Full disclosure: Adrian Grenier remains the only celebrity to ever send me a thank you note. I saw Grenier speak on his college tour four years ago and he DMed me after to thank me for covering him so positively. So I’m going to be nice here and give him the benefit of the doubt, because he seemed incredibly earnest to me in person and like he really wanted to make a difference in the world. That said, Grenier comes off bizarrely in this new interview with NY Mag, like a wacky hipster with an inflated sense of self. It doesn’t even sound like this piece is biased, as we’ve seen from say Esquire. It just sounds like the journalist, Anna Silman, is repeating the things Grenier told her on a night out, and his quotes are golden. Grenier claims to have “pioneered” Williamsburg, the Brooklyn neighborhood that’s become so gentrified that Grenier says it’s too expensive now even for him. He also talks about Burning Man like it’s a new world he similarly discovered, and he actually uses that simile. He doesn’t use plastic straws because he’s an environmentalist with a focus on the ocean and plastic straws end up polluting oceans. Grenier’s reasoning for not using plastic straws makes no sense though. Grenier is described as passionate about everything, and very warm to people, and that sounds about right. He also sounds super high, which would put most of these quotes into context.
He tells the waiter not to use straws
“We consume 500 million straws each day. The equivalent of 127 school buses filled with straws. It’s disgusting, ” Adrian Grenier declares the minute I sit down, brandishing a plastic straw that the waiter had forgotten to remove. “There should be children in those school buses, going to school, to learn, not straws,” he adds, wryly.
Grenier orders me a mezcal soda, his drink of choice. “No straw, no fruit,” he tells the waiter. I don’t have the chance to find out what’s so harmful about lime wedges before he turns to look at me, fixing me with the same penetrating gaze that rendered so many beautiful women powerless over the course of Entourage’s eight seasons and a movie. “He might forget, or the guy at the bar may forget, so you have barriers to success,” he explains. “But now we’ve planted a seed, and he’s going to think about that.”
He calls himself a superhero but says anyone can be one
I ask Grenier how he defines himself nowadays. He says he doesn’t like the word environmentalist, because it sounds too radical. “I’m a guy who cares about people,” he says. “Acting is my day job, but at night, I get to be a superhero. There are superheroes, people who fly or have all these extraterrestrial powers or supernatural abilities. Everybody can be a superhero every day by doing very simple things. Change the world.”
On whether he would consider himself a feminist
I would consider myself a feminist,” says Grenier when I ask him. “But women don’t need my permission to take what is rightfully theirs after all these years, so I don’t even need to declare my feminism as a righteous thing. I just am, because I recognize that it’s happening, it’s right. And I’m just in awe of it and excited about the prospect. Maybe our saving grace is if we can balance the male energy, which tends to be short-term thinking, overly aggressive, often indelicate, with the feminine energy, which is more careful study and frankly more sophisticated, we might actually be able to build a world that would be in balance.”
On experiencing Burning Man for the first time
“It’s a bunch of people who are open, available to connect, and artistic, and are all conspiring to make the most amazing piece of art, which is everybody collaborating,” he says. “It’s fantastic.”
I observe that one of the biggest problems with people I know who go to Burning Man is that they never stop talking about it.
“It’s like, could you imagine having discovered America?” he says. “Would you stop talking about that? It’s like, I went to this new land. There’s nothing like it. And that’s the thing. It’s captivating, because it’s unlike anything I’ve ever experienced. And I’m worldly, I’ve been around the world. And it happens to reflect the value system that I agree with.”
On pioneering Williamsburg
“I pioneered Williamsburg. It got so gentrified that I had to come to Bushwick. I lived two blocks away, and then this place opened, and I couldn’t afford to live in this neighborhood,” he says, gesturing around Roberta’s, which opened in 2008. “We used to have to walk three miles backward in the snow for a cup of coffee when we lived here. Now there’s, like, baristas and cold brew.”
So the verdict is that he was high, right? I actually like what he said about feminism because he gets it, he realizes what it is and he’s not conflating feminism with the fringe movements or the people who claim it’s anti-men. All that stuff about male and female energy sounds strange to me, but I’m a pragmatist not a dreamer. This is the first time I’ve realized that plastic straws pollute the ocean and instead of concocting some imaginary scenario where kids are going to school in buses that used to carry straws (HOW IS THAT CONNECTED?), I would just focus on the fact that turtles, fish and wildlife are eating the plastic and dying. Now I’m going to put a reusable silly straw in my purse to use for later and call it a day. I similarly carry nylon shopping bags with me so I’m not using a lot of plastic. These are practical things I’m doing but it doesn’t make me a superhero. I did help gentrify my neighborhood though. When I ditch this place I’m going to make sure all the neighbors know that I’m the one who rejuvenated the neighborhood just by showing up, recycling, riding my bike to the store and cutting up the plastic rings on my diet coke packs. I planted that seed.
photos credit: WENN.com