Post Mortems
Joey Pollari American Crime

American Crime: Joey Pollari Breaks Down Eric's 'Dangerous' Phone Call, Teases Upcoming 'A-ha!' Moment

A word of warning to the characters on American Crime: That phone call you’re about to make is probably not a good idea.

When Season 2 of the ABC drama began, Lili Taylor’s Anne Blaine made a 911 call (“I’d like to report a rape”) that rocked both her and her son’s worlds, with arguably very little payoff. And on Wednesday’s episode, history repeated itself when Joey Pollari‘s Eric Tanner picked up his cell phone and dialed rape accuser Taylor, asking if the two could hash things out at the local rec center.

But that pivotal phone call was all a set-up, a ruse concocted by Leland High’s basketball team so they could meet up with Taylor and attack him — payback of sorts for all the grief he’s caused Eric, Kevin and the rest of the players with his sexual assault accusations. (Whether the teammates actually do jump Taylor remains to be seen; the episode ended with Taylor running away from the men when he realized he was about to be beaten.)

TVLine caught up with Pollari to discuss that regretful phone conversation, how it will affect Eric in weeks to come and how the troubled teen — who recently attempted suicide after revealing he did sleep with Taylor at the captains’ party — will cope with even more challenges on the horizon.

TVLINE | Before you began filming this season, had you been told anything specific about Eric? Did you know he was gay and that he’d go through such a struggle with his sexuality?
The sides that I auditioned with were not in the show at all, [which said that] Eric was gay. When I got to set with [series creator] John [Ridley], that information was still true, but everything else had shifted, which was really exciting — and scary to be in the unknown like that. I did not know that much about where the arc was going, but there was just a trust there. I trusted John and [executive producer] Michael McDonald to do what they would, and I would just show up and bring what I could to it.

TVLINE | Two weeks ago, we saw Eric dealing with such guilt and insecurity over his homosexuality that he tried to take his own life. This week, he acknowledged he was gay but insisted he wasn’t an ambassador for gay teenagers. What’s his real stance on his sexuality right now?
We saw in Episode 5 how he can’t talk to his father quite in the way that he hopes to talk about being gay. In this episode, the school is now using his pain, and he is slightly aware that this is a strange situation. Leslie Graham is taking a special interest in him. As that progresses, Eric is caught in a place of, “This is way over my head. I just want to go back to school. I just want to be back to where I was, except with this added fact.” But he’s struggling up against a wall that this added truth — that people now know that he’s gay — is actually threatening everything that came before. Even the school, who he hoped to turn to, is using it for their own advantage.

Joey Pollari American CrimeTVLINE | Were you surprised to see that everyone in Eric’s family — especially his mom — is so homophobic?
I was, because of course, as an actor, I was looking for someone [to support me]. His dad is there for him in some sense. He just doesn’t know how to talk about it, which in some ways, for Eric, is even harder. Not only is there someone there, but they can’t even talk about it. That overwhelming feeling is so true for so many in this process that it just rang true, as sad as it is to be a part of.

TVLINE | Speaking of which, how much research have you had to do for this heavy a role? Have you worked with teenagers who have struggled with sexuality?
I looked up a lot about personal struggles, whether it’s about being gay or not. Everyone growing up, and going through high school, has to come to terms with something that is tied to shame, and it’s a difficult time to be who you are. And then when it came to coming out and being gay in high school, I was looking at some of these videos of teenagers choosing to come out, and it seems to be a recent trend — and a good one — that people are calling their families and telling them. It’s an extremely emotional journey to watch, and I would sit and just take in [these kids] wishing to be accepted and struggling to speak the truth when they know it’s their truth. I was looking at forums for depression, especially as it related to being gay. Even in its specificity, it seemed to have such universality to it, and I really connected with that.

