Editor’s note: It was July, 2014, that I was first made aware of a YouTube channel called “Our 2nd Life.”
I arrived at the Regency Ballroom in San Francisco and saw the mass of pre-teens and teens sanctioned off in an alley close by the venue. A tour bus pulled in and the ground shook in tandem with the screams and shouts of the crowd as if the Pope and The Beatles had just landed on the tarmac at the same time.
Two members of the group, Kian Lawley and JC Caylen, walked out and mass hysteria ensued around me. I was never able to meet them that day and I had no idea that I would be covering the members of this now disbanded group for the next year and a half.
November, 2015, was when Lawley and Caylen made their third stop on their “Tour before the Tour” in Sacramento.
I walked into the venue with the tour manager and there they were on the stage. They introduced themselves to me as the Guacamole brothers before we all sat down for the interview.
Let’s talk about your content. Since you’ve left O2L, there’s been a clear rise in maturity with your channel’s content. How did that come to be? When did you make this decision? Did your audience just become mature enough or did you guys just decide, “You know what, we’re gonna take this chance?”
KL: It was kind of a mix of both. We wanted to take a chance, but we kinda knew that we had a certain demographic of people who watch us; and they were all probably under the age of like 16, mostly, so we wanted to build it up to a more mature audience like 16 to 21 type of people. You know what I mean?
KL: But I don’t know, it was kinda of a mix of “we’re gonna try it out” and also a mix of like we want them to mature with us.
JC: Yeah. I think the big thing is that we’re growing up and we want to stay real to ourselves and real to the fans. So we don’t want to stick at like the — I’m still 17, I’m still gonna make 17 jokes — I’m 23 and it’s time to like – I’ma have a beer I’ma do this and do that – and you know I’m gonna be myself.
You guys have both branched into “traditional media” like [Kian] you’re in a film and… [JC] were you shooting?
JC: Yeah, I was shooting for a show, a series.
So how has that entire process of trying to get your foot in the door with these old school guys been like?
KL: It’s working well. I’ve filmed two movies now and one of them hasn’t come out yet. But I don’t know, it’s fun and it’s really cool to see how they work. It’s a lot different from a YouTube video.
JC: I just recently had to go to New Mexico to film the show and the whole process of it. I mean, I wasn’t a main character, but the whole process of it was totally different from YouTube. Like, I love branching out. I love doing new things. I want to do as much as I can in this lifetime. So I mean, why not do movies? Why not do shows? I feel like, Kian and I, I feel like we can do more than YouTube and we’re gonna prove that to the world.
Have there been any influences on you two as actors, regarding the craft? Or has it just been like you want to try it or has it been just an aspiration for one of you or both?
JC: Kian has aspirations.
KL: Yeah, I have a couple of people I look up to. They’re all comedians. I’ve always wanted to try acting. I’ve always wanted to get my foot in the door like you said. I always wanted to do something so I kept auditioning, auditioning, auditioning. I have a few people that inspire me. So I kinda trace their footsteps and went in the same direction. I haven’t done a comedy yet but I hope to soon.
It was a horror movie the very first one you did?
KL: The first one I did was a horror movie.
KL: It was a way different genre.
[JC] When did this interest in acting happen for you?
JC: I was never truly into acting to be honest. Just because I thought it was so hard because ever since english class I hated memorizing poems. So I see these scripts Kian’s getting they’re fucking like 100 pages long and I’m like, “Well fuck that! I don’t wanna…” – sorry, I don’t know if I can cuss. I can’t cuss?
No, it’s fine. My audience is fairly older.
JC: Okay – so I was like, “Fuck that! I don’t feel like memorizing lines.” But then he said it was so much fun and blah, blah, blah; and I have my manager saying, “Yeah, you should try it!” and blah, blah, blah. Just recently with the channel we just started getting into scripts. I actually had to memorize it and read a script and play a character, I have all these characters on the channel. So that was fun. I was like, “Damn, this is fun.” You know? So maybe it’ll still be fun it it’s like a bigger production with like other people. So I tried it once and I loved it. That’s where my aspiration comes from. Like I tried it once and I absolutely love it. There’s been a couple of actors out there that I love, but it wasn’t like, “Ah just because he did this I want to follow in his footsteps,” you know?
