Most actors dream of a big break as a romantic lead or action hero, but 19-year-old Tyler Alvarez gets to really prove his mettle on a fake documentary series full of dick jokes.
In American Vandal, Alvarez (previously seen on Netflix as Gloria’s son on Orange is the New Black) plays a sophomore trying to figure out who spray painted 27 penises on cars in the faculty parking lot.
“It’s a true crime satire series that is unique beyond belief,” star Tyler Alvarez told Mashable in a phone interview this week. “Not only is it funny but there’s also a compelling, heartwarming story underneath the show, and a big lesson that I think our generation should hear — that all generations honestly should hear. There’s a big lesson in there for everybody, that I hope people get.”
Alvarez plays the show’s documentarian Peter Maldonado, an A/V nerd with little social capital determined to find out #WhoDrewTheDicks. Alvarez narrates every episode, and his character gets too close to the case while investigating. You expect the protagonist to be prime suspect Dylan (Jimmy Tatro), but there’s barely a scene that Peter isn’t in or narrating.
“It’s kind of hard to not pay attention to myself so it’s really hard to watch the story,” Alvarez explained. “But doing it, oh my god, it’s like — I hate to use this word, but it really is like a drug…It was just such a thrill to find a piece of information and discover new things and interrogate people and be like an investigator, a real Sherlock Holmes type — a real Sarah Koenig, Serial-type person.”
“It honestly was a ball.”
“It honestly was a ball,” he added, pun (probably) intended.
Peter starts out convinced of lead suspect’s Dylan’s innocence, but as the investigation wears on he starts to question everything. Alvarez’s favorite scene has him confronting Dylan at his house, screaming through a glass door because he now thinks Dylan did it.
“It’s was like raining out, it was so dramatic,” Alvarez recalls. “I was all wet and I had mud in my shoes — there was something just so raw about it. i don’t know, I’m so weird like that, but I love the nitty gritty stuff so that was so much fun to film.”
So about that lesson — what does documentary filmmaker Peter Maldonado think American Vandal is trying to say?
“I think it really shows that you can’t judge a book by its cover,” Alvarez said. “We tend to label people a lot, our society does, and what we don’t realize is that we’re kind of all the same underneath — not kind of, we are. We are all the same underneath and I think American Vandal really portrays that.”
The show also gets wildly meta; towards the end, Peter’s documentary is online and goes viral — one episode actually features characters sitting together and watching American Vandal. And somehow, it’s never too much.
“You have all these opinions about Dylan, and Peter too, people in the school have different opinions about Peter — ‘Oh, he’s a nerd,’ or whatever — but he turns out to make something really incredible. And Dylan was this degenerate stoner loser, and then you see him and you realize that those things could be true, some of them, but he’s so much more than that.”
Likewise, American Vandal could easily have been a half-baked parody and an excuse for dozens of dick jokes. But it’s so much more than that.
American Vandal is now streaming on Netflix.