By Danni Levy
Photography by Per Bernal
From shy kid to global heart-throb. Tackling WORLDWIDE superstardom is all in a day’s work for Darren Barnet.
“I grew up a really shy kid, like painfully shy,” says Darren. “My mom was actually very worried about it, so she put me into martial arts when I was young because it forced me to be around other kids in a team environment and helped bring me out of my shell.
“I was always the kid doing impressions and skits on my own when no one could see me, and I thought about how fun it would be to make that a career. It didn’t seem very realistic at the time, but it’s something that just became very natural to me. I was blessed to be able to make that passion my job.
“I can still be shy when I’m around new people. I tend to try and listen more than I speak at first, because when my full personality comes out, not everyone can handle it. I like to get to know my audience. Acting is something that’s taught me the power of listening over speaking. I try to be intuitive and to read people in order to ascertain what kind of humor might work on them.
“My character Paxton in ‘Never Have I Ever and I’ are in no way similar. I was very academic as a child. I was a straight-A student. I was in very difficult classes. I did play sports, but only because my mom told me I had to have a vocational interest. Physical activity was not my primary focus at all.”
“I was always the kid doing impressions and skits on my own when no one could see me, and I thought about how fun it would be to make that a career”
Being of mixed descent, Darren has expressed a particular interest in exploring Japan.
“I have Japanese heritage on my mom’s side, but the internet gets very ambitious when they talk about my Japanese language skills,” he says.
“I’d say I’m decently conversational. I did take it in school for two years, so I do know how to write, but I am not by any means fluent yet. That is something I would like to do, and I think going to Japan would make that a lot easier. I have family in Japan and a lot of history there that I’ve never been around, so I can’t wait to go. I would take a movie role in Japan in a heartbeat. I think there are so many wonderful stories there and I would love to explore that.”
Having fit right in on American Pie Presents: Girls’ Rules, Darren embraces both TV and movie work equally.
“I welcome both because I think being versatile gives you the opportunity to tell more stories,” he says. “TV shows are challenging because sometimes they can be so incredibly out of order, that it really is the job of the actor to understand where the head of the character is at, at all times. Because sometimes you film episode three before you film episode one. And it’s the same in films. Sometimes you’re shooting the most dramatic high-stakes scene before you even film the intro. So it’s similar in that regard. Movies are a slightly faster process, but I love doing both.”
“Acting is something that’s taught me the power of listening over speaking”
With two new movies hitting our screens, Darren has proven he is far more than a teen icon.
“My latest film Love Hard is now out on Netflix,” he says. “It’s a romantic comedy and who doesn’t enjoy one of those now and again? For the first time ever, I played someone the same age as me, which was a lot of fun.
“Even more excitingly, I just produced and starred in a psycho-thriller called Apophenia. Imagine The Shining meets Shutter Island. The film tackles mental illness, as well as PTSD. My character’s name is Peter. He has PTSD from the war and he’s showing signs of the early stages of schizophrenia. You’re never going to know what’s real and what’s not. I’m so excited to dive into making more films like that with deeper, more traumatic stories. Mental illness is such an important topic to shed a light on. It’s been a wild ride. We’re in post-production now. I don’t have a release date yet, but I can’t wait to show you guys. Peter was an incredible role to assume.”
Darren takes a relaxed attitude to his daily routine, leaving his body to do the talking.
“I just produced and starred in a psycho-thriller called ’Apophenia’. imagine ’The Shining’ meets ’Shutter Island’
“I’m not one to self-impose a very strict schedule,” he says. “I’m not the type of person who forces myself to get up at 4 am unless I have to. I listen to my body as much as I can. And if it’s early and I’m not feeling it, I will go right back to sleep.”
Despite being in impressive shape all year round, Darren insists he doesn’t spend hours in the gym working out.