Which actors, specifically? For both of you.
JC: I really love Will Smith and Shia LaBeouf. I love Steve Carrell. I can name [Kian’s] number one.
KL: Jim Carrey, Steve Carrell, Will Ferrell, Andy Samberg, Jonah Hill – it’s just all comedians. And then for drama I really like Shia LaBeouf and… who does [Tour Manager] Brent Abens look like?
JC: Ryan Gosling.
KL: Yeah! Ryan Gosling.
You guys have probably been asked this question so many fucking times. But I have to ask it. What has your experience been like from being “normal” to becoming this newer generation of celebrities? How has that experience changed your lives?
JC: So like basically before YouTube and now that we’re here on stage?
Yeah. Like how long was the transition from that point to this?
KL: It’s been a journey. It’s been a long time. It’s not something that happened overnight. We had to work for it, and I feel like it has changed my life for sure. Because before this I didn’t really know what I wanted to do. I wanted to act but I didn’t want to audition. I didn’t know how to go into an audition I didn’t have any experience. So I don’t know, I was kinda at a crossroads with what I wanted to do, and YouTube gave me the opportunity use it as a platform to jump into new things like acting. For my friends it’s been singing. For other friends it’s been modeling. It’s for sure a life changing opportunity.
Yeah and quite frankly being an actor is fucking awesome. Speaking as a former actor. But moving on, would you rather work on a film or a series?
JC: That’s hard to explain because I’ve never done a film.
KL: Yeah and I’ve never done a series.
JC: So I don’t know. I mean, I would love to do a film. I’m sure it’s the same exact thing – I mean not the same exact thing. I’m sure it’s along the same lines –
Let me reword the question. Have you two compared your two experiences and seen any differences?
JC: We did talk about them a little bit but I honestly didn’t see anything so different. Rather than just like… well I guess it depends on like who your character is, how long you need to stay on set, how long the hours are, when you’re gonna film, where you need to film – cause I was in New Mexico for it – I guess just stuff like that. It all depends.
JC: And I feel like series are a little bit shorter. But I don’t know because mine was like a hundred and something pages for the script and it was 12 episodes. It felt like a big movie split into 12, you know what I’m saying?
JC: So I don’t know. Maybe it’s the same thing.
Is this a web series?
JC: We’re… well… they’re hoping that Hulu or Netflix buys it. [I] do not know where it will go if they don’t. But I think the director has a lot of confidence that they’re gonna like this stuff.
Yeah, and are you able to say what it’s about? Are you allowed to say anything?
JC: Yeah, it’s a show called “Tagged.” It’s basically about a young girl who gets murdered on Vine, actually. And she gets shot by a murderer. And these three main characters, three girls, have to find out who the killer is before someone else gets hurt or killed. So it’s like a murder-mystery type thing.
Sounds very Agatha Christie.
JC: Yeah. Very – they said it’s very like “Pretty Little Liars” but more teenage –also a little more grown up – you know what I’m saying?
Okay, cool. Kinda like “Scream Queens?”
JC: I don’t know, I’m not too familiar with “Scream Queens.”
I’m not either.
JC: I’m not familiar with “Pretty Little Liars” either. So I don’t even know, that’s what they’re comparing it to.
Your guys’ fan experience, because usually, with stars they don’t really get that close to their fans. How has this experience with your fans been like?
KL: It’s more personal, more interactive, more special, I guess. Because as an actor, you have to play a character that no one can really relate to. Like a serial killer, no one can relate to that, except crazy people. But for YouTube, you get to be yourself, you get to portray who you really are. So I feel like more people can relate to who you are and that brings you guys closer. For us it’s easier, it feels like you’re friends. It feels like they’re friends who watch your videos. It doesn’t feel like they’re fans.
JC: Cause like I mean, like in moves they portray like – I mean, I’m not talking about all the movies – but before movies you get your make-up done, you’re getting your hair done, you’re making sure your outfits on point. On YouTube, you know, you don’t really get to put make up on and you kinda have messy hair, you’re wearing what you’re wearing at the house. So you’re kinda just talking one-on-one. It’s more like you’re not looking at the camera with a perfect face and no acne. We’re normal people, too and I think that’s what the whole YouTube thing is good for. It’s about connecting.
