James Van Der Beek on His 'Rules of Attraction' Role: 'I Did End Up Going Into Therapy'

Ethan Alter
Senior Writer, Yahoo Entertainment

One thing actors often say they most enjoy about their craft is the opportunity to become a character that’s wildly different from who they are in real life. But leaving that role behind when the project is done can be a more difficult challenge. James Van Der Beek experienced that firsthand during the making of his cult 2002 film, The Rules of Attraction. In a recent Facebook Live interview with Yahoo TV, the actor — who is currently executive producing and starring in Viceland‘s new mockumentary series, What Would Diplo Do? — revealed that he had a hard time shaking his dark-hearted Attraction character, Sean Bateman. “I did end up going into therapy for the first time after that,” he explained. “I didn’t know how to process that stuff as an actor at that point. You learn to channel something without it sticking to you.”

Adapted by Pulp Fiction co-writer, Roger Avary, from the 1987 novel by noted provocateur Bret Easton EllisThe Rules of Attraction unfolds on a fictionalized college campus where all sorts of bad behavior runs rampant. Sean, for example, sells drugs to his fellow students and also sleeps with the roommate (Jessica Biel) of the girl he professes to be attracted to (Shannyn Sossamon). (Fun fact: Sean is also the little brother of Patrick Bateman, the title character of Ellis’s controversial 1991 book, American Psycho.)

Seeing Van Der Beek as a drug-dealing Lothario was particularly shocking to audiences 15 years ago since, at that time, he was still best known as the tender-hearted Dawson Leery on the beloved WB series, Dawson’s Creek. “That was the first time where I felt like a role was not a role that I was playing, but more like an exorcism,” the actor says now. “I was playing another character at the time who was incredibly sweet and sensitive, and there was no room for that kind of venom or anger. All of a sudden, there was this outlet for it! It was like an out-of-body experience, a lot of that movie.”

Watch Yahoo TV’s full Facebook Live chat with James Van Der Beek belowWhat Would Diplo Do? premieres Thursday, August 3 at 10 p.m. on Viceland. 

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