Anthony Keyvan On Student Body, Love Victor's Final Season, And His Future - Exclusive Interview

Anthony Keyvan has been acting for over a decade. One of his first roles came in 2009, when he was cast as Young Sayid in the extremely popular television series, "Lost" (via IMDb). Since then, Keyvan has steadily built his resume with recurring roles on shows like "Twisted," "Alexa & Katie," "Generation," and Hulu's "Love, Victor." His latest project, a horror movie, is a step in a new direction for Keyvan. As he discussed during an exclusive interview with The List, he's used to portraying characters in more comedic, family-friendly projects, so he was excited for the challenge of tackling something outside of his wheelhouse.

In "Student Body," Keyvan plays Ellis Azad, a high school student who gets swept up in some seriously sinister antics alongside his rebellious friends. The movie starts off like any other high school film — Keyvan and his cohorts are seen hanging out on campus and completing in-class dissections. Keyvan's character Ellis is a photographer, often snapping candid pictures of the group as they cause trouble and have fun. At about the halfway point of the movie, events take a sharp and sudden turn, forever altering the course of the plot and the lives of those in it.

Up next for Keyvan is the final season of "Love, Victor" where he stars as the kind, beloved character Rahim. As Keyvan said during his chat with The List, the final season was emotional for him to film, but it was an experience he's grateful for both personally and professionally. He also discussed what he hopes to accomplish in the future, and much more.

Anthony Keyvan was excited to join the cast of Student Body

I'm excited to talk to you about "Student Body." It was very tense watching it!

Yeah, it was pretty tense to film it, too.

That was one of the first things I wanted to ask you, because obviously your character Ellis goes through such an intense range of emotions in "Student Body." How was that for you in terms of transitioning between those emotions when you're filming these different scenes?

Honestly, it was definitely a challenge because it was the first time that I'd ever really taken on more of a leading role in a film or any kind of production. Getting to hone in on my craft and really study the material and feel what it would feel like when Ellis was experiencing these things, for the first time really doing my homework for something, it was a grueling process, but Lee Anne [Kurr], our director/writer/producer, she was phenomenal in directing us and really helped me along the way.

You mentioned processes as well. Do you feel like because of the genre that this movie is, was it a different process for you to get into the character's head before you were filming versus when you're doing something that's a little bit more lighthearted?

Definitely. I come from a background of mostly comedy work. I was on a kids' show and I've guest starred on Nickelodeon and stuff, but I've gotten the opportunity to sometimes be on something really serious and play a character with immense trauma, or going through something extremely traumatic. As an actor myself, I prefer that side of the industry. I love comedy, I think the best actors are comedy actors, but for me, I feel like it was a bit easier to fall into that — maybe because I love moping around, but I don't know.

Was that what appealed to you about working in the thriller/horror genre, that it allowed you to be your mopey self?

Yeah. I'm not always mopey, but I do enjoy the angsty vibe sometimes [laughs]. I was given the opportunity at the time when I was auditioning for this movie and I found out that the role was going to me. My manager called and he was like, "Listen, you have a choice here. I got off the phone with casting for 'Alexa & Katie' and they want to pin you for eight more episodes this season." I was a recurring guest star at the time, but that would be a much [heavier] part. That being a sitcom, I decided to take "Student Body" versus additional episodes on "Alexa & Katie" because that, for me, felt like more of the right decision in terms of where I wanted my career to go and the kind of material I want to start working with. 

He enjoyed the process of filming quintessential high school moments

That seems like a good step though, and it's nice that you were able to perfectly get this opportunity when you were looking to expand your career in that direction. It's always good to jump on those things when you get them, because then it sets you up for the rest of what you want to accomplish.

Definitely. I'm really glad that I decided to do that, because not only did I have such a great time making this film, I met some of my best friends today and it was all such an amazing experience. Obviously, there [were] bumps in the road, some hiccups here and there, as most productions [have], but all in all, I'm so glad I decided to do this film.