TVLINE | Right now, Eric seems to be all on his own. Will he eventually find someone that can be an ally, or will he fly solo for the rest of the season?
We won’t see him flying entirely solo. I don’t think we’ll see him finding a partner, at least not romantically, in that way. But the relationship with his father shifts over the course of the season into maybe not what Eric was thinking or expecting, but what Eric might really need. The light at the end of this tunnel, especially in American Crime, is one realization. I love the show for this reason. The catharsis is the “A-ha!” moment. It’ll be great for fans to see how that translates to something so small, such a small realization that Eric eventually has.

TVLINE | Eric was also seen making a really tough phone call, in which he essentially tricked Taylor into getting attacked by the basketball team. How is that going to impact Eric next week?
That one phone call changes everything. The wish to get assimilated back into the team is a dangerous wish for Eric. We’re going to see the repercussions of that for Taylor, for Eric and for Kevin, who, at least at the end of Episode 6, is unaware of what the team has done. The echo of that phone call will be seen over the course of the season.

TVLINE | As it stands right now, is Eric more interested in coming to terms with his own sexuality, or just getting his status on the team back to where it was?
Eric does think he has a grip on his sexuality. He says in that interview, as insensitive as it is, that he’s just a gay guy. That’s his stance. He’s Eric, and he just happens to be gay. I don’t think even Eric understands the levels to which that one truth that he’s been hiding affects all of the truth that he’s been trying to put forward. It’s very precarious. He doesn’t know that he should be trying to understand [his sexuality] as much as he should be. Over the course of the season, we’ll see how he’s just trying to get back into acceptance, and how the road to others’ acceptance starts with his [own], eventually.

OK, your turn. How did you feel about Wednesday’s episode of American Crime? Hit the comments.

Comments are monitored, so don’t go off topic, don’t frakkin’ curse and don’t bore us with how much your coworker’s sister-in-law makes per hour. Talk smart about TV!

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24 Comments
  1. GuessWhat says:

    well — update, his face is beat up in next week’s preview
    and yikes — the REAL crime happens next week!

  2. Joey says:

    This is easily one of the best shows on television. The younger actors are really impressive.

  3. Glenna says:

    This is the first season I have watched American Crime and I am very conflicted in my feelings. First it is a great show and I love all the cast, but here is where I am so far.
    I’ve always said I don’t have a problem with people who are gay, but I am against gay marriage. I see the struggles that Taylor and Eric are going through and it tears my heart out. No one should have to suffer like that. I have grandchildren and I keep thinking what if one of my grandchildren had to go through this kind of pain and suffering, it would tear my heart out; but here is my conflict. I know Taylor’s mom loves him, but is she going to far, or is there a better way she could handle this. Leland needs to be exposed, but how much will Taylor have to go through because of the way his mom is going about this. Can’t wait to see how all of this works out.
    Don’t know if I made sense or not but hope I have.

    • Joey says:

      I don’t mean to come across as being rude, but how does you being against “gay marriage” (or as I refer to it, marriage) have anything to do with the rest of your comment?
      .
      In regards to everything else you said, that’s actually one of the things I love the most about this show. If there’s a character to “root for”, for lack of a better term, they aren’t always going to do things that you think are for the best. If there’s a character you don’t particularly like, they’ll do some things that’ll make you feel bad for them or like them. Not everyone in the world is a hero or a villain, and this show definitely shows you that most people are a pretty big shade of grey.

    • abz says:

      You don’t have a problem with people who are gay, but you’re against them getting married should they choose to do so? Yeah, that makes sense. How does it even affect your life if two gay people get married?

      • mary says:

        That’s part of her conflict. If you are raised with certain beliefs, it’s hard to fully
        “un-accept” those beliefs later in life. She’s saying she does not have an issue that one is gay, but all the beliefs of marriage, in itself, is what makes it hard to accept gay marriage. But this show is helping ,at least her, to understand better what it means to be gay.

        • abz says:

          Yeah, I just get so tired of seeing and hearing comments like that all of the time. It just feels hurtful. Thankfully its a rarity on TVLine.
          But you’re right, if this show can help someone reexamine their mentality and way of thinking then that’s a great accomplishment.

