In 2020, 32-year-old actor and screenwriter Jordan Firstman shared on Instagram a series of sketches. In these short videos, he adopted the point of view of different human beings as well as non-human entities, from a straight man having a barbecue to an apartment. One video — in which he pretended to be a banana cake publicist and told his client that he had been named Time person of the year (posted during the baking rage of lockdown) — became a viral phenomenon. Firstman, who had some experience in the film and TV industry — as a scriptwriter in the series Search Party and as director and producer of several award-winning short films — knew how to take advantage of the attention. He landed his first major leading role in Rotting in the Sun, a dark comedy directed by Sebastián Silva, which is now streaming on MUBI. It’s a perverse and crazy plot that takes a scalpel (and plenty of frontal nudity) to the contradictions and privileges of the creative class.
Question. You have just landed your first leading role in a movie. And you are playing himself. Is that an added challenge?
Answer. The film is much more meta than people realize. In 2021, I was tired of Los Angeles and thought about escaping to Mexico City for a few days. One night I played a Sebastián Silva movie for a guy I was hooking up with, and the next day I meet Sebastian Silva. We ended up having dinner with friends. And it wasn’t like we connected in this crazy way. He thought I was kind of annoying, and I thought he was pretentious. And two months later, he calls me out of the blue, and says, “Hey, man, so I want to make this movie and I want you to play yourself. And I want to use like the worst parts of your personality. I looked at your Instagram, I think it’s super embarrassing and bad. Would you be willing to do it?” And I was like, “Yes, let’s go. It sounds fun.”
Q. In fact, Silva said in an interview that, at first, he found you “hilarious and exhausting.” And that he asked for permission to “fully humiliate you and make fun of what you do, without irony.” Did you like the idea?
A. I’m an exhibitionist in many ways. I’ve always been a polarizing character, and I’m always trying to learn more about why. In my early twenties, if someone didn’t like me, I’d corner them and force them to tell me exactly what they didn’t like about me. And, of course, I would get really hurt when I heard the answer. I imagine it’s the masochistic part of my personality. In the movie, it was very crazy to have yourself be portrayed by someone who, at the time while they were writing it, really didn’t like me that much. So, I was able to make one of my biggest fantasies come true: seeing the worst things people think about you. It’s an interesting exercise: going through the pain instead of going around it.
Q. Rotting in the Sun is a film with a lot of explicit sex. On your own Instagram account, you posted a video where the public referred to the film as “the penis movie.”
A. Honestly, I thought the sex was going to be way easier than it was. It’s no secret that I’m a bit of a slut, I’ve sucked a lot of cocks and vice versa. So, I thought it would just be like every day. But the problem was not the cameras, but the chaos of any production, where you have to stop and start because the lighting is wrong or to get the blocking right. The first sex scene we shot was the orgy that happens in Mexico City. There’s a lot of plot happening in that scene, so getting all the stuff right while trying to stay relatively hard was very complicated. A lot of the guys had done porn before, and even they were struggling because they weren’t used to being on a traditional movie set. Since then, I respect porn stars a lot more. It’s not an easy job, but I knew this movie was going to be special, and I hoped it was going to be good. I was a huge fan of Sebastian’s work, and it was my first time playing a lead, so I just really wanted to deliver. I put a lot of pressure on myself. I had to trust the process and trust Sebastian and pray that it would be worth it, honestly. If the movie sucked, I would probably hate Sebastian right now for making me suck cock and make fun of my Instagram for nothing. But I love the movie, so it was worth it.
Q. In the film, you play as the Instagram star, which you actually are. Did the success of your videos surprise you?
A. Yes. I never really had time to process it because it happened so fast. I made my first videos and, a few days later, Ariana Grande found them and started republishing them. All this happened during the pandemic, when I was completely by myself and had just gone through a breakup. I was like getting “famous” (you could put air quotes there) and I had no one to celebrate it with.
Q. What are you planning to do next?
A. I think I’m really spoiled with this movie because it’s the kind of movie I’ve wanted to do my entire career. I love movies that are like really dense with ideas. I met Baz Luhrmann at a party once, and he told me: “Jordan, all you need to do is smash it, smash it, just get there and smash it.” I know I have the capability of getting there and smashing it. I’d like to expand my dramatic acting, but always from a cool and subversive point of view.
Q. The fashion industry loves you. We have seen you in fashion shows for Versace and JW Anderson, and in June, you walked in Paris for Louis Gabriel Nouchi.
A. I have always liked clothes. I like to keep pushing the boundaries and being silly and being playful. Even the fact that I was modeling is subversive in itself. When the video of the show was posted online, many of the comments were: “What is this fat hairy beast doing on the runway?” And that was a big wake-up call, because in the places I hang out, people and being hairy and not having a six-pack is seen as sexy.
Q. You mention subversion a lot. Why are you so interested in it?
A. I’ve always been really inspired by hypocrisy. I would get in so much trouble at schools for calling teachers out for like the way they were treating the other students. I’ve always had that in me. I see many things in the real world that aren’t being represented in media. I think many people are living in this version of the world that’s super sanitized and boring. And they keep themselves in these bubbles. Most of the people I meet are not living these cookie cutter lives. So it all depends. In certain circles, I’m not subversive at all, I’m super basic. But if you ask straight people that have two kids and a dog, they’re like, “Who is this crazy, like, slutty bitch?” So it depends on who you’re asking.
Sign up for our weekly newsletter to get more English-language news coverage from EL PAÍS USA Edition