Armen Nahapetian is a rising star in the entertainment industry who is quickly making a name for himself with a growing list of impressive roles in both film and television.
At just 16 years old, Armen has already made his mark in the industry with roles in popular shows such as “The Orville,” “NCIS,” and “Daybreak.” However, his latest role in the highly anticipated Ari Aster film “Beau is Afraid” has garnered much attention and buzz ahead of its April 23 release. In our interview, Armen shares his experience playing Joaquin Phoenix’s character’s younger self and his passion for the craft of acting, as well as his love for astronomy, his favourite films and actors, and his desire to raise awareness about the Armenian Genocide and care for animals.
What was the audition process like for the role of younger “Beau” in the upcoming film “Beau is Afraid”?
My audition for Beau was different and unique because it was during Covid and there were no in-person auditions. I received an audition request and had to self-tape at home. My audition scene was the kiss and I could just feel that this kiss was integral to Beau’s story but I didn’t know how I was going to pull off a kiss on a self-tape audition by myself. Then it hit me, what would Beau do? So, I pulled out a door mirror and kissed myself. I remember thinking, everyone is going to think I’m so weird, but shortly after, Casting Director Julie Breton contacted me asking if I could do a Zoom meeting with Ari Aster the Director. I went on to do multiple meetings, and I’m not going to lie, I was beyond nervous each meeting, however each step of the way I felt support from not only Ari but Casting as well. As an actor, you don’t always get that, so I really appreciated their help during the audition process.
Can you tell us about your experience working alongside Joaquin Phoenix in “Beau is Afraid”?
All the stories you have heard about Joaquin being a phenomenal, giving actor are true, and then some. He is humble and authentic. There is an intangible, unexplainable vibe to him. He made me feel special too. On my last day of filming, we had a really cool conversation. Joaquin told me that he based some of his Beau on my original audition tape and that I did an amazing job. I was high off his praise for months!
What inspired you to begin acting, and how did you get your start in the industry?
My family is crazy but creative. “Artsy” as my Mom likes to say. My parents exposed my brothers and I to the performing arts at a young age. Theatre, music, and films, so when my older brother Remy wanted to take acting classes, I did too and so did my little brother Marcel. One of my first auditions was for American Horror Story “Hotel.” The Casting Director told the group of kids to be like the Children of The Corn. While every other 9-year-old looked around confused, I nailed it with a creepy, psycho expression and walk. I was a vampire in all their promos and I got to work with Lady Gaga and Matt Bomer. One day on set, Lady Gaga blasted her music and started dancing around, singing, and getting into the zone before filming. I was mesmerized! After filming, I received a handheld piano recording device from Lady Gaga. She probably doesn’t remember me, but she made a positive impact on me that I’ll never forget.
How do you balance your schoolwork and extracurricular activities with your acting career?
How do I balance it all? I don’t! Okay, I do, but it’s really difficult. I go to a regular public high school, play water polo, skateboard, and work at a restaurant. It’s important to me to still be a normal kid with normal life experiences no matter how good or bad those real experiences are. It enriches my acting. If I’m not, how else can I relate and be truthful to the characters I want to portray?
Which of your past roles has been the most challenging for you, and why?
Without a doubt, Beau has been my most challenging role, but in the most life-altering way possible! I knew this role would be judged and scrutinized because it’s also representing Joaquin on an acting level. So there was that pressure, however, it was a good challenge and made me immerse myself into Beau. Beau is in his head a lot. Overthinking everything and is complicated by his relationship with his Mother. I took all of Beau’s inner workings, along with my own that I was going through in my personal life, and lived and breathed it for almost a month while filming. Being that messed up and scared all the time was challenging. But when it was all over, and I got to leave Beau behind, I realized that I had worked through many of my own fears and worries and left lighter, more free. An example of this is in the scenes where Beau has his first kiss. His first encounter with a girl. Before filming I was freaking out! Sick to my stomach. I had never kissed anyone, I was worried about getting covid and germs, and having my first kiss in front of so many people, let alone it being filmed. But I survived, take after take of kissing. And you know what? It was awesome!
Can you describe your process for preparing for a new role?
I tend to obsess over a new role. If I’m given the entire script, I’m reading it over and over again, devouring it for clues and insight. At times I have to create a past, present, and future for the role. I always treat each role with respect. I want to honor that role, that life, even if the role is that of a psychopath. I let it consume my every waking thought. I try to live and breathe as that individual. I do all this and then let it go once filming begins because no matter how much you prepare, once you’re filming it becomes its own creation and you have to be adaptable and truthful in the moment.
Who inspires you the most in the entertainment industry, and why?
I’m not saying this because I have to, but in all honesty, Joaquin and Leonardo DiCaprio inspire me the most! They are transformative and captivating. They lose themselves in their roles so much that they become that role and you forget who they really are. They also have range and amazing diversity. I also admire their work ethic and professionalism. They also motivate me to be a good person outside of acting and to give back to this world.
What are your long-term goals for your acting career?
Acting is riddled with the rejection so my goal is to stay persistent through all the ups and downs. I seek longevity in my acting career. I hope to be an old man, still doing what I love! I want to take on the most challenging, life-altering roles. I want to create inspiring art. I would also love to collaborate with my two brothers Remy and Marcel because they are some of the most creative and hardworking people I know.
How does your Armenian heritage influence your life and work as an actor?
Having the perspective of a father born in Iran and coming to the United States as a refugee because his family was displaced during the Armenian Genocide has taught me valuable lessons in life and work as an actor. I would constantly hear my father talk to his family about things in American culture and the difficulties of being stuck between two worlds. I would pay close attention to what they were saying and the passion in which they were saying it with. It has taught me that everyone has a story to tell, we’re all going through our own difficulties, and that we all have value no matter how insignificant we may think we are. It has also helped me be a good listener and understand that we’re all just trying to make it in this world the best way we can, those are the stories I would like to tell, to share the stories that need to be told, no matter how difficult or uncomfortable. With all the suppression going on in the world, the thing I’ve learned to value most, the thing that my family really impresses on me, is the ability to have the freedom to express myself creatively. There are people in my father’s birthplace that cannot do the things they want in many parts of life, including the arts and I do not take that freedom lightly.
Apart from acting and astronomy, do you have any other passions or interests you would like to pursue in the future?
I read a lot of manga including Naruto and One Piece, which has taught me one extremely important thing. If you have something you want to achieve never ever give up. Whenever I’m feeling down, I think of what Naruto or Luffy would do. One Piece is actually getting a live-action adaption, which is a dream of mine to be a part of in any capacity! I spend a lot of my time skateboarding with my friends around town, finding new skate parks, and obstacles to skate. I actually just started filming content for a skate film with my friends which I would eventually like to release. My pets are everything to me, I love them more than anything, and all five of them were adopted from a shelter. The sight of all the homeless animals makes me so sad. Someday in the future, I’m going to open up a ranch where I will house animals, they will have so much space to run around and play in, and ultimately, live the life they deserve because animals are pure love.
Photographer: Ryan West
Groomer: Elie Maalouf
Wardrobe stylist: Benjamin Holtrop
Photographer: Ryan West
Groomer: Elie Maalouf
Wardrobe stylist: Benjamin Holtrop
Published by HOLR Magazine.