“Kids these days…” I imagine these words are a sort of mantra for Hollywood execs who have no choice but to keep up with the younger generation’s ever quickening step toward new social technologies. The CW, for instance, hosts live-tweeting from cast members while airing many of its primetime shows. Almost every show on the teen-friendly network’s Web site has an option to either “watch now” or “like now,” and their popular series The Vampire Diaries recently started featuring an app that invites fans to caption scenes from the show and share them on social media. Actor Jesse Luken, who stars as Eric on The CW’s new “teen alien epic romance” Star-Crossed, admits he is “Amish” when it comes to technology, though he joins the rest of the cast in live-tweeting each new episode.

“It does influence the way that content is created on a mass scale,” Luken said. “And I certainly don’t think that networks, producers, executives and studios aren’t looking at that. I think that they have a hand directly on the pulse of the instant feedback that they are given.”

Don’t be too quick to jump to conclusions about Star-Crossed, however; it promises to be far more layered than other stories about otherworldly love (I’m talking to you, Edward and Bella). Though Star-Crossed is set in the future (and is clearly targeting an audience too young to remember The WB’s Roswell), it is surprisingly rooted in history. The show’s very title is taken from the “star-crossed lovers” of Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet, which it subtly mirrors. Even more fascinating is the series’ harkening back to 1960s desegregation and the Little Rock Nine (one of the first attempts to desegregate schools in the United States, which brought nine black students to Little Rock Central High School in Little Rock, Arkansas).

“The fact that we deal with these social issues on a directly metaphorical stage, adds a tremendous layer to the show,” Luken said.

Equal parts jocular and clear-headed, Luken is something of an anomaly. After graduating from Colorado State University with a BFA in 2006, the clean-cut Colorado native did something that most parents probably have nightmares about: he moved to L.A. to become an actor. Luken’s path, however, quickly diverged from the status quo of other aspiring “fresh off the boat” actors in Hollywood. And by that I mean he succeeded.

“I would say that when you first move out, it’s sort of daunting,” the blue-eyed blond said. “You have no idea what to do. There are so many different options and most of them are complete BS, but you don’t know any better.”

An acting minor with a passion for foreign languages, Luken started off working at the Cheesecake Factory to pay the bills; but his acting career quickly gained traction. Now, his acting credits include Justified, Law & Order: L.A., NCIS, The Mentalist, and Glee. Last year, he appeared in 42 alongside Harrison Ford.

In an interview with GALO, Luken chatted about the many faces of L.A., his new role on Star-Crossed and how Twitter is affecting Hollywood — for better or worse.

GALO: Los Angeles has such a bad reputation for the superficial Hollywood side of the movie industry, even though Hollywood is a small part of the city geographically. What has your experience been as a new actor trying to break into the scene?

Jesse Luken: Obviously, L.A. is the second biggest city in the country, and one of the biggest cities in the world, so it’s not a one-industry town. When you are on that track, trying to break in, you do see that side of Hollywood. And it’s not the casting couches or shady auditions, stuff like that, although there is a little bit of that; it’s mostly just people who are trying to make a living [and] who are telling you to take these classes, or do headshots with this person, or do this Web series.

GALO: You seem to have navigated Hollywood really well since you’ve become successful so quickly.

JL: I’ve been really lucky for sure. I think you speed up time just by working as hard as you can in the time that you’re given. It is a trial and error thing; if you try three things a month, that’s a lot better than trying three things a year. But yeah, I’ve just been fortunate that things have materialized really quickly.

GALO: Your newest role is in Star-Crossed, which has been hosting live-tweeting sessions during each new episode. I see live-tweeting as a sort of conundrum since younger audiences use Twitter, but aren’t watching as much live television anymore, especially in the era of Netflix, Hulu, Amazon and other streaming services. What is your take on live-tweeting? Do you think it is still relevant to the genre?

JL: That’s a really good question, and I have no idea. I basically had to have Twitter explained to me. I’m almost Amish; that’s my technological prowess and knowledge. Somebody had to sign me up for Twitter, show me the way it works, and show me how it is to [be] used on your phone. I went through the entirety of college without a computer. I’m just really dumb in regards to anything with social media. It’s a great point with younger audiences not watching live — it seems like it gets a fair number of people, and maybe, hopefully, it will get them to watch live when they normally wouldn’t because they don’t want spoilers, or because they are able to ask this question in real time.

