“One of my favorite Pogue moments is when we’re all sitting on a dock, talking about what we would do with $400 million,” Chase Stokes, star of Netflix’s new teen drama Outer Banks, tells Refinery29 over the phone. “When we were filming it, it was 4 a.m., and we were all [delirious.] Some of those lines were improvised. We were all in hysterics in that scene.”
For the uninitiated, “the Pogues” is the name of the core group of boat-loving, adventure-seeking pals on Outer Banks. The series is a natural descendant of The O.C. or Veronica Mars — another tale of class warfare between the haves and have-nots, against the backdrop of a sunny beach town. In this case, the beach town is North Carolina’s Outer Banks, where residents either have “two houses or two jobs.” The Pogues are (mostly) in the latter camp.
For Stokes, who portrays parentless rebel and Pogue ringleader John B. (it’s always John B., never just John, despite there being no other Johns on the island) the series is “if The Goonies and Stranger Things kids grew up and hung out with the Ozark family, and made a weird baby.”
“There’s the same camaraderie you’ve seen with the Stranger Things kids, and we’ve gotten comparisons to Riverdale, with the mystery, murder, adventure stuff. It’s cool because we’re also breaking new ground. We’re adding a completely different element to the teen drama,” he explains.
That additional detail? A summer-long hunt for gold. In the first episode of Outer Banks, John B. discovers that his missing father (“Big John”) left him a clue about a treasure he was seeking, worth the aforementioned $400 million. While the millions is NBD to the “Kooks” (the nickname for the Polo shirt wearing and cocaine loving rich kids of the OB, most of whom are almost always the worst), it means a hell of a lot to the Pogues. For the Pogues, dreams of college, an escape from an abusive father, and even just making the world a better place, hinges on having cold hard cash. For John B., though, it’s less about the money and more about finding answers about his dad, his “best friend” who was lost at sea.
“I’ve always been a little bit of a wild child, a rebellious soul,” Stokes admits when asked about the similarities between him and his character. “Ultimately the thing that I relate to with John B. is his love for others. Sometimes it bites me in the ass, but I always try to put others before myself, and make sure everybody is okay and taken care of. With John B. and his friends, this is the first time these kids have had to go all-out for him.”
What makes the Outer Banks a deliciously fun ride is its use of its setting. (Though the show takes place in North Carolina, it was filmed in Charleston.) Everyone has a boat, and what type offers a clue into their upbringing . Beach bonfires serve as the sight of a Pogue vs. Kook battle. Some key moments happen smack dab in the middle of the Atlantic: In one particularly dramatic scene, a character is forced to escape off a yacht via jet ski. Everyone has sun-kissed skin and hair that looks like it was spritzed with a healthy dose of Bumble & Bumble Surf Spray.
Stokes, who went to high school in Florida, already knew all about living in John B.’s world.
“I’m a water child. I grew up all along the eastern shore, I spent my time surfing” says Stokes. “My grandparents lived on the eastern shore in Maryland, and there is a huge boating community there, so I’ve grown up on boats, I’ve grown up driving boats. I didn’t tell any of the creators [of Outer Banks] this when I was cast: When we were in Charleston [where the show filmed,] I reached in my wallet and pulled out my boating license. They were like ‘Great, that makes everything a lot easier.’”
What else made shooting Outer Banks easier was the camaraderie between the cast and crew, all of whom “committed to staying in Charleston for the entirety of the shoot,” says Stokes. He and Rudy Pankow, who plays J.J. on the series, even lived together so that the “ride-or-die” friendship between Pogues J.J. and John B. felt as authentic as possible.
“On the weekends people would come over, and we would blast music and play games and shoot the shit,” says Stokes. “We just liked being close and we wanted to spend every second of our time together because we were just so thankful for the opportunity at hand. Work didn’t feel like work.”
Catching waves and hanging out in the sand all day probably didn’t hurt, either.
Outer Banks is streaming now on Netflix.