This article contains spoilers for season three of Outer Banks.
John B. Routledge is going through a lot. The headstrong wild child, played by 30-year-old actor Chase Stokes, spends the majority of Outer Banks season three’s movie-length finale episode in the deepest pocket of his emotional bag.
The past two seasons of Netflix’s Outer Banks have been a delightful mix of The Goonies meets Euphoria meets Scooby-Doo — but the third installment of the teen adventure series goes full-blown The Last Crusade, long-lost father and all. John B (who is a delinquent to authorities but a fearless leader to his friends, called the Pogues) finally gets the gold. But the road to El Dorado was not paved with good intentions.
There’s trouble in marital paradise with John B and his girlfriend-turned-wife Sarah (Madelyn Cline), his long-awaited reunion with his father (Charles Halford) is cut short, and the Pogues are burnt out from running for their lives. John B ends the season stuck in a limbo of grief and uncertainty. Luckily enough, a distraction from his feels falls in his lap before the credits roll: another treasure hunt.
Ahead of the Outer Banks season three premiere, GQ talked to Stokes about that controversial finale time jump, impulsively shaving his head after filming wrapped, John B’s perpetual daddy issues, and the crushing difficulty of choosing a favorite Goonie.
GQ: You finally got your premiere, you got Poguelandia, you got a season four. What has this past week been like for you?
Chase Stokes: It’s kind of an adrenaline rush mixed with an adrenaline dump. I’ve got the flu now, so my body finally said, “You need to slow down, sir.” So I’m sitting on the couch, doing as little as humanly possible. But it’s been kind of a dream come true. I mean, you start this thing and you hope that people tune into it, and now you’ve got a music festival with Lil Baby and Khalid and Alt J. It’s nuts.
The Pogues have a habit of finding the treasure… and then losing the treasure. They really needed a win this season, but actually finding El Dorado is wild. At what point during production did you find out that John B was actually going to lay eyes on the city of gold?
Pretty early on we knew the arc of the season, [but] probably towards the latter half, like the fifth episode was there a real reality of us figuring it out. Our writers have a pretty interesting process of writing scripts. We never really know exactly how the season’s going to end. We have sort of an idea, but for me it was more along the lines of, “OK, this looks cool on paper, but how do we pull this off in real life?” It’s pretty cool to see all the hard work that it took to make El Dorado, the city of gold come to life in our little show.
Do you believe in El Dorado?
I’m a huge believer in lost legends, and I’ve been able to connect with this character and be a part of the Routledge family, [and] you kind of become a little bit obsessed with their world. Treasure hunting and things of that sort have definitely become more of a topic of conversation in my life than they have in the past.
After you wrapped the season, what did decompressing look like for you?
I shaved my head. I finished this season on my 30th birthday, which was a Friday, and we did an overnight and I wrapped at 2:30 in the morning on Saturday. I shaved my head, I think the video was at like 2:47 AM? And then I went on Monday morning to Vancouver to start my next project. So I didn’t really decompress at all. I kind of used all of it and dove into the next project. I was hoping I could decompress after that, but then four days after I finished that film I went and did a film with one of my favorite directors of all time, Nick Cassavetes, who directed The Notebook. I absolutely could not turn that down. And then I finished [that] a couple days before Christmas, and I went straight to my mom’s house, and stayed at her house all the way through the second week of January.
Please get some rest.
I’m working on it.
Let’s talk about John B’s reunion with his dad. You’d think it would be the thing that completes him, but it almost breaks him on a few occasions as he starts to learn who his dad really is, or who he’s become.
With every high there’s a low. One of my good friends Jeremy Pope said in The Hollywood Reporter’s Actors Roundtable [that] he was talking to his therapist and they told him that you’ve got to see your life as a heartbeat on a monitor. The highs and lows mean that you’re alive and if there’s an even feel, that means you’ve flatlined. And I think John B and everybody in life needs to feel the highs and lows of emotions in order to understand what really speaks to them within their family or their found family or within their little world that they live within. John B has spent the last 20 episodes trying to navigate what he’s actually searching for: Is it the gold? Is it the connection to his father? Is it a connection to the world around him?
It’s uncertain, but I think once his dad is there he takes it as an opportunity to let his guard down a little bit, assuming that his dad is going to have his best interests, and he quickly realizes that that’s not necessarily the case… We find out that unfortunately his dad left him to go find treasure, and this fictionalized idea that he had of him is not real. So he’s reliving trauma that puts him exactly where he was in season one. It’s the most vicious cycle there is. Big John really fucks things up.
His return throws off the dynamic of the entire friend group, especially between John B and Sarah. Their relationship is really tested this season. I mean, they watch both of their fathers die in the season finale. Will that monumental and complicated loss bring them closer or drive them away from each other?
