NEW YORK — Hunter Parrish, who was raised in the conservative Texas town of Plano, has played a pot dealer on TV and now has sex on stage. Well, not quite: It's simulated.
But the scene is one of the most talked about in the Tony Award-winning rock musical Spring Awakening.
"It's weird to, like, fake sex and put your parts up against someone else's," the 21-year-old actor says. "But I figured, 'You know what? I'm going to be naked every night in New York, I might as well get used to it.' "
His role in Spring Awakening certainly isn't the first time Parrish has bared his bottom. In the acclaimed Showtime series Weeds, Parrish not only deals drugs and smokes, but also steals and drops trou as Mary-Louise Parker's oldest son. In real life, though, he's never inhaled.
"I know that if I ever smoked pot I would probably become, like, a total pothead," he says.
Parrish stifles a yawn during an interview with the Associated Press at a tapas restaurant in downtown Manhattan. It comes out of nowhere, though, since the rest of the time he's a verbal dynamo, leaping animatedly into such eclectic topics as his celebrity crush (actor Amanda Seyfried), aversion to organized religion (he says it's too hypocritical) and decision to wear a black rocker T-shirt instead of a "pretty-boy sweater" to lunch.
The night before, he had officially stepped into his role as rebellious schoolboy Melchior Gabor in Spring Awakening, an adaptation of Frank Wedekind's classic German drama about sexually repressed teens.
It's a career-defining move for Parrish, a loving son and liberal Christian, who has a surprisingly potent set of pipes. Again, he's playing against his wholesome upbringing.
In a recent episode of Weeds, now in its fourth season, Parrish stripped down for a graphic sex scene with actor Julie Bowen. It can be viewed on YouTube (warning: not suitable for work), and further separates him from the Zac Efrons of the world whose handlers veto material that could possibly alienate the parents of the core tween audience.
Parrish and Efron, the 20-year-old High School Musical heartthrob, co-star in the upcoming comedy Seventeen Again, about a middle-age guy who wishes he were 17 again. Parrish, whose film credits include Freedom Writers, RV and Premonition, might have landed Efron's role in the hugely successful HSM franchise, but he skipped his final audition to do a movie instead.
"I would have a very different career right now, and I'm happy where I'm at," he says, grinning widely.
What Parrish is likely too diplomatic to acknowledge is that he has more creative freedom than his Disney Channel peers, and unlike Efron, Miley Cyrus (Hannah Montana) and the Jonas Brothers (who toured with Cyrus), he has no squeaky-clean, multimillion-dollar image to maintain.
Parrish's run extends at least through February.