There’s been a change in quality from your O2L days to now. Am I correct? Just as far as shooting and quality – I don’t want to say that it’s bad quality.
JC: Yeah I know.
You know what I mean?
JC: I know exactly what you mean. When we moved out [of the O2L house] we moved in together and we wanted to have better quality – when it comes to the channel — we wanted better quality, we wanted to hire a production team for some of the videos – for out skits and stuff – so we have that. Better sound, it all comes together. But you still have that personal feel because there’s no acting involved really – unless we do a skit.
I want to talk about this one particular video. It was recently when you were with Ricky Dillon. First off, can I say just how fucked up that was?
Also, tell me how did he react to that and also where did you find that scary-ass guy?
KL: The burglar was our personal trainer from the gym. He keeps saying he has no acting experience, but I don’t know how he pulled that one off. It was a great performance.
JC: It was actually improv. We told him to stop when he barged in to scare him. Once he scared Ricky that was supposed to be it. We didn’t realize he was going to bring a taser. We didn’t realize he would yell that loud and break my door. We didn’t realize that it would go that long, but we played it off and that’s what we got so we put it up.
In five minutes or less, take me through the entire process of making a video. I know that sounds impossible, but I promise you it’s not.
KL: You have to think of a video idea, then you have to go over it. I’m trying to think of like bullet points.
JC: It all depends on like what you’re filming, too. So if you’re doing a short film, you have to write a little script, write what you’re gonna say. You gotta make sure you get all of your costumes together – unless you’re doing a challenge video, it’s kinda easy – set up the camera, tripod, where you want to film. For the challenge video, if you need props, you need pies in the face, mouse traps and electric collars and make sure they’re charged and ready to go. Start the video, do the challenge or the skit, whatever it is – that’s the fun part – then you get to go through it.
KL: That’s the easy part.
JC: It’s usually the mess, you have to clean up after, there’s usually a mess or stuff you have to pick up. After you pick up all that you have to dump the footage onto the computer, import it, edit it, make it sharp, make it clean, that takes about three to four hours to edit – depending on what video it is. Then you export and upload. That’s it.
So this is the tour before the tour?
Alright, so – by the way, thanks for picking Sacramento, guys – what can we expect from the next tour? The Tour tour.
JC: The tour after the tour before the tour?
KL: I don’t want to say too much.
JC: There’s a lot of surprises. I mean, when you watch the show – I don’t know if you’re gonna see the show or not – there is a little surprise at the end that usually gets people. This is like something you would be seeing at the bigger tour, but just heightened. We want to go bigger, bigger venues, bigger stunts.
KL: I was gonna say that what you’re seeing tonight – I’m trying to put it in perspective – what you’re seeing tonight is a little taste of what you’ll see on the big tour, but the big tour is going to be on steroids. There are going to be a lot of different things that we’re going to do. This is kinda like the tour before the tour that we need to test out venue size. We’re testing out what works and what doesn’t work onstage.
JC: What do people like.
So this is like a dry run?
KL: This is a very dry run. This is a little bit of what you’ll see, but everything else on the real tour will be bigger and better.
JC: Just trust us.
The part of the interview with my paper [the Express] is basically done. But I’m also going to write a longer article for my blog which is a movie blog. Want to talk about movies?
KL: Let’s do it! I love movies.
JC: I’m down.
Let’s start with some light questions. What is the move that changed your life?
KL: “The Truman Show.”
I love “The Truman Show.”
KL: To this day, it changed my life. Everywhere I go now and everything I see, it makes me think that like our world is in “The Truman Show” – not that I’m just one person in a globe that thinks it’s fake. I feel like everyone in the world is controlled by someone or by something. So I feel like (pointing to crew member) that guy over there, he’s doing that for a reason. Someone told someone to tell him to do that. I don’t know, “The Truman Show” did something to me, I don’t know what it is. But yeah, changed my life for sure. And it’s Jim Carey, I love him. I’ll kiss him.
JC: That’s so hard. I don’t really know. I don’t really have a movie that changed my life. I’ve had a couple of movies that kinda changed my way of thinking.
