Interview: Melvin Gregg – Fashion Forward

Melvin Gregg may have risen to fame as a social media superstar, but for the 31-year-old actor, his online presence was merely a jumping-off point for the Hollywood success story that would follow. The naturally funny and charismatic actor first made a name for himself as a Vine sensation, quickly amassing millions of followers.

“I wanted to move into a more traditional space and do more TV and film, but it was hard because I didn’t have any credits. When I saw Vine start to pop up, I knew if I had an audience, I would have more value.” Gregg figured out the format, how things worked in that 7-second space, came up with ideas, mapped out storyboards, and began shooting videos with his phone. All of his time and energy went into creating content, which earned him a loyal fan base that still stands with him today.

Gregg eventually signed with an agent and opened up his own production studios. While he found massive success through the channels of social media, his heart was still in the same place it had always been. By 2018, he stopped what he was doing and put all of his attention into his true passion – acting.

“After that, I had booked ‘American Vandal’ and then followed that up with a starring role in Steven Soderbergh’s film, ‘High Flying Bird.’ I did ‘UnREAL’ a year prior, and now I’ve got a film with Ben Affleck called ‘The Way Back,’” Gregg tells INLOVE Magazine.

Sari: I also want to talk about “Snowfall.” Let’s backtrack and start there. Tell me about booking that role. What have you loved most about playing Drew ‘Manboy’ Miller?
Melvin Gregg: I had auditioned for the show when it first came out. Needless to say, I didn’t get the part [laughs]. But, I ended up loving the show. I recorded something on my Instagram, and I tagged Damson Idris, the lead of the show, and he [turned out to be a fan of my videos]. It was cool. It was a mutual respect. I just happened to go to London three or four months later, and I ran into him at a party. I told him I was going to be on the show [laughs]. I didn’t know how I was going to do it, but I put it out into the Universe. So, when I got the audition, I already knew the tone of the show. “Snowfall” was my favorite show at that point. I had a good understanding of what the show was, and I was able to find a lane where I knew I would fit right in. What I liked about the character was that he was a villain. I had wanted to play a villain. It was exciting. I don’t think my character’s a bad guy, but he’s an anti-hero.

Sari: Let’s talk about your role in “The Way Back” now.
MG: I was a little hesitant [about that role] at first because I’m playing a teenager [laughs]. But it’s Ben Affleck. I’ve been watching Ben Affleck since I was in middle school. And Gavin O’Connor directed one of my favorite movies. I had to go in for a basketball audition, but I happened to be [out of town], so I sent them a video from the show “American Vandal.” On the show, my character is a star basketball player, so I sent them a highlight reel of me playing, but it was all staged. The mockumentary was made to look real, so they just thought I was that good. When I came back for the audition, I thought it was going to be simple, like a basketball practice. I pull up. There’s a gymnasium full of people. They were all pros. Luckily, I was good. And I ended up getting the part.
On set, everything was cool. It was a great working environment. Ben Affleck is a good guy. He’s a great mentor on set. He was an amazing guy to me and everyone on that team. You could imagine, there’s 10 of us, and I was probably the most tenured when it came to the guys who played on the basketball team. Some were starstruck by Ben, but towards the end, we were just a group of guys just kickin’ it. That’s how comfortable he made everyone on set. Gavin was the same way – super cool, just laid back.

Sari: You also seem to have an incredible love for fashion. How did that start?
MG: I got more into fashion as I got older. I shopped in a thrift store when I was younger, so I had to be more creative. When I got older, I had access to more stuff. I always try to do something different because I feel like fashion is a form of self-expression. I was always inspired by something that was outside of my world. I remember in college; I started dressing like I saw surfers dressing. I had cut out jeans that were rolled up, but my shirt was always with a tie. Later, that was the style. I was always ahead of the curve.

Sari: How would you describe your sense of style now?
MG: I want to be fashion-forward, but I always want it just to be a sense of who I am. It can be top fashion and if I don’t like it, if I don’t feel comfortable in it, if it doesn’t feel like me, I’m not going to wear it. When someone sees you for the first time, they look at what you’re wearing. That’s how they judge you, in my opinion. I can’t trust your opinion on anything you say if I can’t trust what you’re saying with what you’re wearing.
On set, I go back and forth with wardrobe people, because I understand who my character is and the way he dresses and expresses who he is. If he’s supposed to be the coolest guy ever and he has on this outfit that’s not cool, people aren’t going to trust that he’s cool. You want someone to be believable. That’s important on set and important in life, too. What you wear and how you wear it is who you are.

Sari: Who is your fashion inspiration?
MG: Shia LaBeouf is one of my favorites. He wears whatever’s him, and he owns it. You can’t go wrong that way. As of now, I’m more into comfortable clothes. My wardrobe stylist calls it “Industrial wear.” I like a comfortable look, more so than trying to do too much. It depends on the occasion, though. Sometimes you’ve got to go all out. But my everyday thing is comfortable and effortless.

Sari: So, how do you think fashion helps you get into playing a character, and are you ever influenced by your characters’ style?
MG: When I put the clothes on, especially when it’s something that I typically wouldn’t be wearing, I feel different. When I put it on, something switches. Like “Snowfall,” all of the clothes are ‘80s-themed. It became the costume for “Manboy.” It’s crazy, I kind of fall into character outside of work, too, especially on a show, because it shoots for such an extended period of time. I try to stay close to the character, but I really saw myself staying close to the character as far as how I was dressing, too. I would wear Chuck Taylors, button-up shirts, everything ‘80s style. It was funny; I was at Coachella, and one of my agents [thought I was still in character]. I hadn’t even realized it. To this day, it’s still probably one of my preferred styles. The ‘80s theme definitely inspired me. What I love most about fashion and style is that it expresses who you are without words.

Sari Cohen

Published in INLOVE Magazine spring 2020