It's funny that you mentioned the connections you made, because I noticed, obviously prepping for this, that it seems like you guys are really close. The movie starts off as a regular teen movie where you get to hang out and have fun. For you, what was your favorite part of filming those scenes where you and the rest of the cast could just be normal teenagers for a little while?

It was really fun, because growing up in this industry, I had to miss out on a lot of normal school stuff and extracurriculars and getting to be a part of the student body, no pun intended. I remember in high school, I was always auditioning and working on something, so I wasn't always there. I missed my prom, and I almost missed my high school graduation. I had to give up a lot to do what I do. I wouldn't trade it for the world. I love what I do and I get to experience things that the average teenager doesn't ... I'm not a teenager anymore. I really do think that this is what I'm supposed to do.

Getting to film the hallway scenes and getting in that uniform every day, it made me feel like I was back in high school and doing it all over again. Those scenes were definitely so fun. I remember doing that scene in, I think it was the library, we were sitting on these big leather couches and I'm like, "Whoa, this is so cool. Imagine if this was my life." Well, I got to really experience that for a couple months and it was really fun. I really enjoyed those scenes.

He grew close to his Student Body castmates

It's nice that you were able to, in a weird way, get the high school experiences that you didn't get because you were acting, but doing it through acting.

Exactly. I had never been to a high school party! So, doing that [scene] breaking into the school, drinking and playing beer pong or whatever we were playing, I can't even remember, that's stuff that I never really got to experience as an average 17-year-old, but I got to do it a year and a half later [while] doing a movie. There's always sacrifices you make in life, but again, I wouldn't trade my path for the world. I think what I do is awesome and I get to experience things like doing a high school party scene instead of actually going to the high school party.

I feel like you're better off doing a high school party scene versus being at the actual high school party, because it's a more controlled environment and it's with people that you actually genuinely like and you want to be around.

Right? You're just pretending, and who doesn't love pretending?

You can definitely tell, as a viewer, that the friendships were genuine, because it doesn't even seem sometimes like you're watching a movie. When you guys are joking around, you feel that camaraderie, which I think makes it more entertaining.

Yeah, and what's crazy is none of us knew each other prior to filming this, at all. I had no knowledge of any of their existences — we met at the table read. I remember, I was so nervous. I was like, "Oh my gosh, this is crazy. I'm at a table read for a movie!" Harley Quinn Smith, one of my best friends now, she came like 20 minutes late and she was like this chaotic character of a person who was so genuine and sweet and beaming with energy. I was like, "I can vibe with that, I love this human already," and Austin [Zajur]. We all stayed in one house when we were filming.

We were filming in pretty rural areas of Georgia and so there weren't always hotels and stuff, so we got this house that we were staying in, all five of us, and we got really close during that time. I really think if it weren't for that, we probably wouldn't be as close as we are today, but I thank the producers for doing that because that's the recipe to make chemistry happen. We all got really close, really fast.

Anthony discussed the importance of chemistry

That's awesome that you were able to genuinely build those connections because of that, because I feel like a lot of the time, like you're saying, you guys would all do your job and then you would go your separate ways and maybe hang out, but it's better when you can actually get to know each other. I think that makes everything, I'm sure on your end, more rewarding, and then also the final product seems more convincing because you can tell that you guys aren't acting like you like each other.

Yeah, totally. Whenever you audition for something, especially if it's a lead or one of the series regulars, before you get the job, you do a chemistry read and you go there and you read the scenes that you've been auditioning with three or four other actors, and the network and the producers decide who has the best onscreen chemistry. It's wild to me that none of us had that and we had the chemistry that we had, because I have been in situations where I'm acting a scene out on set and the actor that is my scene partner isn't giving the same energy or we aren't clicking as much. We can make the scene work and with editing, everything can come together, but you can feel that. Chemistry is really, really important when making something convincing. We all had great chemistry, I think, and I'm grateful that you can tell that as well.

I know what you're talking about, because I've spoken to actors before who have said similar things to you, that it's hard to even do your job and express maybe a certain emotion, especially if it's a difficult emotion, like the ones you were going through when filming "Student Body," where you're tense or you're scared or you're nervous, or even in some of the more romantic scenes. It would be hard to build off of that if you feel like your scene partner isn't connected with you the way that you want them to be.

