Everybody Wants Some Of Evan Mock – But What Is It He Wants?
Countless cool-kid hangs have begun with the words “let’s meet at Tompkins Square”, referring to the leafy park in New York’s East Village that’s long been a haven for outsiders and rebels and drag queens and punks. But on this day, a breezy afternoon in May, the cool kid who wants to link up there happens to be the coolest of them all. Mr Evan Mock is the 24-year-old pink-haired skateboarder who Mr Frank Ocean (more on him later) helped catapult from niche fame on the sport’s circuit to global visibility as a fashion model and soon as an actor, debuting this summer as one of the leads in a reboot of television show Gossip Girl. Indeed, his growing fame and near-ubiquity on billboards and airport fragrance ads is really what makes out-of-the-way Tompkins an ideal hideaway. “I like it here,” he says, “because I can come and not be bothered.”
Even that might change when Gossip Girl is released on HBO Max in July. But today, he still perfectly jibes with modest Tompkins, where stray saxophonists wail for tips and men play chess on park benches. He glides in on a silver Ross bike that he bought from a friend for $500, wearing a vintage T-shirt that says “Never Been To Hell” (also from a friend) and baggy denim shorts held up by a thin rope, with a black leather knapsack (it looks unassuming but closer inspection reveals it’s LOEWE) and skateboard strapped to his back, his signature bubblegum buzzcut hidden under a weathered green and yellow Oakland Athletics cap.
Though everyone – from cable channels to fashion brands – wants a piece of Mock at the moment, not being bothered seems to be his MO. Once off his bike, he has a detached, slightly wary presence, offering a stiff handshake and only a quick glance of eye contact. He is quiet except when prodded, and maintains a Mr James Dean-like nonchalance and distance. He lives nearby with his girlfriend, Ms Gray Sorrenti, telling me on a walk to a corner store for a pack of light blue American Spirit cigarettes that they have been dating for a little over a year, but declines to offer much else about their relationship. “I should probably keep that under wraps,” he says.
What he can talk about is Gossip Girl, which started as something of a fluke – he had never acted, but the show’s creator, Mr Joshua Safran saw a spark. “There’s just a vibe you get,” Safran says. “I think of him like a cat – he’s there and you want to stare at him and connect with him, but he’s sort of in his own world.”
Safran says that Mock’s power on screen comes from his off-screen strength of character. “Evan has a softness,” he says. “He’s gorgeous, he’s a great athlete, he’s magnetic and yet he has no ego. He’s kind, and generous, and thoughtful. He says ‘thank you’ to everybody.”
The show is a contemporary twist on the beloved 2000s drama (Mock has called it a “woke” update, but promises it’s still scintillating) and his character, Aki, is a high-school kid questioning his own gender and sexuality, something that Mock finds relatable.
“Me and my girlfriend in the show are super into this dude, Max, and we have a threesome. It’s pretty lit,” he says. “I’m not actually gay in real life, but the character is… I guess… bisexual. I had to make out with [co-star] Thomas [Doherty] and I feel like I’m playing the character, but, for my personal life, I’m also seeing if I like it or not.”
Did he? “No, but you’re asking yourself questions like, Why is [kissing a man] so much weirder? I think it has to do with social norms and all that.”
The hottest of commodities these days, Mock says he’s at a phase in his life where he’s open to all the opportunities coming his way, purposefully flexible and unfinished instead of fully formed. He sees acting as part of a panorama of interests, as opposed to an essential end goal. “I collect hobbies. Acting is just another thing to add to the list, I guess,” he says. It isn’t an exact fit yet, but he’s growing into the job. “I was hesitant at first. I was dealing with self-doubt and shit,” he says.
Safran confirms this. “He didn’t want to do this, I talked him into it. I wrote the role for him, I reached out to see if he was interested – he sort of was, he sort of wasn’t,” Safran says. “He’d say, ‘I’m really gonna try!’ I was like, ‘You can try, but this is also a contract and if the show goes years and years you have to be in it.’” But Mock espouses a more casual approach. “I’m just learning,” he says. “I don’t know anything.”
Back on a bench at Tompkins, the Hollywood talk and crowded New York park is a far cry from how Mock describes his origins. He grew up near surf mecca Waimea Bay in O’ahu, the third largest Hawaiian island, on a plot of land owned by his grandfather, a painter. His large extended family shared the compound, and Mock was one with the outdoors from birth, making childhood sound like Eden before the apple.
“The lifestyle we were living as kids was really a fantasy. I was homeschooled. We would go surfing when the waves were good and do our school whenever,” he says.
His dad, himself a surfer, crafts homemade fins for boards for a living. “He pushed me into my first wave at two,” he says, “before I even knew how to swim.”
