Everything’s coming up Devon Sawa

Evan Ross Katz is In The Know’s pop culture contributor. Follow him on Twitter and Instagram for more.

When Devon Sawa first read for a guest appearance on HBO’s Hacks, he wasn’t as thrilled as one might expect. Though the role was juicy, its description as “sexy FedEx guy” didn’t tickle Sawa.

“I was like, ‘Where am I at in my career that I’m going to play a sexy FedEx guy?’” he recalls. “I was like, ‘My career has gone completely downhill. Don’t ever call me again!’ And then one of my agents got on the phone and was like, ‘Just read the part.’” He complied. “Of course it was amazing, and it ended up being a phenomenal experience.”

Like the term “iconic,” saying an actor is having an “-aissance” is overused to the point of meaninglessness (see recent headlines: “The Jean Smartaissance Has Arrived,” “Bring On the Lohanaissance” and yours truly’s own “Welcome to the Lee Pace-aissance). Still, one cannot deny that child actor turned teen heartthrob Devon Sawa is having something akin to a comeback thanks to his role on the series Chucky, that buzzy guest appearance on Hacks and two movies in production.

Does he see this as the Devon Sawa-aissance? “I hope so. I’ll take it. That’s where I want to be, at least. When you’re starting to get cool projects and being able to turn down things that aren’t so cool, you definitely feel like you’re in a great spot.”

Sawa’s always had an interesting journey through Hollywood. He entered the industry at 8 years old and racked up a number of hits, including Little Giants, Casper and Now & Then. He transitioned, with ease, into teen flicks with starring roles in Idle Hands, Final Destination and Slackers and cemented himself within the zeitgeist playing the titular role in Eminem’s music video for his chart-topping song “Stan.” In his mid-twenties, he willfully left the limelight, returning five years later and taking a part on the CW’s Nikita. And though he’s made over a dozen films in the last decade, nothing reached the highs of his past… until now.  “It was a slow climb back to where I am now,” he admits. “Now it feels like things are starting to hit.”

Sawa says he definitely feels the career momentum. “It’s a whole different kind of feeling because I’ve obviously been in a place bigger than this, but I didn’t appreciate it. I don’t know if it was an age thing, where I was in my life or what, but I looked at it more then as ‘I deserve this,’ having been working in the industry since 8 years old. Now I’m not taking these opportunities for granted.”

Sawa calls his experience on the set of Hacks unlike any other thanks, in large part, to his co-star. “Jean [Smart] makes it a phenomenal experience. She set the tone. My heart was thumping. You know, you’re on an Emmy-winning show with an actress who’s been in a billion things. And then I get a knock on my trailer door. ‘Hello, it’s Jean!’ And there she is! And that set the tone.”

“They didn’t have to twist my arm to do it,” he says when I ask him about his nude scene on the show. “I’ve been doing nudity since I was 15 years old on set. I’ve done it, and I’ll probably do it again.” (“We’re going to have a lot of Lost-style flashbacks to his butt in Deborah’s mind,” co-creator Paul W. Downs joked in our August interview.) Is Sawa eager for more Hacks? “I have never had my fingers crossed so bad for anything,” he says. “The writing. The people involved. The cinematography. I would kill to go back to that show.”

But for now, Sawa’s keeping busy with another project that cemented his resurgence. He’s readying the second season of Chucky, which premieres Oct. 5 on SyFy. It’s a role, like the Hacks one, that Sawa wasn’t so sure about at first. “When I got the material, everybody was like Chucky…?’ I even had this really big director tell me to fire my agents over it. But I knew there was something special about it. I knew there was a lot more going on in it though. It was a gay young person being able to tell his story without any walls up and being able to tell the stories he wanted to tell.”

In the first season, Sawa played dual roles: twin brothers Lucas and Logan Wheeler, neither of whom survived the season. For Season 2, Sawa will play a mysterious new character, Father Bryce. “It’s the most flattering thing in the world because I died,” he says. “I like to think that [creator] Don Mancini thinks I’m so d*** good that he can’t get rid of me.”

Million dollar question: Does he have any scenes with Jennifer Tilly, who originated the role of Tiffany Valentine and reprises on the series? It seems, at least for now, unfortunately not. But there’s always Season 3, right? “I love her to death,” he says about the actress he calls a close friend. “She’s very good at what she does, obviously, but she’s also a very good human. I’d put her up with Seth Green and Jason Schwartzman, people who I go on to set with and just smile every time you are around them. She’s always saying something that makes you feel warm.”

I can’t end an interview with Devon Sawa without referencing one of the early roles that made him famous. I choose carefully and land on Wild America, a 1997 star vehicle for him and Jonathan Taylor Thomas that, along with How the West Was Fun, was one of my favorite movies growing up. Sawa says his son “s*** all over the movie” in favor of Little Giants. Wild America is a classic, I tell him. “Have you seen it lately? Don’t watch it.”

OK, but back to Chucky. One can’t help but glean from spending an hour with Sawa that he’s not just grateful to have the work — he’s taking the time to smell the roses. “The nice thing is it’s not one of these 22 episodes a year shows where we’re on Season 4, and everyone just kind of shows up to work miserable. Hit me up on season four or five, and we’ll see where we are then, but right now, we’re still hungry and ready to make another hit season.”

If you enjoyed this story, read Evan Ross Katz’s take on the conundrum of being the “first gay rom-com from a major studio” here.

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