I know. What can you possibly imagine, in your darkest moments, that could possibly be worse than getting offered a lead role in the Netflix adaptation of a work of fiction you grew up loving?
Pity. Pity and Sorrow. Feel free to utilize the sidebar and hyperlink to another, less psychically damaging article before you accidentally cast your eyes upon this confessional of epic suffering and unpalatable chores. Louis Hynes is a mere 16 years old, and yet he has already endured two morose, suffering-filled seasons as the wealthy but beleaguered orphan Klaus Baudelaire in A Series of Unfortunate Events. I know, it’s unimaginable. So. Many. Lines.
We caught up with this poor urchin to make sure he was not literally drowning in a saliferous sea of his own tears or contemplating the multiple meanings of the term “Head shot.” Read on, if you dare. [Ed. note: The following has been edited for length and clarity.]
Paste: So, what got you interested in acting?
Louis Hynes: I’ve loved acting as long as I can remember. I started acting for fun when I was around six and just really loved it. I always did it on a Saturday morning and it was really only a hobby for most of the time and I was content with that. I still find it surprising that it has become so much more. I loved the challenge of getting into a different person’s head and found the whole process very cathartic.
Paste: Were you a fan of the book series or were you new to it when you auditioned?
Hynes: I grew up on A Series of Unfortunate Events. My parents started reading the books to me until I was old enough to start reading them for myself. I was so excited when this opportunity came along.
I had the privilege of working with Daniel Handler in Season One and, having met him, I think he is probably the only person that could pull off such a macabre series of children’s books. He has a very surreal and dark sense of humor. Honestly, I feel a sort of sense of responsibility to both Daniel and the readers to bring Klaus to life in the truest form I could. The series as a whole has worked hard to stay as true to the books as feasible and Daniel’s involvement made that far easier in the beginning.
Paste: What’s the best thing about playing Klaus Baudelaire?
Hynes: His character becomes so much more confident and dynamic as the story progresses and he really grows up throughout the series. I feel, to a large extent, that I have grown up alongside Klaus and that our development as young people is almost mutual.
Paste: How did the experience of filming the second season differ from the first for you?
Hynes: Season Two was much of the same from a filming point of view. There was much of the same crew, cast and characters (with many new ones scattered through the season). But the main difference is that in Season One, Olaf [played by Neil Patrick Harris] is mainly doing things that the orphans have to respond to, whereas Season Two is far more dynamic from the Baudelaires’ point of view. Most of what happens is set in action by their decisions. They are faced with far more moral dilemmas as their world deteriorates around them. It was a very different experience playing the characters in that regard.
Paste: We consulted Wikipedia and see that you also play bass. If you had to pick one, would you prefer to end up with a career on screen or in music?
Hynes: I adore music, both listening and playing it. I find there are very few things more relaxing and absorbing than playing guitar or bass. I played standup bass for a few years when I was younger then eventually moved to bass guitar and I have sort of taught myself a little guitar as well. I find once you can play a couple of stringed instruments the others tend to fall into place so I’ve been having a go at violin and mandolin recently as well. Acting is what I am doing at the moment, but I definitely wouldn’t say no to having some fun in some other areas. If I could have a sideline music career, I would love to dabble with it. It is such a brilliantly free art form.
Paste: You’re also still in school. How big a deal is it to do that during acting gigs?
Hynes: The hardest thing for me on set is probably trying to balance school and work. Education is really important to me and I have some big exams to do a few days after I get back from filming. Whenever we are moving the cameras to a different angle, we are rushed into the schoolroom with our tutor and we try to cram 20 minutes of school at a time. It isn’t an ideal way of learning, but it certainly gets the job done.
Paste: Do you have a favorite Klaus moment? In either season?
Hynes: Klaus goes in disguise a couple of times, so I had the opportunity to develop some “Olafian” caricatures to play. It was incredibly challenging being an English person, playing an American who, in turn, plays another character in a third accent. It was so much fun planning little slips into Klaus from these characters and playing somebody so ridiculously over the top. I doubt I will get an experience like that on any other show.
Paste: Those of us decrepit enough to remember Neil Patrick Harris’s career-making role in Doogie Howser: M.D. admittedly busted a collective gut when Olaf says Klaus looks “awfully young to be a doctor.” If memory serves, he would have been almost exactly your age when he took the role of a 15-year-old MD. So, do you have any other upcoming projects? What’s next?
Hynes: I think when ASOUE is done I will probably take a little break and focus on school and real life for a bit. I think I will try and see what I can do in school holidays, but I really want to go to university and get a decent education and that will come first for the next few years. That isn’t to say that if the right project came along I would necessarily turn it down, but I don’t think I will do something that takes as much commitment as ASOUE until at least after school. I hope I will be able to continue acting in the school holidays and on shorter length productions for a while.
Season Two of A Series of Unfortunate Events premieres Friday, March 30 on Netflix.
Amy Glynn is a poet, essayist and fiction writer who really likes that you can multi-task by reviewing television and glasses of Cabernet simultaneously. She lives in the San Francisco Bay Area.