After surfing, skating came pretty organically, an activity to do when the ocean wasn’t an option. “My grandma told me that I was ripping around on a board at five years old,” he says. “The waves are good in the wintertime, so summertime was just about skating.”
He gained recognition on the local circuit, though not enough to pay the bills, so he had a job leading tourists on guided swims with sharks. “Sharks just have a negative image,” he says. “They look scary, but they’re not.” He found inspiration in their fluid dynamics. “They’re battling currents without even trying,” he says. “They just glide.” Over the years, he’s focused on becoming equally as smooth, maturing into a lithe, elegant skater, able to move in ways that upend the laws of gravity and send him spinning through the air.
That grace on his board soon led to a career break that would become legend, the Gen Z social-media equivalent of a then-unknown Ms Lana Turner being discovered as a young girl at a drugstore soda fountain. In early 2019, the artist Mr Tom Sachs, a friend of his, sent a clip of Mock skating to Sachs’ friend Mr Frank Ocean, largely because the pop star and the skate star happened to share the same hair colour. “It was the day I coloured it, actually,” Mock says. “[I dyed it] pink just hours before.”
Though the skater and singer had never met (they’ve since become friends), Ocean posted it on his own Instagram, and, in our strange, sped-up times, the combination of Mock’s balletic skate style, cooler-than-cool co-sign, and hypercolour hair was enough to transform him into an influencer and viral social-media star almost overnight.
The Row Omar Belted Double-Breasted Brushed-Twill Trench Coat, Betto Shirt and Gerhardt Pleated Stretch Cotton and Cashmere-Blend Twill Shorts coming soon
Mock makes the subsequent success look as easy and aerodynamic as his skating, but that languor belies a healthy sense of ambition: when opportunities popped up after Frank Ocean’s Instagram post, he was dead set and ready to take advantage. “I had things that I wanted to accomplish,” he says. “Frank spotlighted me and it worked so well because I’d already set out to do what I’m doing now.”
His goal was a spot in the fashion industry, so he came to the mainland, and he and that strawberry hair have since shown up on runways and in campaigns for Louis Vuitton, Calvin Klein, SAINT LAURENT, Bulgari and Paco Rabanne, helping spark a movement that found companies ranging from Carolina Herrera to Gucci getting heavier into the skater craze.
“I think it’s a breath of fresh air,” he says of why he appeals to brands. “It’s what they fucking needed. People are investing more into the story instead of in random models. Instead of just, you look good or not – it’s people who do stuff.”
Thanks to Gossip Girl, what Mock currently does is acting, though he’s still getting used to the long-winded rhythms of set life. “It’s a lot of ‘hurry up and wait,’” he says. To pass the time between scenes, he’s been designing clothes. He’s collaborated with brands on products before, and has his own brand, Sorry In Advance, which launched in 2019. He’s working on a full collection for fall, aiming for September. “It’s going to be early-2000s late-1990s raver, plus mixing Hawaiian culture into it – the essentials I grew up with. It’s just another way to express my feelings and ideas,” he says.
The man who cast him in Gossip Girl to begin with can’t yet tell if Mock is in it for the long haul. “I could see him saying, I did acting and that was fun but that’s not what I want to do with my life,” says Safran.
Mock’s world otherwise sounds loose and relaxed, aside from a chance stint as photographer for his friend rapper Mr Travis Scott’s 2019 Astroworld tour, zooming around from show to show on a private jet. “So fucking fun, but also pretty rough,” he remembers.
At home in the East Village, he likes to cook recipes he gets from his mom and listen to plant music, a style of ambient sound that’s said to affect the health and growth of plants. “Plants like to hear it,” he says. “It’s pretty mellow.”
When asked, he emphasises that he has one main aspiration in life, and that’s to make enough money to retire his parents. As for him, he can’t imagine skating forever, as it’s too brutal on the body. Even ingenues get old someday. “It’s like a never-ending, slow deterioration,” he says. “Your joints, elbows, lower back, shoulders, knees, ankles. I broke all four of my fingers at the same time once. Broke both my arms.”
Surfing is a little more forgiving. He admits that he has a feverish work ethic now so that one day he can cash out and leave all the mainland madness behind, spending the sunset of his years out in the ocean with the sharks and waves. “On an island somewhere at my house that I own, around the people that I like; surfing seems like the thing that’ll last the longest,” he says. “Surfing is liberating. It’s freeing. You get lost in Mother Nature.”
For the time being, though, he’s still got two feet on dry land, the coolest cool kid in all of Tompkins Square, with scripts to memorise and interviews to do, eager to get on his bike, out on the streets and away from all the questions. “Make me look good,” he says, coasting off into the waning daylight on his trusty silver Ross. “Make me look good.”
Gossip Girl is out on HBO Max on 8 July