Despite HBO Max’s abrupt cancellation of “Gossip Girl” last week, skateboarder-turned-actor Evan Mock, who plays Akeno “Aki” Menzies in the reboot, was in high spirits on Thursday.
He had a “great” experience working on the show’s two seasons, he said. The “Gossip Girl” finale aired Thursday, and while Mock may not be gearing up for season three, he’s got several other projects up his sleeve.
“It was my first acting gig. It’s hard to put into words in a short time, but I learned so much. The crew was awesome. I understand that sometimes the cast doesn’t always get along, but we all got along so well and it made the whole experience so much easier. I’m just super stoked to have the opportunity to step into that world and have it be so graceful and such an awesome time to really soak up everything and learn as much as I could have,” Mock said in a phone interview.
For Mock, the biggest impact of the show’s cancellation will be his schedule, as the filming took up roughly eight months out of the year for each season.
On the series, Mock’s “Gossip Girl” character evolved — he started more shy and reserved as he was exploring his sexuality, but then developed more confidence.
“I feel like Aki learned how to not care so much about what other people think,” Mock said about the second season. “He really came into his own in the sense of not being ashamed of being in a throuple relationship opposed to hiding it more in the first season. Aki always plays the innocent one, but he’s just as involved with the controversy and all of the antics that go on in the show. Aki has learned a lot about himself and kind of contributed to the madness a lot more this season.”
Mock’s busy year ahead includes starring in the young adult romance film “Marked Men” alongside “Outer Banks” actor Chase Stokes and “American Born Chinese” actress Sydney Taylor, marking Mock’s second acting gig since his debut performance in “Gossip Girl.”
“It was kind of a thing that was set on my lap,” Mock said about how he got into acting. “I took the chance of putting myself out there and not knowing really anything and kind of learning things as we went on and had people behind me to support and help me through the times of self-doubt, which I feel like a lot of us go through at times. It was definitely something that I’m super happy ended up happening because it wasn’t like I was losing sleep over getting a role or not getting a role … The pressure wasn’t there.”
Mock is also building his presence in the fashion world with Wahine, his fashion label that’s inspired by his upbringing in Hawaii and his background skateboarding and surfing. It launched in 2022.
Wahine carries streetwear-inspired clothing, including graphic T-shirts, hoodies, varsity jackets, jerseys, cargo pants, accessories and more. Collections drop on a quarterly schedule.
“I feel like Hawaii needs to be celebrated and glorified in a different way than it usually is and that can mean a lot of different things,” he said. “I basically wanted to create a company for when you hear the name, you think about Hawaii. I mean in Hawaiian, [Wahine] means female, so when I think about Hawaii I think about my sister and I think about my mother who are two really strong women in my life who’ve helped me throughout my life, obviously. It’s kind of an ode to Hawaii and it’s an ode to them as well.”
Mock said that Wahine focused on getting its footing and establishing the aesthetic during the launch year, and will now focus on delivering its quarterly drops and collaborating with like-minded brands and artists this year.
This is the second fashion brand that Mock has launched during his career. Prior to Wahine, the actor established streetwear brand Sorry in Advance in 2017. After several collections and collaborations with Giuseppe Zanotti and Acacia, Mock stepped away from the brand last year due to conflicts with his distributing partner, he said.
“Basically he knew a lot more about the business than I did,” Mock explained. “At the time, I was putting things out to put out things, not thinking about copyrighting, licensing and trademarks. Basically, I was a child going into this world and not knowing the legal action of it.”
He aims to apply the lessons he’s learned to Wahine, and said he doesn’t regret the Sorry in Advance experience.
The actor’s approach to his new fashion label is similar to how he approaches acting: learning as he goes and enjoying the ride.
“[Acting] is still such a fun, new career path-slash-hobby that I like to do,” he said. “It’s kind of how I’ve lived my whole life — picking up new things that I enjoy and things that sometimes I have no idea about at all, but falling in love with not knowing and figuring it out and getting completely obsessed with how to make it the best I can make it.”