Midtown Manhattan is the antithesis of privacy—personal space is intruded upon by sheer population density and anonymity is the result. You’re just part of the crowd.

It’s approaching 85 degrees on a humid Monday afternoon in late July and I’m leading James Van Der Beek through a swarm of unsuspecting citizens, many of whom, it can be assumed, have an emotional attachment to (or at the very least, an opinion on) a beloved character of his filmography’s past. Van Der Beek’s wearing dark sunglasses and powder blue suit pants; his publicist is carrying the jacket garment as to not weigh down the actor in the heat. He’s sporting an uncharacteristic mustache, an altered appearance for his role as EDM juggernaut Diplo in the new Viceland comedy series, What Would Diplo Do? Perhaps it’s his lack of flannel or the decades that have passed since his career-defining lead role of Dawson Leery in the iconic ‘90s drama Dawson’s Creek, but we journey five blocks completely uninterrupted. Glances abound, but they remain at that. After What Would Diplo Do?, which premiered in early August, that will likely change—JVDB 2.0 will emerge, redefined by his ability to move seamlessly from Dawson to Diplo. Van Der Beek has never been a one-trick pony and he’s out to prove it. 

We wander into Citizen M, a swanky hotel with an obvious affinity for the young and gauche—bright colors and angular brick-a-brack litter the walls. In the vacant courtyard, we sit for iced coffees served in tall thin glasses. It could be the company or to the location, but something about the experience feels similar to the sort of delightfully misguided narratives that exist throughout What Would Diplo Do?—it’s extravagant, and a little off. This isn’t the persona of Van Der Beek—charming from the first moment you meet him, the actor makes sure you sit before he does, he holds doors open longer than necessary to be deemed foundationally chivalrous. In conversation, charm veers into comfortability over intimidation, and it helps when he answers my first inquiry with, “Fuck, this is going to make me sound old.”

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