Exclusive Q&A with ‘Red Oaks’ Star Ennis Esmer


‘Red Oaks’ actor Ennis Esmer, who plays Nash on the show, was kind enough to grant me an interview through his Twitter account earlier today. Esmer was a great interviewee, answering questions about his interactions with the cast and the charm of the show itself.

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Red Oaks premiered on Amazon Instant Video earlier this month and has generated acclaim due to its nostalgia and amazing cast. Ennis Esmer’s performance as tennis instructor Nash is definitely one of the show’s highlights.

Q: Red Oaks is clearly a send-up of 80’s teen movies. Did you have some sort of connection to these movies which drew you to this project?

Esmer: Not to be confrontational off the top, but I’m not even gonna agree that its a send up. To me, it’s an homage and a deconstruction more than a send up. It takes certain tropes, hot lifeguard, loveable stoner, enigmatic temptress, even bickering parents, and gives them depth and room to breathe. It’s amazing how much the show can make you hate Paul Reiser’s Getty in episode 2 and have you empathizing with him in episode 3.

And I mean, the best review of the show I’ve come across suggested Nash was like Ty Webb in Caddyshack. So that’s enough of a connection for me. That and I was lucky enough to have let my beard grow in the month period between the wrap of The Listener and when I got the audition for Red Oaks.

Q: And that is a very sick beard. I felt a big part of the show was relationships and that’s where I felt a connection to most of the characters. Can you tell us a little bit about your character Nash and his relationship with David? You and Craig Roberts had great chemistry together.

Esmer: I think underneath the pomp and the pathological enthusiasm, Nash sees something special in David, and it’s one of his best chances to feel like a big deal at the club. He’s dressed down so often by Getty, and has that incredible unspoken rivalry with Skip, so to someone young and malleable like David, Nash can and does try to come off as worldly as possible. And man, his advice for how to handle a partner’s birthday is spot on, don’t you think?

Craig is amazing. He rolled with whatever I threw at him. Whether I was holding his hand tenderly or molesting my own thigh, Craig was unflappable. And it’s amazing how little he’s doing in the takes and how much is communicated on-screen. He’s a brilliantly efficient actor. He’s a stealth bomber. I can’t wait to work with him again.

Q: Yes! I was bummed his big date didn’t work out, but I definitely have to remember that one! The first thing I saw Craig in was Neighbors and found his character hilarious even though he was only in it about 15 minutes. I love his mannerisms. So would you say Craig was your favorite actor to work with?

Esmer: I first watched Craig in Submarine, which I saw in the theatres. It’s an excellent movie and you should see it immediately. I’m not gonna pick favorites, mostly because Richard Kind will probably text me in anger, but it was a thrill to work with all of these people. This show is a big opportunity for me. My first time with such a role on an American show, and just being amongst the pedigree of Craig, and Richard and Paul, and directors like David Gordon Green, Amy Heckerling, Andy Fleming, Nisha Ganatra, and Hal Hartley. It was all an honour and an education. Not to mention, I almost forgot my name when Steven Soderbergh introduced himself at the table read. But the best part was that none of them carried any ego. I never felt like I wasn’t part of a team.

Q: I’ll make it my goal to watch it this weekend. Richard Kind was absolutely phenomenal, but I would probably not want to be on his bad side. I’m a huge fan of the Oceans trilogy so seeing Soderbergh’s name attached to this show got me excited to watch it. And it seems like you and the cast had nothing short of a great time working on the show. What’d you think of the body switch episode?

Esmer: It’s incredible. It exploded my brain when I saw it at the table read. I can’t believe it exists. And yet, it’s brilliant. Craig gets to really flex some range in episodes 7, 8, and 9, and this is him kicking down the door. His scene training Getty is incredible. And the fact that the crazy events of the episode have narrative implications going forward – Sam-as-David charms Skye, setting up the date in episode 8, David-as-Sam learns how unhappy his mother is – is so great. And no way the episode would have worked if this was a weekly series. What a crazy meatball it would have been to leave hanging until the next episode. But you can watch episode 8 right away, so it works.

Also I’ve heard people say they don’t think the body swap actually happens, that it’s all a dream. As far as I’m concerned that’s kooky talk.

Credit: Amazon

Q: Oh I certainly felt it was real. To be honest my initial reaction was “oh my god, I can’t believe they’re doing this.” But as the episode went along I really liked how it explored David and Sam’s relationship.

Esmer: I think it’s like the rest of the show. It takes certain familiar concepts from 80s movies and plays with them, lets them linger, expands them. They made it like a 5 hour movie. And the episodes function like chapters. Contained but part of a whole. Hal Hartley’s episode in particular feels like its own movie.

Q: It certainly makes the show binge-worthy. Sounds very similar to what Louis C.K. did with the 5-part “Elevator” episode on Louie.

Esmer: Oh man the elevator episodes… The man put a movie in the middle of a season of TV. He’s incredible. I love that show.

Q: So how did you come across the role for this show?

Esmer: My manager sent me an audition for the part. She had to push hard because they had never seen my work or heard of me, but she was confident I could make a good impression. And hey it all worked out.

(This was actually one of my first times auditioning for an American casting director. I’ve worked in Canada basically my entire career.)

Q: How different was auditioning for an American casting director than what you’re used to in Canada?

Esmer: In Canada, you have to drink a gallon of maple syrup. That’s every audition. All shows are cast off your headshot and how good you drank that syrup. That’s where the showbiz expression “he really drank that syrup on that one” comes from.

Q: That expression is completely new to me. But then again I’m not super familiar with Canadian auditions. Sorry I have to ask, but what do you think of Trailer Park Boys?

Esmer: You HAVE to ask? What do you mean? … Oh god are you in danger? Is someone holding a gun to your head and making you ask these questions? Shhhh stay calm. Don’t give yourself away. I’m here for you. Let’s set up a system of codes. If you’re in danger just type “hahahhahahah I LOVE crossover episodes.”

Q: No, nothing like that at all haha. I ask because I’m a big fan of the show and I’ve always wondered what the fanbase in Canada is like.

Esmer: All Canadians love Trailer Park Boys. We have to sign a loyalty contract when we are sworn in as citizens.

Q: Any word on Season 2? 

Esmer: One word: Hope.

Credit: Amazon

Q:  Are there any future projects you’re involved in that we should look out for?

Esmer:  I just wrapped a little guest role on Blindspot. Some of the most fun I’ve ever had at work. Can’t say anything else though. They’ve got snipers on me at all times. Standard procedure.

Be sure to catch the entire first season of Red Oaks, available for streaming on Amazon Instant Video. 

Next: Red Oaks Season 1 Review

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