Based on a handful of recent Vines, Riff Raff’s been on set at Connecticut Film Center Studios in Stamford for hours by the time I arrive. It’s noon. “Mr. Riff Raff’s playing a loan shark,” one of the Prospect Park employees explains.
James Franco? Who’s that? I don’t know who that is. - Riff Raff
In the depths of the massive studio stands the entire world of the show, like a dollhouse. You could punch holes through most of the walls. One of the soap’s publicists leads me past Shelter, the nightclub where, being a loan shark, Franko will demand money from Cutter Wentworth, one of OLTL’s regulars. There are a few tables, a bar, and so many lights it’s like standing on Bowery. To get to Riff’s trailer, we walk past what appears to be a vase store, a clothing boutique, and then a coffee shop.
In the parking lot in back of the studio, at the entrance to his trailer, Riff stands in the sunshine. He tells Ron, one of his managers, that he needs his hair done. He needs beads. He needs Murray’s Beeswax. He needs little rubber bands. He repeats the instructions. For now, his hair is shoulder-length and luminous. He’s got a coppery mane like Jessica Chastain in Zero Dark Thirty. It shines.
Inside the trailer, we sit on the couch. I’ve already seen this space because of the Vine posts I watched on the train. It’s like I’ve stepped through Twitter and into the other side. The 15 minutes I’ve been allotted leave little time to ease into the Franco/Franko situation.
How did you wind up on One Life to Live?
I have a good manager.
You’ve always wanted to be on a soap?
I want to be on all kinds of TV, movies—that’s all I want to do.
You know James Franco was on a soap.
General Hospital. He played a character named Franco. For 54 episodes.
Franco? My name is Jamie Franko.
That’s an interesting coincidence.
What do you mean? What kind of coincidence? What are you talking about?
It’s a coincidence.
A coincidence to what?
You’ve described yourself as the Rap Game James Franco.
James Franco? Who’s that? I don’t know who that is.
He was in a movie recently.
What’s that about?
I’ve heard that it’s about you.
I might have to check that out. I don’t know who, or what that is about. I don’t know anything.
He’s performing. He grins, sarcastic and coy. He shrugs and says that “music is boring compared to acting.” He’d rather act than rap. Which is the joke Riff is playing on all of us, because he’s always acting. This is a rapper who got his start on an MTV reality show called From G’s to Gents.
He leans harder into the jokes, talking about how he wants to compete in the Olympics. Which event? For time spent in a Jacuzzi. Or beer eating. Not drinking? No, eating.
He only becomes lively and as close to natural as a man wearing a T-shirt with an illustration of his own face can be when he tries to play me a song. First he needs his new gear. From his Louis bag, he removes a gadget shaped like an external hard drive that can charge a laptop, a cell phone, portable speakers, and probably many other things, simultaneously. For 27 hours, he says, it can charge any manner of electronic device. (If you add 100 to that number, you get the title of a James Franco movie, but if I really believed that to be a significant detail, I would be a crazy person. So forget I even mentioned it.)
Out from his Louis bag comes a Beats Pill that Dr. Dre gave him (the detail sneaks out of the side of his mouth like loose change he’s leaving for the needy). He plugs it into the charger in order to play his current favorite song. He plays it. It’s a song you’ve heard before, in a TV commercial: “The Way I Am,” by Ingrid Michaelson. ‘Cause I love you more than I could ever promise / And you take me the way I am / You take me the way I am / You take me the way I am.
Riff says he keeps it on repeat. The bass sounds wrong, like he’s blown the speakers. He has, in fact, blown the speakers—apparently by listening to Ingrid Michaelson.
Ron, one of his people, says that my 15 minutes are up, and as I leave, Riff asks if I’m going to stick around for the shoot. Of course.