Big John (played by Charles Halford), sparks a new itch to uncover yet another bounty.
In a video call from a West Hollywood hotel, Stokes talked about how he initially declined the role that has made him famous and what “Outer Banks” says about friendship and the class divide. These are edited excerpts from the conversation.
You initially turned down the “Outer Banks” audition. What convinced you to reconsider?
I really wasn’t making money as an actor up until the job that I did right before “Outer Banks,” which was a show on Amazon called “Tell Me Your Secrets.” But the money had kind of run dry from that show — I had an eviction notice on my door, the registration on my car had expired, my engine was steaming everywhere I went. I’m not a mechanic, so I didn’t know how to fix it, nor did I have the money to do so.
After declining the “Outer Banks” audition a couple of times I got a call from Lisa Fincannon, a wonderful casting director, and she said, “You need to read for this.” That was a Wednesday. Sunday came around, and I get a call and [my agent] said: “You’re getting on a plane tonight. Here’s 14 pages of dialogue. Here’s the first four episodes. You’re going to be on the very last row of a plane in the middle seat on a red eye, and you’re going to land in Charleston. The audition is right when you get off the plane.” And I did it, and the rest is history.
How would you describe “Outer Banks” to someone who hasn’t seen it?
If “Raiders of the Lost Ark” and “Scooby-Doo” had a baby, and that baby became best friends with “The Goonies.”
Was there anything about John B. that you particularly related to?
I feel like on the exterior, there are a lot of similarities. I grew up on the water; I grew up in Florida, about 30 minutes away from Cocoa Beach, so [I was familiar with] the surfing elements. I got my boater’s license before I got my driver’s license. I think one thing John B. goes through, especially in the third season, that I really related to was the anxiety of the world around him and the fear of failure. That’s something that I’ve kind of always felt, so we definitely share that.
When did you know the show was a hit?
I think it was six months after the show came out when they finally told us we were going back for the second season. During Covid, seeing hundreds and hundreds of people show up to watch us film — that was when I think we started to put two and two together.
They would follow our base camp. All of our trailers would set up in different areas of Charleston, and it would be like an alarm or a mass text would be sent out: You’d see people start to trickle in, and sometimes it’d be 20 people, sometimes it would be 2,000.
What have been some of your more interesting fan interactions?
I’ve had people who’ve fainted in front of me, and we’ve had people who have cried. I’ve had people telling me that I saved their lives, which is always interesting, to know the show has helped people through a troubling time in human history. So the range of emotions is super vast, but all equally heartwarming.
And now it’s really cool because the whole Charleston community has really accepted us, and you walk down the street or you go to a restaurant and people kind of give you a wink or a thumbs up.
Are you going to the Poguelandia event?
Where did the concert concept come from?
We haven’t had a premiere; the show never had a red carpet. We’ve worked incredibly hard to create something the world has consumed at a really crazy rate, and obviously the platform sees it, and they wanted to congratulate us. I think it’s an ode to the show: The show is kind of a party; it’s kind of a riot. So why not throw a music festival?
“Outer Banks” revolves largely around the class divide between the working-class pogues and the wealthy kooks. Is there a message in there about class discrimination?
I think it’s a testament to how there has consistently been a class divide not just in this country, but in the world. And the lower class is going to fight tooth and nail to find a way to make an extra buck, and the upper class is going to find a way to save an extra couple thousand bucks. There’s a frustration that’s inevitably going to be there, and I think that’s the driving factor for the pogues. They’re right there, you know? They can see it. It’s so close to them, but they just can’t comprehend how to get there.
What does the show say about friendship?
It’s every kid’s dream to have a group of friends who are going to ride or die and just go the distance with you, and these kids have grown up in an environment where they don’t have a lot. So they learn to do a lot with a little, and it’s a beautiful thing to see. I’m very proud and thankful to be part of a project that gives a true interpretation of friendship — not just the highs of it but also the lows and showing just as much love as when the wins come around.
Has this friendship onscreen translated into one among the actors when the cameras are off?
All of us came into the show with slim-pickings resumes. So to get into this and to feel like we need to create this truth and transparency through these characters, you sort of fall in love with one another and build this crazy camaraderie and chemistry.
Do you think this friendship will carry beyond the show itself? How long do you think it will last?
I hope forever. It’s been almost four years now, and I hope we do another 40.