I think there’s a lot of unresolved stuff going on between John B and Sarah. With [Sarah cheating on John B with] Topper, it’s understandable why Sarah feels comfortable with Topper. He’s a memory of a time that was way less traumatic. As the season opens up, she’s really dealing with some trauma, some anxiety. They have to really honor the fact that there was cheating that happened. John B was at a very, very vulnerable position, and so was she, but it doesn’t excuse it. And is that something that he bounced back from? Did he overlook it? I hope our writers really take the time to dissect that. They’ve been through a lot, and I do think that regardless of the mistakes that have been made, I do think they love each other. I would love to see them take a second to breathe and figure everything out.
That finale time jump is something serious. 18 months is a long time. How do you feel about the decision to jump so far ahead in the story? Was there anything in between that time that you would have liked to see play out on-screen?
I think if we play it right, that timeframe will be something that we really touch on. It’s necessary in order to move forward to really see what has happened. I also think that it was smart of our writers and Netflix to recognize that — for myself in particular, I’m 30 years old — playing 17 on TV is not as realistic as it once was three and a half years ago. There’s a lot of different things that go into the time jump [decision], but I think it’s important to give the kids time to decompress and reflect on what’s happened, and allow some things to settle in order for them to really evaluate what their next step is. I’m interested to see what happens. Financial freedom doesn’t necessarily mean freedom of stress and anxiety and trauma.
It’s safe to assume that Ward is actually dead for real this time, right?
I would say yeah, based on the end of that tenth episode that uh… he’s dead.
If you could write and direct the first episode of season four, what would that look like?
Maybe taking a moment to check in with each individual character and their endeavors. Maybe seeing JJ on his charter boat, Pope doing his schoolwork, Kiara doing a little rescue dive for her turtles, and seeing where John B and Sarah are and taking a moment to see what life is like on Kildare. I think what the fans love and what the heart of this show is, is the characters and this little island of Kildare in the Outer Banks. Really taking a moment to see what life is like after the time jump and after the dust has settled is where I would want it to start in my mind.
What are you most proud of from this season?
Finding the truth in the storyline. I remember being 17 and not really knowing which direction I wanted to go and so I kind of tapped into that. But I think for a lot of teenagers to feel torn between what their family’s wants for them are, what their friends’ wants for them are, and what their own personal wants are is something that a lot of people can relate to. So hopefully when people watch the show, beyond the fictional storyline of treasure hunting and romance and all of that, hopefully they can connect to a group of kids who are all just struggling with their purpose in life and finding themselves along the way.
Is there anything that John B hasn’t gotten to do that you’d want to see for him in season four?
I would love to do a scene where we sit down at a restaurant and have a very cordial meal between him and his friends just catching up on certain things. I don’t know, I just want peace for these kids for a little bit. Maybe taking a boat ride into the sunset like we did in season one.
Who was your favorite scene partner this season?
Definitely Big Charlie [Halford], who plays Big John. Charlie is wise beyond measure. He’s given me life advice that I never knew I needed. He’s given me spiritual advice that I will hold onto for the rest of my life. When we started this season Charlie came on kind of as a day player and we knew he had a stint, but we didn’t know how the whole John B and Big John dynamic was gonna work. And I think it’s safe to say that it definitely works between Charlie and I.
Speaking of another Charlie, what’s the story behind the entire cast knowing “Charlie, Last Name Wilson” by heart?
This is a deep rooted situation. Quite a few of us knew the song before it became the cast theme song. We used to all live in the same apartment complex in Charleston. We’d have a couple adult beverages, and next thing you know somebody would take the aux cord and you’d always know when it was Austin [North, who plays Topper] at some point because Charlie Wilson would come on. And then it turned into this consistent pattern of habit where any time Austin had the aux cord and it was a jam night, “Charlie, Last Name Wilson” would come on and 10 seconds in everybody’s got a fake microphone, whether it’s a spatula or an invisible one in their hands or the closest object available. It’s just a full on moment. It’s also the song whenever we’re at a karaoke bar, you just know somebody’s going to pull it out.
I hope that Charlie Wilson knows you are doing the Lord’s work, introducing his music to a new generation.
I think Austin would probably keel over if he found out that Charlie Wilson knew who he was. If we could make that happen, Charlie, if you’re reading this interview, holler at your boy.
Your OBX origin story is now a thing of legend with your hesitation around auditioning coming out of sheer respect for The Goonies. Which Goonie is your favorite?
Oooh. I mean… maybe Brand? Played by the incredible Josh Brolin, just because I’m a huge Brolin fan. I don’t know, Chunk never goes wrong. That’s such a hard question. I mean everything in my gut says I want to go with Sean Astin and be the typical Mikey fan, too, but let’s go with Chunk. The icon himself.