Troye Sivan’s career has always pinballed between acting and singing. Though the majority of his fans will know him from his YouTube channel and the music career he launched off its back, some will know him from the Spud movies—a trilogy of kids’ films Sivan fronted as the titular Spud in the early 2010s—but it’s a chapter in his life he’s eager to leave behind.
Yet despite being wholly unrepresentative of the adult Sivan, Spud laid the foundations for an acting career he’s now hungry to pursue. After a supporting turn in Joel Edgerton’s Boy Erased in 2018, Sivan returns to the coming-of-age genre with Three Months, a gentle comedy-drama that premieres on Paramount+ this week. Written and directed by debut filmmaker Jared Frieder, it focuses on Caleb, a Florida teen who’s exposed to HIV and falls in love while waiting for his diagnosis.
As Caleb, Sivan is seldom off-screen and with scene partners in the form of Ellen Burstyn and Judy Greer, it’s his most substantial role yet. But beyond Three Months, Sivan is ambitious—he’s booked a key role in Sam Levinson and The Weeknd’s HBO series The Idol—and he’s ready to remind the world that before he was a YouTuber and a singer, Troye Sivan was an actor.
How were you approached to join Three Months?
Jared Frieder and I had known each other socially, I’d met him at parties. I always remembered him when I saw him because he’s very, very Jewish and he loves pop music, and I’m very Jewish and I love pop music, so we would bond over Little Mix and stuff like that.
I remember him telling me that he was a writer-director and then, while I was out on the road, the script came through to my agent and, to be honest, I didn’t read it because I was on tour and not in the headspace to be reading scripts. A couple of months later I read it and I just had an absolute blast, it was really beautiful. And I feel like it was brave to tackle this serious issue with comedy and humor and such heart. I was like, Please tell me they haven’t already made this movie, and they hadn’t. A few days later I was meeting with the producers and with Jared, and we started shooting a couple of weeks later.
Caleb is very different from the roles you’ve previously played, and different from you as a YouTuber and a singer. He’s very smart-mouthed. Was taking on such a different character a conscious decision for your first adult lead role?
I don’t think it was really a conscious thing where I wanted to do something really different, it was more that I really liked him. He’s kind of a brat but in all the right ways, and you understand why and where it’s coming from. He feels like a real person to me, so I gravitated towards him and I had a soft spot for him. I really cared about him by the time I finished reading the script. It was fun to get to be a little brat sometimes, because I don’t do that in my own life.
Were you actively looking for a lead role?
Not really. For me, up until very, very recently, acting was this thing that just happened to me. I’m so lucky to be able to say that—I recognize how insane that sounds—but music has taken up so much of my life and it really feels like my everything. So, when these opportunities would come up, like Boy Erased, it was like an extension of that and not necessarily something I would consider full-time. Not because I didn’t enjoy it but because I’ve never trained as an actor, I don’t really know what I’m doing or anything like that. So, once I got this and The Idol, I’m finally starting to accept that this is something I genuinely love so much and want to keep doing. Now I would say I’m actively seeking more parts, but when Three Months came around I was in full music mode.
What was your research process like regarding HIV testing when you were preparing for Three Months?
When I first read the script, I wasn’t sure, like a lot of people, what the state of HIV was or is today. I think through this project I’ve learned so much. I knew about PrEP and I was on PrEP and I am on PrEP, and that’s something that a lot of people don’t talk about, a lot of people don’t know what it is. My understanding now is that you can test after one month instead of three months so that’s obviously a huge improvement.
I knew this before reading the script but I saw this as an opportunity to spread this message that I think a lot of people don’t know, which is that undetectable means untransmittable. I think that’s something that needs to be spoken about more. And people with access to health care, who have HIV, live long, healthy, happy, beautiful lives. That’s something that is just amazing, amazing news and something that I think everyone should know.
Thinking about your acting career overall, how do you feel looking back at the Spud movies and that time in your life?
It feels like embarrassing home videos that you would watch of yourself when you’re a kid, you know what I mean? Not that I’m not proud of them or anything but I have that same feeling when I’m watching one of the X-Men movies I was in for 10 minutes when I was a kid—you don’t recognize yourself. It feels exactly like looking through an old photo album. I look back on it with fondness, but it just doesn’t feel like me.