GALO: It seems like Twitter, along with other social networks, is changing the game by taking significance away from traditional reviews by film critics. Now, more than ever, audience members are a part of the immediate conversation.

JL: Yeah, like an immediate massive pulse of a review.

GALO: Do you think that’s impacting how Hollywood has been making films and television?

JL: It does influence the way that content is created on a mass scale. And I certainly don’t think that networks, producers, executives and studios aren’t looking at that. I think that they have a hand directly on the pulse of the instant feedback that they are given.

GALO: I’m pretty sure that’s why Sharknado was born.

JL: That’s definitely how the sequel of Sharknado was born. I mean, that thing had a sequel before it started because everyone was so excited on Twitter.

GALO: What I really like about Star-Crossed is the depth of its story and ties to history. It mirrors Romeo and Juliet and simultaneously brings up racial tensions of the 1960s. You can’t watch the first episode without thinking about the Little Rock Nine. Why do you think the writers chose to mirror those two stories?

JL: I think this allegory is really prevalent through the entire story and adds a layer of richness and depth, and it just makes it a much more complete story. I think it provides a level of interest for the people who are tuning in for the romance and a level of interest for people who aren’t tuning in — people who wouldn’t normally tune in to a teen alien epic romance. The fact that we deal with these social issues on a directly metaphorical stage is a tremendous layer to the show.

GALO: Another aspect that I like about Star-Crossed is that the writers seem to have faith in the intelligence of their young audience, more so than other shows for teenagers, which assume their viewers don’t recognize quality.

JL: I think you’re right, and I hope you’re right. We have a very young writing staff; our show is very young, and so, hopefully, it hasn’t yet been jaded by the Hollywood machine and is [not] just trying to churn out the formula that generates the most amount of ratings, but actually is trying to say something with [Meredith Averill’s] writing. I just feel passionate about her art; she’s an incredible, incredible woman.

GALO: So far, your character has mainly been portrayed as a jerk. Will he have more depth in the coming episodes, or is he always going to be the anti-Atrian?

JL: You do start to see his layers in the coming episodes. In episode four, in particular, you really get the backstory of his character and why he feels the way that he does. He’s totally a dick, but sure, you know, he thinks he’s right. It was interesting to see; he thinks he’s being a good guy. It really is bad for everybody, but no one is seeing it. And it’s interesting to delve into that character that on the surface just seems universally villainous, and see why they feel the way that they do. And you get to see the layers of him in episode four with the backstory. His feelings toward the Atrians take an evolution as the story progresses. He falls in love and fun things like that.

GALO: You’ve played other characters that are on the more villainous side, like Jimmy in Justified and Bobby on Glee. Are you drawn to those types of roles?

JL: Yeah, I wish I had a more dynamic and powerful response to that. But I do just love a good bad guy. I’m always drawn to the villains in the story. There’s a lot of interesting things to play with villains. Playing virtuous and noble is a challenge in and of itself, but it’s more stringent.

GALO: Last year, you starred as Eddie Stanky in 42. What was different about portraying a real person as opposed to a fictional one?

JL: It’s sort of getting to the same thing but in a completely different way. It was awesome getting to play an actual historical figure. I got to talk to his kids, and I got to talk to former teammates of his to really get a good idea of what he was like — which sort of does your homework for you, but takes away your excuse for not being able to do your job correctly. But it was a tremendous thrill to be able to do that.

GALO: In another recent interview, you mentioned that you wanted to work with certain Latin actors and directors. What would be your dream project?

JL: My favorite thing about acting is getting a pulse on different regions and different time periods, and the way different people have lived or do live currently. I love to act in foreign languages, if at all possible. I would say my dream directors to work with would be the Coen brothers. Their dialogue is always so wonderful, and their characters [are] so rich. I mean, if we’re shooting [for] the moon, then to play a part in a Coen brothers movie — I might quit after doing that.

“Star-Crossed” airs on Mondays at 8/7c on The CW. You can watch past episodes by visiting http://www.cwtv.com/shows/star-crossed.

Video Courtesy of The CW Television Network.

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Featured image: Actor Jesse Luken stars in The CW series “Star-Crossed” as Eric. Photo Courtesy of: Dave Racki.