“I was very academic as a child. I was a straight-A student. I was in very difficult classes. I did play sports, but only because my mom told me I had to have a vocational interest”
“It’s really hard to train during filming, so I spread it out,” he says. “I will wake up and do some pull-ups and push-ups very quickly to get the blood flowing. And then if I’m losing energy throughout the day, I’ll do push-ups in my trailer. I like to keep moving if I can. But during shooting, having a set workout schedule is definitely not something I have the discipline, as of right now, to do. Maybe I’ll try it in the future, but not in my recent past has that been the case.
“I do hold a decent shape naturally and I would love to say that I absolutely beat myself down to keep that. I am lucky in the sense that, genetically, I’m blessed in that aspect.
It’s not to say that I’m lazy. If I don’t do some sort of lifting, I will lose a lot of weight very quickly, but the definition is relatively natural. I know what works for my body and what doesn’t. Powerlifting and lifting super heavy is not really what I do. I just mainly focus on calisthenics which is just pull-ups, push-ups, a lot of military-type workouts. And I do them to failure. I don’t usually count. I just do as many reps as I can until I can’t go anymore. I try to at least put aside 10, 20 minutes a day where I’m at least doing a round of pull-ups until I can’t lift my arms anymore. I think that really does make a difference.”
Whilst food is an equally relaxed topic for Darren, he appreciates the art of good cuisine and the benefits of a clean, healthy diet.
“When it comes to mealtime, there are a lot of options on-set,” he says. “I think I’m lucky in the sense that I don’t really have a craving for junk food. I will splurge on occasions, but I wish I had better advice in terms of what to do. I think I just listen to my body. If I’m hungry, I eat. And if I’m not, I don’t. Sometimes I won’t eat until one in the afternoon. I’ve heard that’s called intermittent fasting, which I guess is good, but I wasn’t doing that to be healthy. It’s just I only eat when I’m hungry. My mom raised me on a very Asian diet. I had a lot of ethnic food growing up. We were not big on fast food or sweets. We never had soda in the house. I’m not really one to crave those things. I crave more healthy options and I don’t eat until I’m absolutely stuffed, I eat until I’m satisfied. And then, if I’m hungry two hours later, I’ll eat again. I tend to have a lot of fruit and vegetables and I love fish.
“Being called a ‘heart-throb’ is a lot of fun and it’s very flattering to have that title”
“I love to cook too. I don’t have a huge menu to share in terms of what I cook, but I love cooking healthy pasta with some turkey meat and a salad. I’ve actually been starting to simmer sardines in a pan with some spices, cayenne pepper, and lemon. I put it on top of a bed of rice with sesame seeds and a side of kimchi. It’s a really good snack after the gym. Let’s call it ‘The Darren Special’. That’s what I’ll call it!”
Being the object of women’s desires all over the world is all in a day’s work for the natural-born poster boy. “Being called a ‘heart-throb’ is a lot of fun and it’s very flattering to have that title,” says Darren. “I welcome the roles that come with that territory because they’re fun to play. But that’s not to say I want to get pigeonholed into just playing those parts. Sometimes it is just part of the job and I’m just hoping that I can prove myself as an artist with wider potential.
When he’s not filming, Darren enjoys taking to the waves or hitting the pads.
“I love boxing and while I was down in Costa Rica, I recently tried surfing for the first time in years,” he says. “I’m in love with it. I’m hooked. I don’t think I’ve ever tried a sport that is more challenging than surfing. It’s a crazy workout and it’s so much fun. When you stand up on the board it’s the most satisfying feeling ever. I can’t wait to get back out and do it all again. I’m just hungry to go back and try and get better and better at it.”
Darren has grand plans for the future, both on and off-screen.
“Writing my own movie is definitely something I need to do. I have some ideas brewing. With Apophenia I did start my own production company alongside two of my best friends. We’re in talks about where we’re going to go with that. Right now, we’re really focused on finishing the movie that we have in our hands, but the focus will shift in the future. I’d love to direct one day too.”
Make sure you catch up on “Never Have I Ever” on Netflix, and Darren’s holiday romantic comedy, ‘Love Hard’, now available on Netflix!
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