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On a recent afternoon, Chris Zylka was late for a photo shoot. Apparently, he had more important places to be — like a mandatory sexual harassment meeting.
“It’s a studio thing. You have to have them or the studio could get sued,” he says, wearing a T-shirt from Los Angeles-based Stampd, a necklace from Margiela and sneakers from Margiela’s collaboration with Converse.
“It’s, like, really serious.” He pulls out his iPhone.“Look, it was so serious — we literally sit there and nap. Here’s the picture. There’s the production assistant, there’s Theroux’s assistant, there’s the head of hair…”
By Theroux, he was referring to Justin, as in Mr. Jennifer Aniston, who plays his on-screen father in the upcoming HBO show, “The Leftovers,” which premieres June 29. Created by Damon Lindelof, the Emmy winner for “Lost,” and Tom Perrotta, the Academy Award nominee for “Little Children” and “Election,” the drama focuses on a small town in New York that is forced to confront the sudden disappearance of 2 percent of the world’s entire population without explanation.
Click Here for a Behind the Scenes Video With Chris Zylka
“It’s a story about a family torn apart by this. How would people react? What religion or culture do they turn to in times of grief or despair and depression?” he says.
Zylka plays Tom, who he calls an “avenging angel,” a character who is battling his demons while joining false prophets to guide him through his internal pain.
Off-screen, the 29-year-old actor says he’s become fond of his cast members, especially Theroux.
“He’s become a father figure in some way,” he says. “There’s that trust we have between us. I know that if I say something to him it’s between me and him. It’s a father-son bond.”
That’s something special to the Ohio native, who grew up in a single mother household, never having met his biological father. After playing football at the University of Toledo, and graduating with a degree in art, he moved to Los Angeles to pursue becoming a painter. It was while bartending one night that a manager discovered him and asked if he was an actor.
“No, I said, but I want to be,” he recalls. From there came the Abercrombie & Fitch campaign shoots with Bruce Weber, then the starring roles in the indie flick “Kaboom” and “The Amazing Spider-Man,” and stints on television shows like the CW’s “The Secret Circle.”
It was at this peak that his profile began to rise and he was quickly thrust into the public eye after a very gossip-heavy breakup with actress Lucy Hale. Brokenhearted, the actor took to Twitter to discuss details of the split.
“That was like four years ago and I learned from that because that made me look stupid,” he says. “I want my last name to mean something and it made my grandfather look stupid. Made my mother look stupid. My brothers and sisters. When all that s–t was happening, there’s a sibling in high school getting a bunch of s–t. There’s no reason to be the bad guy.”
These days, Zylka says he’s “grown up,” by proposing to girlfriend and fashion blogger Hanna Beth, who was always close by during the photo shoot and the interview. The two met only six months ago but are already planning the wedding for next year.
“I needed to grow up,” he says. “There was a choice to grow up personally or be alone. She helped me gain everything.”