Owen Teague has made a career out of playing morally questionable characters, but on HBO’s Mrs. Fletcher, the 20-year-old actor gets to explore the other side of the coin. The raunchy series, based on the Tom Perrotta novel of the same name, costars Teague as Julian, a 19-year-old enamored with a 46-year-old divorcée named Eve. The two meet at a community college creative writing course shortly after Eve (played by Kathryn Hahn) sends her son Brendan ( Jackson White) off to college. Mother and son experience parallel coming-of-age experiences, with Brendan learning that his high school brand of machismo doesn’t play so well at college and Eve discovering a new side of herself through writing and sex. And it becomes clear within the first episode that Julian, a former victim of Brendan’s bullying, and has a major crush on Eve.
“I feel like he’s closer to me than some of the people that I’ve played,” Teague said of his character. “He’s not angry. He’s just kind of peaceful and depressed. [Laughs.] But he’s got this wisdom that I liked. He feels like a 40-year-old stuck in a 19-year-old’s body.”
Julian is indeed a far cry from the tyrannical teen Teague played in the It franchise, and is certainly more mature. He’s a little bit emo, and believes himself to be wise beyond his years. He sometimes wants to be perceived as a bad boy but consistently reveals himself to be thoughtful and sweet. And when it comes to his attempts at flirting with Eve, Julian is hopelessly clueless. “He’s got no idea,” Teague said. “He’s only wiser in some aspects, and in others he’s completely lost because he has no experience. That was a cool split in terms of how he operated. He was in different kind of costumes than I’d worn before, and he had long hair, and there was something very artistic and kind of androgynous about him that was fun to play.”
Teague said the age gap never came to mind while filming those failed flirting scenes. “I didn’t think of her being much older,” the actor said. “It just felt like two people. Eve, in the story with Julian, maybe goes back in time a little bit and Julian also feels like he’s older.” It probably helped that, with direction from an on-set intimacy coordinator—which is par for the course on HBO and Netflix series these days—all of the sex scenes were heavily choreographed. “It makes it feel very safe and almost the same thing as choreographing a fight, minus the punching,” Teague said.
Despite his age, Teague has enough of experience to know of what he speaks. He was not yet five when he told his mother that he wanted to be in a movie. She put him in community theater in their native Tampa, which evolved into professional theater, film, and ultimately television. At this point, acting is clearly a career path. “Until I did Bloodline, probably, I always figured, I could go to college but then I started getting work and I didn’t really have time for that,” he said. Instead, he’s had the benefit of some excellent on-the-job education. While working on Bloodline, a series about a troubled family that operates a beachside hotel in the Florida Keys, co-star Ben Mendelsohn took Teague under his wing. “I was like 16, 17, 18, and he could probably see that while I’d been acting for a while I hadn’t been on a set like that,” Teague said. “He would give me little pointers here and there, which was wonderful and invaluable. He wasn’t like, I’m going to show you how to do it. But he would give tips every so often, and I learned a ton from him about how to work and how to be on set, and how to be an actor.”
Now, he’s filming an adaptation of Stephen King’s The Stand, with Whoopi Goldberg, James Marsden and Amber Heard. A fan of the author’s work ever since he read Eyes of the Dragon in fifth grade, Teague also appeared in both chapters of King’s It, as Patrick Hockstetter.
Though The Stand centers on a super-influenza outbreak (and coincidentally, Teague actually had the flu when he read the book for the first time as a young teen), it also has some religious overtones. “It’s pretty much good versus evil, with some really crazy villains. I don’t know where Stephen King got Trashcan Man and all those people from, but it’s some of the most insane stuff, and it’s funny, too,” the actor said. “That’s what I’m finding, making this show. I’m playing someone who is very, I don’t know what to call him, disturbed? Damaged? Harold is extremely lonely and angry and just in maximum pain at all times. I never thought that he could be a funny character, but I’m finding a lot of humor as we go. Stephen King is a really funny writer.” Whether he’s a barrel of laughs in person, Teague doesn’t know. Despite acting in three projects within the King universe, he’s never met the beloved author. He is hopeful, however, that he might soon get the chance. “I don’t know if he’s gonna come here, but the rumors are he might, so that would be really cool,” Teague said. “I’d have to stop myself from freaking out.”