While watching the trailer for Netflix’s new coming of age comedy Everything Sucks!, premiering February 16, you may have been struck by one big question: “Is… Is that Joe Keery?” No one would blame you, as the throwback series features one young star with the exact same impossibly luxurious, long-but-not-too-long hair and nearly identical handsome-but-not-too-aggressive-about-it features and lanky frame. While it’s easy to assume Stranger Things star Keery has joined yet another teen and tween-filled series on his streaming service home, that’s not what’s actually going on.
Rather, that’s Everything leading man Elijah Stevenson, and he’s already started adjusting to increasing comparisons to everyone’s favorite high school jock-turned-addled bat-swinging babysitter. In fact, the 19-year-old, who plays tempestuous and self-serious high school thespian Oliver in the Freaks And Geek-ish 1990s-set comedy, has already been mistaken for Joe Keery — directly in front of Joe Keery.
During an interview with the Sucks cast in New York City, the entire group burst into laughter the moment Stranger’s October 2017 premiere came up. Stevenson, who attended the event, obligingly explained why, recalling of the evening, “I was in the car in front of Joe Keery, and I got out of the car and everyone was like, ‘It’s Joe! It’s Joe Keery!’’ From Stevenson’s story it’s clear that incorrect red carpet announcement wasn’t a whisper, but instead a deafening wall of sound.
While that would be a funny anecdote on its own, things didn’t end there. “Then [Keery] got out of the car behind me, and he just looked at me,” Stevenson continued. “We had this [wordless] moment where I was like, ‘I’m sorry.’ I feel like he thought I stole his big opening. I was like, ‘I can’t do anything about it! I don’t know what to do about it — I was born this way.’”
Although some actors could find such immediate connections irritating — after all, Everything Sucks! and its exploration of what happens when A.V. nerds and edgy drama kids are forced together hasn’t even debuted yet — Stevenson has no such issues. “I’m not complaining about being compared to a super successful guy,” the teen admitted.
“I mean, he’s a good looking guy. Girls love him. I’ve been getting [the comparisons] a lot, a lot, a lot, but it’s not quite to the point where it’s getting annoying … I think he’s done well for himself, and I could only wish the same for myself.”
Amid all of this talk of Stevenson’s resemblance to Hawkins High School’s golden boy, co-star Quinn Liebling, who plays lovable, unapologetic Sucks geek Tyler, brought everyone back down to reality. “Joe Keery is a popular kid — you’re not,” he joked to his friend, which is very true if you’re talking about Keery and Stevenson’s respective Netflix characters. While Stranger Things’ Steve Harrington is the local big man on campus, Sucks’ Oliver isn’t, no matter how much this story’s drama kids believe their own too-cool-for-school, self-mythologized hype.
Describing the casts’ characters, star Jahi Di'Allo Winston explained, “[Creators Ben York Jones and Michael Mohan] were like, ‘If you think think the Glee club [students] are the outcasts, wait until A.V. club.” Up-and-coming co-star Sydney Sweeney, who plays Stevenson’s on-again, off-again on-screen girlfriend Emaline, proved the high school thespians aren’t outside of the “outcast” category, continuing, “[These are] kids who jump up on the tables and start doing Shakespeare.”
That’s decidedly not the picture of late-’90s cool à la the jocks of She’s All That.
Despite all this under-the-surface nerdiness of Oliver & Co., does the Everything Sucks! cast think Netflix is starting a subtle heartthrob industrial complex with the likes of Keery, Stevenson, and the square-jawed Diego Tinoco, of another upcoming teen comedy, On My Block? Sucks' Peyton Kennedy said it best, laughing, “Let’s hope.”
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