Nick Drnaso interviewed by Publishers Weekly!

Weird, Perverse Fun: PW Talks with Nick Drnaso

Publishers Weekly    |    Gabe Habash    |    May 27, 2022

In Acting Class (Drawn & Quarterly, Aug.), Drnaso follows a group of characters who join an acting class, through which their understanding of themselves— as well as the limits of reality—gets tested.

Without spoiling anything, some pretty dark, strange things happen to the characters. Can you talk about how you approached the story?
I’ve never really found my limit of a story that’s too gruesome or too horrific that doesn’t pique my interest. In Acting Class, there’s this strong sense of dread and menace in a lot of the interactions, even if they seem very polite and nonthreatening. I think I go through life with that same kind of unease and discomfort. As the years go on, I feel more and more alienated by the modern world. I’m looking out at the world and all the horrible things that could go wrong. But also even pleasant moments are shadowed by a threat of something being ruined, or damaged. That’s just kind of how my brain works.

Part of Acting Class’s ominousness is not knowing what form, exactly, a threat will take. Did you know the whole story when you started?
Intentionally, I kind of let things happen accidentally. A lot of it I came up with in the moment. Characters came out of left field, like Thomas, the nude model. It was a matter of being open to anything that came along. Luckily, comics take so long to draw that I can put some level of faith in the idea that if I just sit here for long enough and work over the years it takes, I can trim the bad ideas and hope something interesting will pop up almost accidentally.

With this book, the thing that was keeping me working was riding the line of ambiguity, and not being quite sure even up until the ending. You have moments of doubt where you’re like, “Oh, am I just being coy?” But going back and forth like that and driving myself crazy is part of the weird, perverse fun of the whole thing.

The book revolves around nearly a dozen characters. What drew you to all of them?
I was interested in the group. And the group finding some kind of higher purpose even though it doesn’t explicitly become about religion. It’s like, you’re part of something bigger than yourself, even if it’s a small, free acting class with 10 people. I’m always watching that from the outside, because I’ve never found something that’s fulfilling in the same way for myself. With comics and being a cartoonist, I don’t feel completely at home and safe. And I don’t really know if something will come along in my life that will fulfill that, so that was something that kept me going when I was working: living vicariously through this group, even if they’re on a damaging path.

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