Is ‘Outer Banks’ Star Drew Starkey Hollywood’s Next Prestige Heartthrob?

From there, he “started auditioning like a fucking madman,” nabbing “day player stuff” on network TV, short films, student films, you name it. “I kind of felt like a one-man traveling show,” he recalls, “just saying yes to everything.” He did this for three years, landing smaller roles in shinier productions like the Netflix drama Ozark and two movies based on popular YA novels, The Hate U Give and Love, Simon. But as soon as he left the South for Los Angeles in 2019, he got the call for Outer Banks, which brought him right back to the Carolinas.

“They called and said, ‘Can you move out to Charleston and shoot for the next five, six months?’” he remembers. “I was like holy shit, yes. I’d always contributed to a little sliver of stories, right? Never been part of the big picture. And so that was really exciting. It’s all I wanted. I was like, I want to be there from the beginning to end and be part of the process.” While he and his castmates were becoming famous during lockdown, they’d get together to watch a different show about a motley crew of seaside pals: MTV’s Jersey Shore, which Starkey describes as “the peak of American culture.”

“I fucking love Jersey Shore,” he says with a grin, though he can’t help but analyze it. “It’s all performative anyway. It’s like you’re not actually watching people, they’re leaning into a character and I think they’re brilliant at it. They understand their role and they play it really well.” Their group dynamic reminds him of his OBX castmates.

Last year brought an unexpected change, when an audition tape Starkey made for a different project landed in front of the star-making Italian director Luca Guadagnino, who was casting for Queer. Guadagnino consulted Craig, who was already attached to play Lee, about his instinct to cast Starkey as Eugene Allerton—a discharged American Navyman whom Lee encounters while wandering Mexico City’s bars in search of heroin and connection. After seeing Starkey’s tape, Craig relayed to Guadagnino the three words every actor wants to hear: “That’s the guy.”

“I liked Drew from the moment I met him,” Craig told me. “He’s such a wonderful, kind human being, and that was very obvious to me from the very start.”

Things started happening very fast after that. “I got a call from my team telling me that Luca Guadagnino wanted to have breakfast with me,” Starkey says. “I was like, what the fuck?” We both agree there’s no way that Luca Guadagnino ever pulled up the Netflix homepage and hit play on Outer Banks. The man himself confirmed this: “I had not seen Outer Banks nor knew that Drew was in it,” Guagadnino told me in an email. “I discovered that Drew made it and was a celebrity the day in which, leaving the studios after a day of work, I saw a thick crowd of fans holding banners with his name in front of the gates, screaming, ‘Drew, Drew, Drew!’”

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