Most recently on screen, Sydney Mae Diaz has been playing the role of J in the cast of new HBO Max series Generation, which follows a group of high school students exploring their sexuality in a modern world, with the show premiering in the US in March. Having had his first TV role as Hex in Marvel/Netflix series Iron Fist, Sydney experienced working with stunt performers and doing minor stunt work for the first time, and he has since played Shane in High Fidelity and had a guest role in Search Party, and he will be playing Swayze in Ghostbusters: Afterlife, which is set for release in the UK this November. With his love of music, Sydney, alongside his friend Matt, make up anxioushum, who had been playing many live shows before the pandemic and recently finished recording new music for future release. Sydney tells us about playing J in Generation, filming Ghostbusters: Afterlife and performing as anxioushum.
You play J in the new HBO Max series Generation, can you say more about the character and show?
Yes, I love him! J is everyone’s drama-free stoner friend in this group of young chaotic queer teens.
What drew you to the character of J and how was it reading the script for the first time?
I remember reading the audition sides for J and what stood out to me most was the dialogue and style of writing, very angsty and abrasive with tender moments.
Why would you recommend watching the show and how has it been seeing the response?
If you’ve been searching for a queer coming-of-age show with characters you might not have seen on screen before, this is your cue to watch Generation. The response has been kind of insane. I read all the messages sent to me. Though I can’t respond to every single one, I have so much love and appreciation for each and every person who reaches out. The memes the fans make SEND me. Sometimes I’m scrolling on my phone and cackling alone in my apartment because some of them are so hysterical.
What was it like filming with the rest of the cast and being on set?
I could not have asked for a better group of people to be cast alongside. We constantly cracked jokes, we offered support and love to one another, and when it came time to work, we all clicked so well that it just seemed effortless to be able to do what we needed to do.
Do you have any stand-out moments from your time working on the series?
I remember filming the field trip bus scenes, where we were encouraged to improv, which scared me a bit. It’s not my strongest skill. But I remember Chase (Sui Wonders) being so good at it in a way that prompted me to play along with her rather than be intimidated, and I think that moment forever changed me as an actor.
How did you find the experience filming as Swayze for the upcoming film Ghostbusters: Afterlife?
It was an experience I will never forget for as long as I live! From the audition process, to actually flying to Canada to shoot, to the friends I made on set. It’s something I hold near and dear to my heart.
What are you looking forward to most for the release?
Everything was very hush-hush super-secret on set, so we had to tape our phone cameras every day and I never read a script! I want to know what happens just like everyone else!
How much did you know about the franchise before booking the role?
I probably knew every lyric to the Ghostbusters theme song but had never seen the actual films before being cast (which changed shortly after!).
Can you tell us about your episode of Search Party where you played Taylor?
There are so many memorable things about working on that project even though I was only on the shoot for three days. The first thing was how FREEZING it was, shooting in 19-degree weather. The scenes where we poured “gasoline”, it was actually water that was freezing midair as it came out of the gas tank. Second, Uly (Schlesinger) and I had met briefly during the pilot of Generation, and now all of a sudden, we were working together again. Third, our scenes were with Susan Sarandon, which was like… holy hell. She is a true professional, insanely cool in person. She complimented me on not breaking character during a take and I will take it to my grave.
You worked on the TV series High Fidelity as Shane, what was this like to do?
High Fidelity is one of my favourites I’ve worked on. The whole experience was so cool and validating as an artist. Zoe Kravitz was so chill and easy to talk to and work with, another true professional. It’s a show I loved regardless of my involvement and think it’s a shame it was cancelled. If I could work on projects with the same energy in the future, I would be stoked.
In 2018, you played Hex in Iron Fist, can you say more about this?
It was my first TV job, and I was so, so terrified. Of course, I was ecstatic to have landed the role, but I had no on set experience which meant I didn’t know terms, I didn’t know who people were, or what their jobs were. It was like being the new kid at school in the middle of the year. Luckily, my fellow castmate Giullian (Yao Gioiello) guided me through the whole process, which led to us becoming friends. I also had my first taste of working with stunt performers and doing minor stunt work which I thought was very cool.
Where does your love of acting come from and is it something you always wanted to do?
I think deep down as a kid it was something I always wanted to do but never thought it to be a plausible career. It wasn’t until I was already halfway through high school where I let myself run free and chase after it.
What are some of your favourite TV shows and films to watch?
I love The Great British Baking Show. Someone put me onto it as I was graduating college and it’s remained a comfort show ever since. I recently burned through Hacks and loved it, eagerly awaiting Season 2. My all-time favourite film is The Social Network. A more recent favourite is The Lighthouse.
We understand you are also involved with music, can you tell us about it?
Yes, music is my first love! My friend Matt and I are in a band together called anxioushum. Matt plays bass and I sing, play guitar, and write. Before the pandemic, we played quite often around Long Island and sometimes Brooklyn. Now that we’re on opposite coasts and live music is starting to make a comeback, we aren’t playing shows currently, but haven’t written off the idea. It’s something we will definitely return to.
Do you have any upcoming acting or music plans you can talk about?
While I was in New York in May, anxioushum recorded some new music, so you can definitely keep an ear out for that in the future. I’m very proud of these new tracks and I can’t wait for people to hear them!
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