It’s a long way from the high society of Regency London to the racetracks of NASCAR. Freddie Stroma had no trouble making the journey from Netflix’s hit series Bridgerton to its new comedy The Crew.
“As an actor, my No. 1 thing was to always be able to play lots of different characters, and I think I do look very different in lots of different things I’m in,” Stroma tells Monsters & Critics in this exclusive interview.
“So, it’s something that I have a secret proudness of that people won’t recognize me even though they might have seen me in something. It, hopefully, means I was transformative with the character.”
The Crew stars Kevin James as a NASCAR crew chief for the fictional Bobby Spencer Racing team, with Jake (Stroma) as the driver of the team’s car.
When Bobby steps down and passes the team to his daughter Catherine (Jillian Mueller), Kevin has to protect himself and his crew from her attempts to modernize the team, especially by adding a female driver Jessie (Paris Berelc).
The London-born Stroma may have been a natural to play Prince Friedrich in Bridgerton, but his role in The Crew is much more of a stretch, as his race driver character is not only not the brightest bulb in the box but is also so vain they probably wrote the song about him.
“He says stuff that could be very offensive, it could be very arrogant, pigheaded, and all the rest of it, but I find if not much is going on behind the eyes, and the intention is not to hurt anyone, you can still make him likable and, hopefully, a character that people will want to tune in to as opposed to someone who is arrogant,” Stroma says.
“I was trying to find that line where I don’t make him someone people don’t want to watch.”
As a result, Jake has some of the funniest lines in the series, something that had both Stroma and his castmates struggling to keep a straight face during takes. That said, Stroma does cop to having a difficult time not breaking up when he finds something funny.
“I find it really hard not to laugh, so a lot of the times, I did break, but a lot of times it was because of something that Kevin or one of the other guys was doing,” Stroma says.
“There were one or two times, Kevin would look at me, and he is anticipating me doing one of my stupid lines, and I could see him slightly smirk, and I would smirk, and I would break. But he does have a lot of funny lines.”
Read on for more of the conversation with Stroma, who also talks about what he learned about NASCAR, a possible romance if there is a Season 2, and the surprising film he is most recognized for.
Monsters & Critics: We see you jump in and out of the car. Was that a real car and, if so, what about driving it? Did they let you?
Freddie Stroma: No, we didn’t get to do any kind of driving. We did do a simulator, which was pretty realistic, but the cars I was jumping into and out of were stationary, and also, it was difficult to get in and out of them.
You can’t open the door. You have to go through the window. You have a helmet on to try to protect the driver, so it is really difficult getting in and out.
M&C: What did you like about Jake? Was there a redeeming quality?
Freddie Stroma: To me, it was that he just wants to have a good time and he doesn’t see the bad in other people really. He’s a child essentially.
He hasn’t got his emotions in check, but at the end of the day, he is just having a good time; he’s likable, and he doesn’t want to hurt anyone’s feelings, so that is something I can admire about him.
M&C: What was your knowledge of NASCAR? What were you surprised to learn?
Freddie Stroma: I didn’t know much about NASCAR beforehand, so this was definitely a journey of learning a lot of new information. I realized how dangerous it was, but then we started watching a race while we were filming, and it was one that involved a crash with Ryan Newman, and they brought the screens up.
It was really morbid and scary. I was, “Oh, my god.”
These guys are like modern-day gladiators. They go out there, and they are risking their lives. I will say they’ve come a long way in safety for drivers. It looks awful, but they design these cars in such a way that protects them.
I definitely learned how crazy it is. We had the guys who came onto the show, and they seemed like normal people. They were so young. It was weird thinking these are the guys going in these cars and going at horrific speeds inches from each other.
M&C: Was it surprising to think of them in terms of athletes, not just drivers?
Freddie Stroma: I had seen an interview with Formula One driver Lewis Hamilton saying they don’t want to get too big because there is so much involved with the weight of the car.
It doesn’t help to have extra weight because that is weight that could go to machinery on the car. And, when they finish a race, they are quite a few pounds lighter because they are in there sweating nonstop, and it goes on for hours.
It is a long time to be in that car with your concentration at 100 percent, your arms stiff, and constantly holding that wheel. You really do have to be fit to do it.
We did learn that they do have one of those machines in the show in the gym that tests your reaction speed, and you can train that by hitting the lights and stuff.
That was something I did not know they did, but it was pretty cool.
M&C: Jake and Jessie have this competition for the car. How does he feel competing with a woman for his seat?
Freddie Stroma: I don’t know if he sees it any different because she is a woman. We didn’t really have any lines whether it was different with a woman. I think it’s mostly that she’s younger as well.
He just doesn’t want to lose his place because he is so sure of himself that he can’t possibly imagine him losing his spot.
M&C: In the finale, they bring the truck in, so there may be a spot for Jessie if there is a Season 2. Can you see it getting romantic?
Freddie Stroma: I don’t know anything about another season or if we even get one. I would assume that she would very much be back as the truck driver, and they could go down that road, but also the ending with Catherine would make me feel it is less likely.
I don’t know. They led as if it would be the Jessie direction but then they kind of went with Catherine.
M&C: You also have the other Netflix series, Bridgerton, in which you played Prince Friedrich. Did you have any clue it would blow up the way it did?
Freddie Stroma: No. You just can’t tell when these things happen. I have been fortunate enough to have small roles in things that ended up being big or already were big.
You can never tell why some things hit and why some things don’t. I had a great time shooting it. It is a very talented cast and writers. It was a very fun show to do.
I hoped that it would get that big, but you would never guess that the show would end up being Netflix’s biggest show of all time.
M&C: Do you think he should have gotten the girl?
Freddie Stroma: Fredrich was mostly there to show that if the Duke was going to do what he’s going to do, these are the kinds of opportunities she had, so he better either take it seriously or treat her well because she does have Fredrich as an option, a suitor of high rank, royalty, who will treat her well, but that is what she is willing to sacrifice to be with the Duke.
I don’t know if he deserved her.
M&C: You have done so many things, Unreal, Pitch Perfect, Time After Time. What do you get recognized for?
Freddie Stroma: I honestly don’t get recognized very much. My wife [Johanna Braddy] gets it a lot. She was in Quantico and she did Video Game High School. People are constantly recognizing her.
It doesn’t happen to me. I would assume it would be more Harry Potter, but, actually A Cinderella Story: Once Upon a Song was an ABC Family movie that I’ve had younger kids come up to me and recognize me from that.
The Crew is currently streaming on Netflix.