You might know actor Adrian Grenier from his best known role as the lead Vincent Chase in the long-running HBO series Entourage. These days, the 40-year-old New York-raised actor moves in slightly different circles. When we spoke to him before his talk at the ArtScience Museum last week, Grenier was getting ready to embark on a 3.3km swim in the Straits of Messina (between Italy and Sicily) with Sir Richard Branson to raise money for his ocean conservation charity, The Lonely Whale Foundation.
In Singapore for the first time, he was even contemplating taking a dip in local waters in preparation for his swim. When asked why these environmental projects were so important to him, Grenier credited his mother for starting him on the right path. "I had a great mother who taught me that I matter," he shared. "She told me that I can make a difference in the world, and that was very helpful. Because now when I go out, I really feel that I have an important role in this global community to make a difference. I hope more people feel the same way because we need everybody to participate."
Grenier rebuffed the idea that celebrities are only involved in such projects for cynical or self-serving reasons. "I don't feel obligated as a relatively well-known person to do the right thing in my life," he assured us. "I feel obligation as a human being. I just happen to have access to an audience and of course I'm going to speak to the people that I relate to, that's just natural. Celebrities are not going to cure or solve the problems of the world. It's going to take every individual throughout the whole planet to come to the table and be part of the solution."
He also holds a sanguine approach to taking on online critics and trolls. "Usually it's hard to get to people, especially on social media where often [some individuals] have a severe reaction to something that I'm talking about," he said. "I target them because they are the people that I think are most in need of a reason or encouragement to make a change, to do the right thing. It's not easy and I understand why people reject celebrities, because celebrities are seen to have achieved the dreams that we all think we want: Fame, fortune, access, options. But at the same time, we need to recognise that all that doesn't mean happiness. By achieving the goals of being a celebrity, that isn't gonna be make you happy. What gives you happiness is giving back and having purpose in your community."
How very un-Vincent Chase of him. We also engaged Grenier in a quickfire Bernard Pivot interview just for kicks.
What is your favourite word?
What is your least favorite word?
What turns you on creatively, spiritually or emotionally?
People who care about the environment.
What turns you off?
What is your favorite curse word?
What sound or noise do you love?
The sound of this door banging in this room.
What sound or noise do you hate?
The sound of this door banging in this room (laughs).
What profession other than your own would you like to attempt?
What profession would you not like to do?
I wouldn’t want to be in the oil business.
If Heaven exists, what would you like to hear God say when you arrive at the Pearly Gates?
“It’s okay, I know you didn’t mean it.”
Adrian Grenier was speaking on 22 September as part of Marina Bay Sands' ArtScience on Screen's In Conversation With series. For more from our Buro x Bernard Pivot series, click here.