Although primarily known for his tireless efforts to lower the bar for HBO programming, these days Entourage star Adrian Grenier has higher aspirations beyond creating global awareness of brunch. As seen in his 2015 founding of the environmentalist group Lonely Whale—named for the documentary he produced about a tragic whale without any mooching friends—Grenier has lately turned his vacant eyes toward the sea, that roiling, mysterious Brunch of the Deep continuously threatened by man’s brusque and inattentive service.
“Acting is my day job, but at night, I get to be a superhero,” says the man whose day job also included pretending to be an ocean-saving superhero—albeit in a less self-aggrandizing way—after demurring at being tarred with the far more “radical” brush of “environmentalist.” Grenier continues: “There are superheroes, people who fly or have all these extraterrestrial powers or supernatural abilities. Everybody can be a superhero every day by doing very simple things. Change the world.”
Declaring himself a non-superpowered superhero actually turns out to be one of the more down-to-earth quotes in this lengthy profile from The Cut’s Anna Silman, which begins with Grenier immediately lecturing both Silman and some poor pizzeria waiter on the blight of plastic straws. “We consume 500 million straws each day,” he says. “The equivalent of 127 school buses filled with straws. It’s disgusting … There should be children in those school buses, going to school, to learn, not straws.” Silman notes that Grenier says this last bit “wryly,” as if to stave off anyone who might mock Grenier for actually believing there are currently school buses trundling through our neighborhoods, leaving behind sad, doe-eyed schoolchildren because they’re overflowing with straws bound for the ocean floor. And while that might seem superfluous, Grenier quickly proves why such clarification is necessary, giving an interview as packed with incredible quotes as your average straw-bus.
“Whales are the keeper of wisdom,” Grenier muses sagely. (Perhaps they can figure out some sort of kids-and-straws rideshare?) “[Entourage] was a cultural phenomenon, it defined an era, it’s undeniably an amazing show,” he declares later, as certain in this as the wisest whale who’s never actually lived on land. But Grenier acknowledges he’s done more than just be a superhero who blazed trails for a generation with his portrayal of a narcissist whose only defining trait is his thirst for fame, however undeserved. Grenier reminds us that he also bravely forged a path through the unsparing tundra of Williamsburg, whose teeming, barista-free wilderness he was the first to tame:
“I pioneered Williamsburg,” says Grenier. “It got so gentrified that I had to come to Bushwick. I lived two blocks away, and then this place opened, and I couldn’t afford to live in this neighborhood,” he says, gesturing around Roberta’s, which opened in 2008. “We used to have to walk three miles backward in the snow for a cup of coffee when we lived here. Now there’s, like, baristas and cold brew.”
As Jezebel notes, in 2008, Grenier was somewhere in the middle of his Entourage run and making around $200,000 per episode, which should have at least been enough to purchase a humble homestead and coax sorghum from the cold and merciless Bushwick ground. Paper questions his story even more pointedly, recalling the “thousands upon thousands of Puerto Rican, Dominican, African American, Polish and Italian families who’d been living in Williamsburg and Bushwick since forever” (in addition to thousands of other working-class people).
Nevertheless, much like Christopher Columbus—or Vincent “I Am Queens Boulevard” Chase—perhaps it’s Grenier whom the history books will ultimately remember, with schoolchildren who haven’t been dicked over by straws learning the story of how he tramped his way through the snow backwards for some reason, all so that you and I might enjoy the cold-brewed coffee we take for granted today. (Also so that Grenier could eventually open a “clubstaurant” in Manhattan called Vynl, and pioneer stuff like “cookie dough spring rolls” and “table-side mixology.”)
But Grenier’s discovery of lands long inhabited by other young, rich people doesn’t end with Williamsburg. As he explains to Silman, he also just got done pioneering Burning Man, and it has forever changed even a world-weary, loft-hardened soul like Grenier, to the point where he can’t stop telling people about it.
“It’s like, could you imagine having discovered America?” he says. “Would you stop talking about that? It’s like, I went to this new land. There’s nothing like it. And that’s the thing. It’s captivating, because it’s unlike anything I’ve ever experienced. And I’m worldly, I’ve been around the world. And it happens to reflect the value system that I agree with.”
That value system, he explains, is exemplified in the “zeitgeist of humans” who believe in sharing umbrellas. (“Sharing umbrellas is awesome,” as one of his compatriots helpfully interjects.) It also involves taking “the opportunity to meet people who can open up and be present with me,” which is the way Adrian Grenier describes meeting that particular zeitgeist subset that includes Entourage groupies, then opening them up like a present. And obviously it means being a feminist, which—along with the umbrella thing—Grenier believes could be the key to saving the world: “Maybe our saving grace is if we can balance the male energy, which tends to be short-term thinking, overly aggressive, often indelicate, with the feminine energy, which is more careful study and frankly more sophisticated, we might actually be able to build a world that would be in balance,” Grenier says, zeitgeist-ly.
Oh, would that we could combine that aggressive male energy with female sophistication into one holistic entourage of human instincts, all complementing each other while occasionally busting each other’s balls, maybe our oceans wouldn’t be as forsaken as early-’00s Williamsburg, and our buses wouldn’t be filled with straws. But until then, at least Adrian Grenier wants to be our superhero.