Corey Fogelmanis' latest role might just scare you a bit. And that's what it's supposed to do. In Prank Me, Corey plays Jasper Perkins, a YouTube prankster who ends up taking his pranks into his real life and as a result for his extreme lust to feed his fans' desire for content, he ends up descending into madness, hurting those who are closest to him. Without giving too much away from the Fullscreen series, lives are lost and Jasper becomes the most dangerous person on YouTube, turning against his family and manipulating his best friend and his fans, when at the core of it, he's just lost and missing the bond he used to have with his sister, who is now grown up and planning to get married.
Not something you would expect from the actor who brought the beloved Farkle Minkus on Girl Meets World to life, right?
"I think that was the main thing that drew me to the project, just how different it was and the fact that I had not accessed that part of myself yet, like in any of my work, yet. So, yeah, I was super up for the challenge and ready to show people other sides of me," Corey said exclusively to J-14 when we caught up with the actor. "This was such a great learning process for me. I think, professionally, I learned a lot about what to look for in a project and in a director and kind of what I need as an actor to do my job. I learned a lot about the professional side of myself. I think a lot of that is the same as the personal side, for me. It was so fun, for me, to challenge myself. Change is so scary and I feel like a year ago, I don't think I would've been up for this. So, I think I just learned that I'm kind of just ready to really challenge myself. That's really the only way to learn. But it was a wonderful learning experience."
To get into the mind of a deranged social media star, Corey went through a long process of prep and as you can imagine, he watched tons of YouTube videos. Tons.
"I think probably a month before I started shooting, I started watching stuff and saturating my brain with this sort of persona that's typical to find on social media. The energy levels were the first things, then I started to think about where he lived and that sort of thing. I got a lot of references from our director, Hazel Hayes. I got a lot of references just from Youtubers I watched, specific movies, and things like that," Corey explained. "Then, when I finally got to London, we had a couple days of rehearsal. We put in a lot of time just figuring out the specific energy levels and specifically because we didn't shoot the show in order, I wanted to make sure I knew who I was in every scene. It was definitely a process, but that's what was super fun about it."
Since Corey, while an avid photographer when he's not acting, had zero YouTube experience, he said he was lucky to have a source in his director, Hazel. The series is filmed from Jasper's vlog perspective so all eight episodes of the series feel like actual YouTube videos. And to capture this authenticity, Corey really learned all about YouTube culture and what it takes to get into the mindset of someone who makes videos while portraying a character who was quickly spiraling.
"It all comes back to Hazel, really. She has a Youtube channel for film stuff, so she's part of that world. Specifically, because I'm not part of the Youtube world, it was super helpful to have her as a reference," Corey said. "While we were shooting and in rehearsal and everything, she kind of just filled me in on little, small things Youtubers do from the little transitions that they do while they're shooting to thinking about – being present in the moment to thinking towards the future, like towards the edit. There's a lot of small, little things, but there was not a main thing. It was exciting to learn about something I'm not a part of really."
(Photo Credit: Fullscreen)
Throughout the course of the show, there are glimmers of hope where you're literally on the edge of your seat thinking maybe this is where Jasper will change and redeem himself, only for him to essentially get deeper into his downward spiral. Seriously, we don't want to give any spoilers but thing get crazy and part of those OMG WHAT JUST HAPPENED moments is what Corey enjoyed really tapping into.
"We went through the script, originally, and picked out a bunch of different moments through his entire arc where he could've made the right decision. Something we said about him was that he was always nearly-redeemable, but always nearly-lost. It was like there were so many moments where his family could've stepped in and said 'No, we're taking away your technology. You can't act like this.' There were a lot of different places where he could've recognized that and he didn't," Corey explained. "So, there were a lot of different moments where it's like, 'oh, my gosh, he could've been saved here.' I think that was one of the most interesting things to break down and dissect and have it because there's so much wrong there and it's not just one thing. I thought that was a really cool story to tell, especially in this age where technology is becoming everything. "
One of the most heartbreaking storylines in the show is one of Jasper's biggest fan Carla, who like many people, deals with insecurities and views his channel as a form of escapism she loves watching. Her character ends up taking a dark, self-harming turn as a result of facing backlash from cyberbullies and Jasper plays mind-games with Carla, using her love and adoration for him to his advantage to help him execute one of his most terrifying and deadly pranks.
"The first time I read the script, the whole Jasper/Carla dynamic was much different than it actually ended up being on screen. I don't really remember how I was feeling when I read it. The scenes with Carla were some of my favorites to shoot [though], Corey told us. "He's so manipulative with her and it's so sad because she just loves him so much. She's so blind to how terrible of person he is. I think that's such an interesting dynamic and we kind of see that all the time with not even just social media people, but everybody in the public eye. They have these fans who believe that they can do no wrong when it's obviously not true. That was really interesting to play around with. Really sad and heartbreaking."
So what does Corey hope his fans or anyone who watched the series takes away from the show? Well, that everyone should be conscious of the people they idolize and yes, everything you put out on Internet has consequences, even if you delete something.
"I personally hope that the people watching the show just take a second to evaluate what they are supporting with their online presence whether that's the clickbait that you're clicking on or who you're supporting when it comes to going to the movies and that sort of stuff. Make sure that the people you're supporting line up with how you think of the world. There's definitely a line between politics and entertainment and that sort of thing, but also it's very fluid, as well," Corey said. "Just being aware of what you do online and the consequences of that. I hope that's what people take away from it, but there are a lot of different things. Just if people watch it and have an experience watching it than that's the coolest thing for me."
While it's unclear if there will be more Prank Me episodes in the future, Corey is happy with how the show ends, crediting the series, "brilliant" writer, Paul Neafcy, for telling the story Corey felt was complete with the eight episodes fans got. And while we were chatting to the actor all about this truly exciting new role, we of course had to sneak in a question about his GMW family and how supportive the entire cast is of each other.
"It's so great actually. I was just talking to Rowan [Blanchard] about this the other day. When we all started the show we were so new to the business and we were so new to ourselves, so being on the show, we built a family. I'm super excited to support each other and to see what we all do with our careers. It's nice. Everyone's been super cool. Danielle [Fishel] is super supportive and so sweet. Sabrina is too. I'm really happy and grateful for the family that the show created for us," he said.
See? Corey might be heading out on new acting adventures, but he still remembers where it all began for him. And we have a feeling he's going to make everyone proud.
Check out an exclusive clip of 'Prank Me' below
Warning: 'Prank Me' is rated 'Mature' and features graphic depictions of violence and serious issues such as suicide. Viewer discretion is advised.