Totally agree! I've heard so many stories of actors doing scenes with people who are their mom or their dad or something, and they film the whole thing for the show and while they're editing, it doesn't work out and they recast the actor and reshoot it. If it's not convincing, it's not convincing. Chemistry is extremely, extremely important.

It's good that you were able to build it so quickly too, which is amazing.

Yeah! We filmed that within like three weeks, so we got — It was an 18-day shoot. Five days a week, so maybe three-and-a-half weeks, but it wasn't a long time. We really all bonded and clicked really quickly and that's something that's pretty rare in this industry, I think.

He also played matchmaker for his fellow cast members

Yeah, because it's usually, I'm sure, you're just a one-and-done thing. You're close because you have to be, because you're filming the same thing, but then you all go back to your normal lives afterward, I would think, right?

Right, and that did not happen. I mean, I pretty much set up Harley and Austin. If you talk to them, they'll probably say the same thing. I facilitated that severely.

Playing matchmaker!

Yes, absolutely. We were all staying in the same house. I could tell, I was like, "Oh my gosh," and they were playing love interests in the film. It was so serendipitous. I made it happen. Neither of them wanted to talk to each other, they were so scared, and I was like, "Mm-mm, you need to talk to her. You need to talk to him. He's feeling this way. She's feeling that way." Then, I became best friends with Harley, she's my sister. I seriously couldn't imagine my life without her. Cheyenne and Montse, same thing, I love those humans so much. I could go on and on all day about them.

I'm happy to let you gush! I think that it's really incredible that not only were you able to personally connect with them, but that you were able to help them realize something that maybe they would've just brushed over and been like, "Oh, what if that had happened?"


You got in there and you made sure.

Yeah, I'm pretty great. No, I'm just kidding. [Both laugh].

"I don't want to brag, but I'm pretty great."

I don't want to brag, but I set them up for life.

You're like, "I want to be included in all the speeches at the wedding."

I'm going to officiate the wedding! I made that happen and I'm taking full credit for it.

I think you should! I'm going to make that the headline of this piece. Focus on that, you know? Matchmaker of the century.

Yeah! Anthony Keyvan, actor, matchmaker.

Anthony is grateful for his time on Love, Victor

Also, like you were mentioning about the other productions that you've been working on, I know you're gearing up for the final season of "Love, Victor" too. I was curious, how do you feel like you've grown as an actor and also as a person since you first started on the show through now, when it's ending?

Oh my gosh. Yes, we are gearing up for the final season. We actually wrapped the series principal photography five days ago. It's been a rough few days, I'll admit. I really do feel like this show has changed my life. I have these people in my life now who I consider family. I know I keep saying that, but trust me when I say this is not normal. I'm very blessed to be on these projects where the cast gets along so well, because I know that doesn't happen all the time. I've seen it firsthand.

Watching everyone work this season, we've all really grown a lot, as people, as artists. I can see everyone's really coming into their own with their characters and really feeling comfortable, and same goes for me. I really do feel so much more comfortable playing this character, Rahim, [in] Season 3 versus Season 2. I think it's because of, honestly, nerves, and Season 2, we were beginning the pandemic and it was a lot of uncertainty and a lot of changes to the way we work. I feel like we've all gotten used to it and have really figured out how to work under these conditions.

I have become more compassionate and [able to say] "yes" to more things. I've always been a homebody, someone that doesn't really take risks, because the industry I'm already in is very risky, and I feel like if I control every other aspect of my life, then I'll be okay mentally. Playing Rahim, he's so unbothered and he's so comfortable with himself and he's the epitome of fun. Getting to play him, I have been taking notes and figured out, "Okay, I can have some fun."

I'm still dealing with the emotions of it all, of wrapping the series. It's the longest time I've been on a show at that capacity. On "Alexa & Katie," I was on every season, but it was always one or two episodes here and there. On this show, I really was a main cast member and getting to tell that story, getting to play that character, that means so much to people, to me, and seeing how the show has impacted so many lives is really, really special. I cannot wait for everyone to see what we've come up with for Season 3, our last season.