Do you feel like those movies were integral in getting you to the place you’re at in your acting career?
I think they definitely gave me a little push of confidence. I remember when I was filming X-Men Origins: Wolverine, that was my first time on a set filming anything, and the learning curve is so steep. What does it mean when they say, “Camera A, set?” … all these terms and lingo, watching everyone do their jobs where there’s a million people running around; it’s a very specific environment. Having that kind of education from when I was a kid, I would say it made me very comfortable on set and it has followed through to my adulthood.
Are there any particular roles, genres, or ideas that you want to explore?
I don’t really know, honestly. I think part of the thing that I’m really falling in love with is the environment on set, being around creative people and watching them do amazing work. It sounds kind of boring to do something where I would just be me—that doesn’t sound very fun. I want to do ensemble cast things where I get to be around other people because that’s what I really love.
In terms of different on-set experiences, what’s it been like filming your first series role in The Idol?
I’m still filming it, I was on set yesterday. I’m just having the best time. I think because [filming] has been such a long time and it’s been so consistent I feel like, Oh, I could really, really do this. Not even from an ability point of view, just from an enjoyment point of view. I’m having such a good time and the quality of every single aspect of a production like this is so inspiring to watch. It’s just a crazy experience, it’s been so fun.
Do you have any particular hopes for yourself as an actor?
It’s so new because even though I’ve done it a bunch of times, it’s been so sporadic. I’ve really only recently started letting myself think about [acting]. A lot of it came from a place of insecurity of me being like, I don’t know what I’m doing, I’m not a real actor, and now I’m starting to feel like, No, you know, I’m getting some experience under my belt, I’m clocking up a lot of hours on set. I’m paying my dues a little bit and allowing myself to daydream about it and think about it. It feels like the possibilities are endless. I would love to play someone evil and the only way to do that realistically is to try and find the humanity in them, which would be a difficult task but something that I see as an exciting challenge. I would love, as I say, to do something with a big ensemble cast and watch people do what they do best and bounce off each other.
I feel like since you’ve already acted opposite Ellen Burstyn you can call yourself a very serious actor.
I mean, plainly, factually, she is just one of the greats. And to be able to work with her and talk to her, she was so generous with her time. We lived in the same building during filming. It was a duplex, and I lived upstairs and she lived downstairs. Every morning I would walk down my stairs and there was her little courtyard and if she was ever sitting out there, she’d always invite me to sit down with her and have a cup of tea or some cheese and wine. She’s just an absolute legendary human and I loved working with her.
Between the production and release of Three Months, there’s been an unplanned wave of film and TV directly exploring HIV. What’s it been like to be part of that wave?
I’m just so happy that it’s happening. The idea of testing and waiting is something the world has had to meet head-on over the past two years. I’m curious to see if this movie connects with people in a way that no one could have ever predicted two years ago because waiting around because of a virus is something we’re all very familiar with now.
Was filming halted by COVID?
It was very, very strange. I was really grateful to be on set in the weeks leading up to March 15, 2020. We had been filming already and we were in this bubble where we were hearing news and just had no idea what was going on or what was coming. It was actually a really nice distraction for something that I think would have given me insane, insane, insane anxiety. Then, all of a sudden, overnight, we all came to the same conclusion that it wasn’t right to keep filming and we needed to stop.
I thought I was going to stay in Atlanta for two weeks until the whole thing blew over but then I left the next day to go to Australia and didn’t come back for seven or eight months. Even when I did come back to America, Australians couldn’t leave Australia, so I had to get this crazy exemption. The airport was empty, there were five people on my flight; it was the most bizarre experience. And we somehow managed to finish the film in October of 2020.
You mentioned you want to pursue acting more thoroughly so after The Idol, is your plan to take on a different acting project or go back to music?
I think my plan once I finish the show is to get in the studio. I’m itching to make an album. I’ve got a few songs from over the last couple of months when I have been able to get into the studio. I really want to make an album, that’s a top priority after The Idol. But I will definitely be on the lookout for something that feels exciting in the acting space as well. I want to spend time in Australia with my family and my friends and take a bit of a break. But I also want to tour… there’s so much that I want to do. I don’t really know how I’m going to juggle it all or what’s going to happen, but everything has kind of fallen into place so far.