If Fin Argus, who stars as Derek in the movie “Stay Awake” (MarVista), now available on VOD, looks familiar to you, you may recognize them from their portrayal of Mingus in Peacock’s 2022 revival of “Queer As Folk.” Depending on how old you are, you may also recognize him from the time he spent as a member of “Kidz Bop.”
In “Stay Awake,” Argus’ character Derek and his kid brother Ethan (Wyatt Oleff) struggle to keep their prescription drug-addicted mother Michelle (Chrissy Metz) alive and prevent her from overdosing, which she does with some frequency. Argus is marvelous as Derek, believable and empathetic. It’s a credit to Argus that his performance is so strong. Fin was kind enough to make time for an interview before the VOD release.
Gregg Shapiro: Fin, what was it about the character of Derek in “Stay Awake” that appealed to you as an actor?
Fin Argus: Derek is a born and bred people-pleaser. That’s something I can relate to. I grew up in an evangelical environment, which for me, turned into appeasing everyone else’s wishes for my life path and personality. I saw a lot of that in Derek. There were things that I could relate to in his experience of caring for some past the point of actually being able to make a meaningful impact on their health or well-being. There comes a point when you start taking away your own light in order to keep someone else alive. That’s been a recurring theme throughout my life that I’d like to think I’ve dealt with. This was a way I could find catharsis and help get that story told so other people realize that they don’t need to be that crutch for people. There’s a certain point when you need to let people help themselves.
GS: Addiction and rehabilitation are complex issues, occasionally resulting in families being torn apart. And yet, Derek and his brother Ethan do everything they can on their mother Michelle’s behalf. Do you think that that’s a reflection of your upbringing, to hold things together?
FA: Yes, definitely. I think I’ve done a lot of work to not behave on that wavelength anymore. But it’s still a voice in my head, and that’s what spoke to me about Derek, and the brothers’ experience, in general. But, specifically, Derek, because I think he’s more on the wavelength of, “We need to live our own lives and move on.” It kind of personifies the battle I’ve had within my own brain.
GS: Derek works at a bowling alley. Do you bowl, and if so, what’s your high score?
FA: [Laughs] I have bowled [laughs]. I’m not very good. I would say that my skill level is that I might get a strike once per game. So, I’m not terrible, but I’m definitely not winning a tourney.
GS: Are there other sporting activities that you enjoy?
FA: I used to play competitive baseball. My whole life, I was a center fielder and a third baseman because I could throw far and accurately. That was my special talent. And handball, which is a fun dorky sport, I was really into because my best friend at the time was like a pro, and now he’s literally a professional handball player. He was always going to practice, I was like, “This is annoying, I wanna hang out.” So, then I got into handball.
GS: Derek has acting aspirations and Ethan describes him as “the most prolific TV commercial actor” in the region. Did you, at any point in your career, do regional or national commercials?
FA: I did! That was my start in the TV/film industry. I was a part of a children’s music franchise called “Kidz Bop” for three years. That was my launchpad. I’ve done plenty of other commercial work here and there. That embarrassment in that audition scene [laughs], I deeply resonate with. Commercial auditions tend to be humiliating, I’ll be honest. But it’s a super-valid work path, and I was on it for quite some time.
GS: Speaking of Ethan, he and Derek have a close and supportive relationship. Do you have siblings, and if so, how would you describe your relationship with them?
FA: I have two sisters, one older and one younger. They are my best friends. We’re very close. They also live in L.A., as well. I don’t have a brother, so I had some nerves going into this movie not really knowing the dynamic of two brothers. What I discovered is that it’s not dissimilar from my relationship with my two siblings. It’s the closeness, it’s the intimacy. I think the big thing was tapping into the way their respective toxic masculinity clashes. But that wasn’t hard to do. Also, (co-star) Wyatt (Oleff) and I became so close, so fast, it really feels like he’s my brother. He’s a little twerp [laughs].
GS: Your “Stay Awake” co-star Chrissy Metz performed in early June 2023 at the annual Pride month Concert For Love & Acceptance, produced by gay country singer/songwriter Ty Herndon and GLAAD. As a member of the LGBTQ+ community, what does it mean to you that Chrissy is part of such an event?
FA: Allyship is important. That’s what provides queer people with safety and a large sense of community. While it’s incredible that the queer community is so close-knit and we support each other, we’re part of a larger community, which is just the fact that we’re humans, and we need to take care of one another. When people who are outside of marginalized communities use their voice and their platforms to uplift marginalized communities, that’s the best thing you can do. I really appreciate her doing that, as well as any ally using their voice to help queer folks.
GS: You played the role of Mingus in the 2022 revival of “Queer As Folk.” There is a devastating scene in which a gunman opens fire in the bar when Mingus is performing onstage. At a time when the LGBTQ+ community is under constant attack from ultra-right-wing conservatives, what do you think it will take for real societal change to occur?
FA: I think everything starts on a micro level. Outreach to your immediate community and being active in local politics. I think that’s what will make long-lasting impacts and being open to difficult conversations. It’s a scary time to be a queer person in America. It has been, basically since America’s inception, but especially now, there’s so much hate targeting trans folks specifically. I don’t know what the answer is. I don’t know what’s going to push us over the edge into a safer living environment. But I do know that what we can do is focus on community. Helping people day-to-day, making sure people are supported emotionally, and staying active in local politics. Making sure that we maintain our rights and make our voices heard, whether that’s protesting or using our vote or just being there for our queer friends or queer loved ones.