That’s basically changing your life. It changed your way of thinking.
JC: Yeah. The only one I really like and really had an impact on me was “The Blind Side” with Sandra Bullock. I think.
JC: Yeah. It’s such a good movie and it shows like compassion and the diversity. No one – well except Sandra Bullock’s character – really cared that he was a black kid and she took him in and… I just love that movie. It doesn’t break your heart but it kinda like fixes it up and tells you that there is compassion on the world. I really like that movie. That’s my very on the spot honest answer.
What is a movie you can watch over and over again? It never gets old for you.
“Tangled?” I can see that. Yeah.
KL: I can watch it over and over.
Guys, I don’t judge.
JC: I’ve never seen “Tangled.” So I don’t know. But I love “Project X,” I love “I Am Legend.” I love “Disturbia” with Shia LaBeouf. I love “Cloverfield” by JJ Abrams.
What do you think is the most important movie ever made?
JC: That’s a hard one and I don’t think I even like the important ones. I like the ones that are zombies and monsters attacking cities.
Some of those are arguably important movies.
JC: I really want to say that there’s not one movie that is more important than the other. Even when it comes to like “Inside Out,” have you seen “Inside Out?”
Of course I have.
JC: It’s like those Disney movies that have like those meanings behind it. I’m not saying that not only adults get it, but the kids only see it up until they grow up and re watch it and they’re like, “Oh I loved this as a kid.” But they see that message. I feel like those movies are the most important. Like the whole meaning behind “Inside Out” is that you need both sadness and happiness to live. You can’t always be happy, sometimes you need that sadness. I think’s so important. Messages like that, and I think Disney always portrays that. “Finding Nemo…” and yeah.
JC: Yeah, Pixar.
Pixar will destroy people.
Kian, did you want to answer?
KL: I can’t think of one.
We can move on.
This next question is basically the same thing, but not really. I don’t ask “what is your favorite” because that’s a dumb question. What is the greatest movie ever made?
JC: The greatest?
KL: “The Shawshank Redemption.”
JC: I don’t know. I love “Interstellar.” It’s not my favorite movie, but… fuck, it’s so good. It’s so good, so intellectual.
If you like “Interstellar,” you would love “2001: A Space Odyssey.”
It’s basically the first “Interstellar.” Of course it being made by Kubrick, it’s one of the greatest films ever made.
JC: Oh shit.
Yeah and “The Shawshank Redemption.”
JC: I’ve never seen that.
That is actually what made me become a critic. Like before than it was just all these stupid little movies that I’ve watched like “The Nutty Professor” and shit like that. But “Shawshank” really did change my life. Any recent movies that you’ve seen besides “Inside Out?”
JC: “Southpaw” is really fucking good.
KL: Yeah, “Southpaw.”
“Straight Outta Compton?”
[Kian] you’re 20-years-old, right? You probably grew up listening those dudes then.
KL: Yeah. It’s not like I grew up with them, but I grew up listening to them for sure.
JC: My dad used to love that shit. He would always bump that in the car when I was growing up.
Alright let’s close, because we’re running out of time. Can you give some advice to an aspiring YouTuber or actor?
JC: Make like Nike and just do it.
KL: The same thing and if you’re scared or nervous, those nerves and fears you have aren’t going to go away unless you try it. You’ll always be left in the dark wondering “what if.” So just go for it and all your fears and anxieties and all that will go away if you try it. You might like it, you might hate it, but just try it and see if you like it or not.
JC: And to add, anything I’ve ever tried, from starting my channel on YouTube to doing the series to like starting rehearsals for tour, the hardest part of everything is just to start it. Just take that first step. There’s a lot of people who are like, “I want to YouTube, but I don’t know what videos to make.” My first video was a fucking a vlog with my drunk grandma. It was something that I wanted to do. So it doesn’t matter what your first is. It matters what you make of it in the long run. No one makes the greatest movie of all time during their first run.
Unless you’re Orson Welles.
JC: Yeah, unless you’re that guy. You take that first step and once you’re out of that first step, the ball rolls and you start lovin’ it. That’s it.
The companion article “Sacramento gets stuck in the web with Internet celebrities Kian Lawley, JC Caylen can be viewed here.