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Written by Tara Aquino (@t_akino)
Nat Wolff is on a scooter, maneuvering his way down the carpet of the Complex office. "Can I take this out with us?" he asks as he looks back. Realizing he's turned a foreign work place into his skate park, Nat quickly adds, "No, never mind. I'm just kidding." The 18-year-old actor returns the toy to the cubicle he borrowed it from, straightens his leather jacket, and walks tall out into New York City, his actual playground.
Growing up in the city, Nat and his brother Alex Wolff weren't your typical kids who joined Little League and stressed over getting straight As. The children of actress Polly Draper (star of Thirtysomething) and jazz pianist Michael Wolff, the brothers' idea of fun was strumming Bob Dylan songs at Washington Square Park and making movies, Nat's first being Don't Eat Off My Plate, which he filmed at the age of nine.
"I know a lot of the kids in the entertainment industry who didn’t go through the normal stuff, like high school, with the peer pressures and heartbreak and everything. There's definitely a part missing in them, you know? You can see it in their eyes.”
Despite his mother’s reluctance to exposing him to Hollywood at such a young age, even going as far as to recount to him her own horror stories of rejection in the industry, Nat insisted he take a shot at acting. One of his earliest memories: Kid Nat tacking a sign to his bedroom door for his parents to read. It says, simply: “I want to be a child actor!”
Nat adds, “With two artist parents, I just grew up knowing that art was the most important thing and everything else was kind of secondary.”
As fate would have it, the brothers' favorite pastimes just so happened to parlay into a career. Before entering middle school, Wolff became a tween megastar for playing, well, a tween megastar. Produced by his mother and with music supervised by his father, The Naked Brothers Band, which started as an award-winning indie movie before Nickelodeon made it a series, was essentially an exaggerated version of Nat and Alex's life. With a title inspired by the brothers shouting, "We're the Naked Brothers Band!" from their bathtub as toddlers, the show documented the absurdities and intricacies of the NYC-based band's world—from fending off groupies (think more Bieber, and less Rolling Stones) to juggling their math homework while on tour. By the time he was 11, Nat, along with then-8-year-old Alex, had a song on the Billboard Hot 100 ("Crazy Car") and had their faces plastered on everything from school supplies to video games.
The show ran for three seasons, before ending in 2008. As his fans grew out of their Nickelodeon phase, so did he.
Sitting across from Nat at a busy café, it’s evident that his claim-to-fame character’s trademark shyness, the one that made him a regular scribble in the Mead notebooks of 12-year-old girls, has been replaced by a quiet, contemplative confidence. Giving himself seconds to think before speaking, Nat says, "Right after the show ended, I learned that the fame goes in and out. It's untrustworthy, and you can’t get too attached to it.”
Instead of trying to maintain his career’s momentum by moving into the Oakwood apartments of L.A. like every other child actor, he stayed in New York and shifted his focus to finishing school. "I know a lot of the kids in the entertainment industry who didn’t go through the normal stuff, like high school, with the peer pressures and heartbreak and everything,” Nat says. “There's definitely a part missing in them, you know? You can see it in their eyes.”