Sitting on a fake patio overlooking the fictional town of Old Sandwich, Conn., a.k.a. Universal Studios’ Lot 3 in Los Angeles, it’s hard to imagine Hunter Parrish ever having a bad day. Known to his scores of fans as Mary-Louise Parker’s easy-on-the-eyes, pot-selling son Silas Botwin on the show Weeds, Parrish is so ridiculously handsome he looks more like an Abercrombie model than a suburban drug dealer.
The 25-year-old actor is in the middle of shooting the show’s eighth and final season, which premieres tonight. He’s sporting a tight gray long-sleeve tee, black Levi’s skinny jeans (that even he has a hard time pulling off), and that perfect blonde hair he’s become famous for. Even his smile, which he flashes often and to everyone, is blindingly white. In short, he's a total jerk. Not really, though you secretly wish he was.
Truth of the matter is, Parrish is nice almost to a fault. He seems genuine, grateful, humble even. He says he's sad it’s all coming to an end. He knows gigs like this don’t come often. But he’s also painfully aware that overstaying one’s welcome is worse. “It’s time,” says Parrish. “We could go on for a few more seasons, but why? At this point, let’s enjoy what we’ve had.”
It’s been a rough couple of years for Weeds. Viewers weren’t crazy about the new direction the show took (particularly when the Botwins moved to New York City from suburbia) and the ratings began to fall. It seemed the story of the soccer mom turned drug dealer, which helped put Showtime on the map, was slowly losing ground. Speculation was rampant that the network was about to pull the plug. “Every year we seem to get some rumor going that we’re ending,” Parrish says, “but last year it was probably the most real one because our contracts were up. So we were literally wondering what we were going to do,” he says. “It was sort of a daunting thought to think we wouldn’t say goodbye to the characters and the story. So yeah, it was weird.”
In the end, show creator Jenji Kohan and Showtime's execs decided to give viewers closure. They’re keeping a tight lip on what to expect this season. But Weeds publicists were able to reveal to The Daily Beast this much: Parrish’s character will be giving up pot this season, and getting a “legit job.” Viewers will also find out who shot Nancy Botwin (Parker’s character) at the end of last season. Oh, and one more thing: Parrish will have no nude scenes. At all. (That sound you just heard was a million women sighing in despair.) Last season, his character got laid more than Bill Clinton in a room full of chubby interns. “I was naked in 10 out of 13 episodes,” he says laughing. “I was eating nothing but carrots and celery for four months. So I made a request that I not be shirtless this season.”
In real life, Parrish is nothing like Silas Botwin. For one, he’s not a big fan of the ganja, a fact that puzzles folks when they first meet him. “They definitely expect me to have weed or smoke weed, which I don’t do much of. So that’s a big disappointment for a lot of people,” he jokes. He doesn’t drink alcohol or even coffee. And though he’s been linked to several Hollywood A-listers (among them, Mary-Kate Olsen and actress and singer Amanda Michalka), he’s says he’s not much of a womanizer either. His only “vice,” as he puts it, is Red Bull, which he drinks by the truckload.
When asked what it was like coming of age in front of millions of people, Parrish says he has no regrets—except maybe one: missing out on the college experience. “I had an obsession for a long time with being normal,” he says, “because I knew that my life was not. But as I got older I realized there is no normal. There is no right way to doing things. I wouldn’t have traded it for the world.”
Parrish is already gearing up for his next gig as ... wait for it ... a singer. He has just come out with his first EP, called The Guessing Games, a collection of six songs reminiscent of John Mayer and Jason Mraz. He says he started honing his singing chops at a young age at church, and later, in the shower, where he likes to belt out embarrassing tunes like “Over the Rainbow” and “Can You Feel the Love Tonight.” “I don’t know why, but I’m OK with it,” he says almost apologetically. It wasn’t until he starred in two Broadway musicals (Spring Awakening and more recently Godspell) that he got the confidence to sing professionally. The EP was released digitally last month. He hopes to have a full-length album by spring. And in case you were wondering, yes, the boy can carry a tune.
Then, of course, there’s The Hunger Games. He came this close to playing Peeta in this year’s mega-blockbuster, but lost the role to his good friend Josh Hutcherson. “It was pretty hard. I really, really wanted it.” He says he felt like his whole life was leading up to that role and when he didn’t get it, he was crushed. “I think I just wanted it a little too much.” Looking back, he says, it was a hefty and much needed helping of humble pie. “It became a very grounding experience for me.”
But in a bizarre twist of fate, Parrish may end up in The Hunger Games after all. His name has been thrown into the mix of potential actors to play the character of Finnick Odair in the sequel Catching Fire. This time, he’s much more cautious about getting his hopes up. He has been in talks with producers but doesn’t want to think about it too much. His eyes light up, however, as he considers the possibility. “It would be fun,” he says, unable to contain himself. “If Lionsgate (the company behind the film) wants to go for it, I’ll be there. I’ll be right there."
For a moment Parrish goes quiet, lost in his mind's eye. He's a kid again, excited about what the next chapter might hold. There are probably no drugs in all of Colombia that could compete with that.