He reflected on the emotional ending of the series

I didn't realize that it had just wrapped! I'm sure it's very tender and emotional to be reflecting back on it.

Yeah, I'm looking through all the photos, because we've taken so many trips together as a cast. I live with one of my cast members who plays my best friend on the show.

We're all very, very close and we really created a family on that set, with the crew as well. There's not a single person on that set that I can complain about. It was definitely a rough one on the last day, for sure, because everyone loves each other on that set. We really bonded throughout the pandemic because at the time, we weren't allowed to see anyone else other than the people we work with, getting tested every other day. We were basically told to quarantine amongst ourselves, so because of that, we only saw each other. We were always hanging out and always going to each other's houses after work and playing video games and cooking and stuff.

Yeah, I love every single member of that cast. It's going to suck knowing that we're not coming back, but all good things come to an end, and I'm glad that we got to finish the show on our terms. We were at least given the heads up that this was our last season while we were filming, so we were able to wrap up the storylines. I feel like people are going to be really happy with where everyone ends up.

That's good. It's nice as well that you entered it with the idea in mind that you knew that this was going to be the last season, because I'm sure that would make it even tougher for you, especially as a group that is as close as everyone is, to have filmed a final episode and not realize at the time that it was your final, final episode. I would imagine that would be a lot worse.

That would be a lot worse, because there would be so many loose ties. I'm looking for the right words, but it would leave so many open ends, and it wouldn't be a cohesive story, and it would leave people hanging. I'm grateful to Hulu for letting us know that this was our last season before we finished it, because I really do think that everyone did a great job finishing out the story.

Anthony appreciates his acting career

I think, too, it also attests to what you were saying about what you were learning about yourself through your character. I'm sure it helped you to be like, "Okay, I'm going to live in the moment because I know that this is going to be coming to an end soon." So you could not be in your head as much.

Yeah, absolutely. I wanted to make sure I went out with a bang and I didn't want my sadness for the show ending to bleed on screen. I was like, "I'm going to make every moment count and I'm going to cherish every last moment." I remember walking through the Fox lot, I was like, "This is crazy. I used to come here and audition, get a guest pass. Now I have my own  pass onto the lot that I scan right in. I have my own parking spot." Those things I feel like people take for granted, but it's a big deal when you've been doing this your whole life and you finally get to that.

I remember really taking it all in towards the end especially, because this industry's super volatile, you never know when you're going to get that again. I'm grateful that in my lifetime, I've been able to experience that.

That's good, and it's always good to lead from a place of gratitude and positivity, I think, especially, because I know also in the journalism/writing world too, people get so jaded over time, and I think it's better to have your perspective of being like, "I'm so fortunate and I've been working for this so I'm going to enjoy it," versus people that are like, "Oh, this is just my job, whatever."

Yeah. I'm going to be honest, there have been days where I fall into that mindset, because at the end of the day, a job is a job, you know? I don't always want to get up at 5:00 in the morning for a 7:30 AM call time. Sometimes it sucks, but it also is so rewarding and I really couldn't see myself doing anything else. I'm grateful I get the opportunity to do it now.

And he's looking forward to the future

You've had the opportunity over the course of your career so far to work on so many incredible projects that I think, like you were saying, have been really rewarding for you, that have been really resonating with your viewers as well because of the subject matters that you've been dealing with, but what are some of the goals you have for yourself that you look forward to meeting in the future?

It's hard to say. I really hate that question, because at any given moment your career path could change in this industry, but I hope one day ... No, I will one day be the lead of my own series, I will one day be the lead of a major feature film. Those are my goals. I don't really need the Oscar or the Emmy or whatever, the awards. I want to see myself carry an entire series or a film as the lead. That's my goal for the next couple years.

I think, if anything, you've done a lot that has indicated that you're on that trajectory. I think if you're passionate about it and you're positive about it, I always believe that what you put forth into the universe is going to come back to you.

I absolutely agree.

"Student Body" is now available for rental and purchase on demand and on digital platforms everywhere.