Talking to teenage heartthrob Gregg Sulkin feels like talking to any other nice young Jewish boy. He’s grounded, polite and talks a lot about girls and football. Except that this isn’t any ordinary 21 year old – this is an international teen heartthrob with a staggering six films, six TV series and 800,000 Twitter followers already under his belt.
Last April, Gregg’s new high-school show Faking It premiered on MTV in the US and it hit the UK screens two weeks ago.
The series follows two best friends (Katie Stevens and Rita Volk), who having been wrongfully outed as lesbians, keep up the pretence in order to maintain their sudden boost in popularity.
As if this wasn’t enough, Gregg also stars in three films that have been released this year; A Daughter’s Nightmare, a crime thriller in which he co-stars alongside Emily Osment, was aired on Lifetime in April.
In August Gregg appeared in Affluenza, a coming of age drama inspired by The Great Gatsby, and Another Me, a supernatural thriller filmed in Wales and Barcelona. “I never expected to be this busy,” he explains on the phone from Los Angeles, where he’s been based for the last four years.
“It’s been a crazy, whirlwind year – exciting but tough at times. It is hard work but I enjoy every second.”
While Faking It’s focus lies in high school humour, Gregg says there’s an important underlying message. “The message is to accept people in high school, no matter what race or sexuality. The fact that we’re using homosexuality to express that can only be a positive thing. We’re in 2014 – the world’s changing. Hopefully it will continue that way and people will become more accepting.”
Gregg plays a character called Liam Booker, who he describes as “a very sexually driven teenage boy”. Is there kissing involved? “Well it’s MTV, so it’s quite raunchy!” he laughs.
The Swiss Cottage-born star is no stranger to on-screen kissing after his days on Wizards of Waverly Place, in which he regularly locked lips with Justin Bieber’s former girlfriend, co-star Selena Gomez.
Aside from the Faking It girls, he’s recently had the pleasure of working alongside rising female acting talents; Emily Osment (Spy Kids 2, Hannah Montana: The Movie) in A Daughter’s Nightmare and Sophie Turner (Game of Thrones) in Another Me, for whom he has the highest praise. “She is number one – I think my favourite person in the world!” he says of Sophie. “When you spend so much time with someone, like 14 hours a day, you really get to know them.
“Sophie is a very down to earth, goofy girl that is so talented! To be honest, she’s incredible. Talent-wise, she may be capable of getting up to the standard of Meryl Streep – that’s how highly I think of her. She’ll laugh…but I believe in her.”
Perhaps there could be more than professional admiration at play here? “Am I single?!” Gregg guffaws. “Maybe. I’m figuring it out, like every other 21 year old!” If he won’t share any real gossip, can Gregg at least reveal his celebrity crush? “I mean Angelina Jolie is stunning, but she’s married!”.
The handsome actor is certainly not short of female admirers, as his numerous fan pages attest. “I guess it’s flattering, but to be honest I don’t actually think about it. I’m very grateful to all my fans for their support – some of them have followed me since I was 13. But I just concentrate on doing the best work I can. If you start thinking about it then you’d get a big head and my family would kill me!”
Gregg admits that his mum helps him go through his fan mail. “There is one person who…let’s just say the messages are very, very passionate! She’s stopped showing me now. It’s inappropriate.”
Having first caught the public’s attention aged 13 with his role in the 2006 comedy Sixty Six, Gregg has had to get used to growing up in the public eye. While there are perks to being an internationally recognised actor – “I get free shoes!” – it also comes with its pressures. “Sometimes you can’t go out and act insanely goofy in public like you want to! It’s just part of it. These days a lot of role models don’t accept the responsibility of being one, and I think if you’re blessed enough to be one you should try and act like one.”
Until he injured his leg as a teenager, Gregg played for Queens Park Rangers and West Ham United’s youth teams, which he says has helped prepare him for the mental and physical challenges of acting. The young star hasn’t forgotten his roots. “I watch a lot of Arsenal games! I miss home and my family a lot, but I literally can’t live without the footballl!”
Remaining impressively level-headed after an action-packed year, Gregg is bursting to take on yet more challenging roles and hopes to star alongside Hollywood greats.
As someone who seems to have held it together so well, what advice would he give for aspiring young actors? “Be really thick skinned. For every success story there’s realistically about 100 failures. You have to bounce back even stronger and prove to people you can do it. “But don’t get too caught up in everything. You also have to live your life and let things go. Experience life – hopefully you’ll come back a stronger actor.”