IT WOULD BE EASY to dismiss Hart Denton as another pretty-boy shooting star, elevated to insta-fame courtesy of a breakout role in Netflix teen drama Riverdale. But like the fictional town in which his cagey character of Chic Cooper finds himself — a place whose wholesome facade masks darkness and mystery — the 25-year-old Arkansas native is a study in contrasts. A straight-talking yet cerebral type with a love of singing, dancing and thrift-store finds. An actor-turned-fashion-designer-turned musician who cares little for social media and “kissing ass” but wise enough to know that harnessing the opportunities presented by fame demands hunger, hard work and never getting too comfortable. ICON pulls up a chair to discuss Elvis, take-no-prisoners tweets and finding the laughter with an actor constantly on the hunt for meaning … and food.
ICON: Since Riverdale, your star has exponentially risen as evidenced by your Instagram following: 1.5 million followers for a breakout role is tremendous. Do you ever get anxiety when posting?
Hart Denton (HD): “No. My brain is constantly thinking … so as soon as I post something, I move on to whatever’s next on my list for that day. I spend a very small amount of my time thinking about social media. But I am grateful for the platform I’ve been given and strive to spread positivity and love through it.”
ICON: What’s most challenging about sudden fame?
HD: “The threat of an instant fall. Many people before me became too comfortable and lost the hunger that got them there. I must stay hungry every moment of the day and never let off the intensity. There’s so much more to accomplish.”
ICON: Did you ever imagine that this is how your career would turn out?
HD: “Yes and no. I’m a big believer in manifesting so I have imagined myself in many different successful positions. The details might be slightly different but the overall belief in myself has always been there.”
ICON: The last time we saw Chic he was being chased into a forest by a serial killer. In real life, what would be your next move if this were happening to you?
HD: “I would do whatever was necessary to survive.”
ICON: What is the vibe like on the Riverdale set?
HD: “It’s motivating. It’s loving. It’s challenging. Everyone is genuine and it feels like a big family.”
“Instant fame means the threat of an instant fall. Many people before me became too comfortable and lost the hunger that got them there. I must stay hungry every moment of the day and never let off the intensity. There’s so much more to accomplish.”
ICON: What inspired you get into acting?
HD: “Elvis Presley. Jailhouse Rock.”
ICON: You play a long-lost brother on Riverdale who is not who he says he is. What’s the biggest secret you’ve ever told?
HD: “I don’t tell secrets! I keep them. That’s the point, isn’t it?”
ICON: You grew up in Arkansas. Tell me what that was like?
HD: “It was a lovely upbringing. I was always dancing and singing as a child. My parents took note and put me in dance classes and local theatre productions. They were always ultra-supportive and encouraging. Then I formed a band in middle school and spent most of my free time with them or my family. I played sports all through high school but I was also very involved with the arts so most people were assholes because they wanted me to be one or the other. It taught me very early on to do my own thing and I developed a thick skin, which ended up being a wonderful trait to have in auditions. So thanks assholes. Sidenote: to the very small group of people who weren’t horrible to me, thank you. I think about you all and I’m so grateful for your belief in me since the beginning.”
ICON: What was it like the day you packed up and left for Vancouver, where Riverdale is filmed?
HD: “I moved to LA first. I sort of knew one person but basically I started from the ground up. I began auditioning and landed Riverdale. I had 25 cents in my bank account and I just remember being very hungry around that time. The first day on set I went to craft services and filled my backpack completely with snacks. All of this has been a wonderful whirlwind, but each day I’m happiest just to be able to eat now.”
ICON: Chic could be described as an introvert. How would your friends describe you in real life? What role do you play in your circle of friends?
HD: “I have a very tight-knit, small circle of friends and I laugh, a lot. There is zero judgement with them and I’m able to speak and joke freely, which I think is very important to have in this day in age. People are so uptight and sensitive, but not my friends. We can joke one minute and talk world change the next. They’re lovely and I’m very thankful for them.”
ICON: What do you admire most about your co-star Camila Mendes?
HD: “I love her humour so much. She’s very witty. I appreciate jokes rooted in intelligence and she very much has that. She was also very kind to me from day one.”
ICON: How do you deal with paparazzi and fans interested in your personal relationship?
HD: “I’m still very new to this but so far I’ve loved meeting people regardless of who they are or what they do. We’re all on this strange planet together trying to figure out what the hell is happening. The least I can do is be kind to everyone I meet. I’ve never turned a fan down for a photo and I plan to keep it that way. Shockingly to many, I’m the opposite of Chic.”
ICON: Who is your idol? And what do you admire most about him or her?
HD: “I used to answer this with Elvis, or my parents. And they remain important staples in my character but when Matthew McConaughey said in his Oscar acceptance speech that his role model was him 10 years down the line, that really stuck with me and I think about it quite a bit. So the answer, I suppose, is a wiser me.”
ICON: How did you first become interested in fashion?
HD: “I hardly had any money at all when I moved to LA. My only option was thrift shops. It was all I could afford so I had to make it work. I shopped in the women’s section more than the men’s because they had far more options and lots of shirts with roses on them. I was forced to get creative with whatever I could find, which opened up my fashion mind.”
ICON: How did you land on the designs for your collaboration with H&M’s /Nyden?
HD: “It’s very military and safari-based, which are both associated with adventure … I really love muted, unsaturated earth tones. I’m very excited for it to release.”
ICON: You’re working with /Nyden. Lewis Hamilton just designed a range with Tommy Hilfiger. Is this the new way of the fashion world — celebrities lending their names to labels to crack millennial markets?
HD: “I don’t know how [Hamilton’s] collaboration came about but mine was very organic and our relationship began to form even before I got the show. It’s very important for the designer to care about fashion, whether they’re a celebrity or not. Sure, the following helps get it out there in the world but if the clothes are trash no one is going to care.”
“I moved to LA and I sort of knew one person. I began auditioning and I landed Riverdale. I had 25 cents in my bank account and I remember being very hungry. The first day on set I went to craft services and filled my backpack with snacks. All this has been a wonderful whirlwind, but I’m happiest just to be able to eat now.”
ICON: You recently tweeted, “I’d like to announce my retirement from kissing ass”. Does “kissing ass” come with the territory in your profession?
HD: “I’ve been watching a lot of Peaky Blinders lately and they don’t put up with anything. When I tweeted that, I was at a small dinner with several ‘wealthy, important’ people whom I didn’t know, and after about an hour I realised not once had I been asked a single question. I would ask a question in search of conversation that would make me a better human or maybe challenge my beliefs on a subject, but instead they would somehow, every single time, launch into a story about how much money they have. I was baffled.”
ICON: What’s next for you? What other projects are you working on?
HD: “I’ve got music coming out soon with my best mate that sounds like it’s dripping of Mississippi River water. I’m also shooting something right now and I can’t say what it is, but you’ll find out soon.”
THIS ARTICLE APPEARED ORIGINALLY IN THE OCTOBER EDITION OF ICON MAGAZINE.
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