    • :) says:

      Despite what others say I encourage you on your journey through new territory. The point of this show to explore views of things that effect our society. The fact that it has you thinking critically on the subject is good. Keep thinking. Examination of positions is a good thing.

    • rinaex says:

      You made sense. I will just ask that you continue on that train of thought of the type of pain that any potential grandchildren might go through if they were gay, and how much pain it might cause if you couldn’t accept it if they chose to marry their partner.

  4. abz says:

    This show is so heart-wrenching I was shaking and even in tears at one point. one of the finest shows I have ever seen. These young actors are so talented.

  5. abz says:

    What happened with the semen the police found? I wonder if they’ll still have the school comply with obtaining the DNA samples from Eric and the other people at the party. Or did they already mention who it matched to and I might have missed it?

    • KLS says:

      No, DNA samples have not been taken (as far as they’ve shown us), and they haven’t said if it matched anyone at the party. I have a feeling it’s Kevin. He seems awfully guilty and is instigating the mob mentality against Taylor.

  6. Angela says:

    Ugh. Leslie. What a slimeball. I gotta admit to enjoying watching her flail and get all desperate as things continue to slip further out of her control. Course, at the same time, I hate the negative effects this whole situation is having on other characters, so it’s a weird mix of feelings here.
    .
    My personal feelings about Leslie aside, though, I had to raise my eyebrows at Michael’s discussion with the cop about going up against her. Oooooooooooh, that’s going to be quite an…interesting showdown, to say the very least
    .
    As for all this stuff with Taylor, I understand his wish and longing to just move on from this nightmare, especially given how much it’s escalating for him. But man, I feel for his mom so much, too, and I love seeing her so hellbent on fighting the school. I really hope she keeps rattling cages. I like and admire her quiet strength.
    .
    I also feel for Eric, being alternately manipulated and used or dismissed because of who he is. I cannot imagine how some families cannot accept their children for who they are. I don’t understand parents who dismiss (or in some cases, disown) their children once they find out they’re gay, or bi, or trans, or whatever. I don’t get how families can do that to each other.
    .
    Great interview. I admire this show for touching on the complexities and shades of these issues, and I appreciate seeing actors like Pollari put so much thought into these roles and storylines. Next week certainly looks to be very intense-I’m anxious to see how it’ll all play out.

  7. AlBSure says:

    I don’t think I’ve seen a show like this where EVERY actor is so top of game. Impressive performances all around. I was so tense, so sad, so shaking my fist at the TV….every moment was a new emotion thanks to these fine performances doing great justice to the issues being raised here.

  8. PSL 2016 says:

    I think, this phone call has recorded now

  9. D. says:

    American Crime is such an excellent show, i can’t wait for more episodes every week. Too bad for the ratings, the show deserves much more!

    • KLS says:

      I agree. This is one of the few shows that I watch live every week. Each episode is so good, so well written and acted. I think the subject matter might be the thing that keeps people away. Though I can’t wait to see each new episode, most are too good, too heart wrenching, too thought provoking, to watch again. (If that makes sense)

  10. smartysenior says:

    Last season was so compelling and this is just a lot of teen angst drivel going in circles. I’m one of the ones who’ve stopped watching, I completely understand why it’s dropped. Extreme close ups are not dramatic, it’s just technique masking as emotional depth.

  11. pat says:

    Can someone tell me who is the man who was helping the 2 little girls with their homework? What’s his part. I must have missed something.

  12. koos mare says:

    Hey all I can say is that it is the best series I every watch in my life I can relayed to taylor side of the story because I had the same treatment as he and Eric had for my parents and family and its so sad to see that young LGBTI people must deal with for everyone all I can say it happens around the world homophobic and racism will never end if people don’t change because we are and war with our self for no reason at all.For me this is a series that can effect people because it effect me and I will like it if everybody in this world can see what we are destroy for nothing we all have the right to be on this planet no matter your race or sexuality.