“I cry at the end of every book,” Hunter Parrish tells me over breakfast, the day after his 22nd birthday—especially at the end of his favorite novel, To Kill a Mockingbird. “I had fallen so in love with the family, to not be able to be a part of it anymore was really hard.” Which is understandable given the sandy-haired, blue-eyed Plano, Texas, native’s current situation, as he furiously shuttles between fictional dysfunctional parents: his reckless, neglectful, pot-dealing mother, Nancy Botwin (Mary-Louise Parker), on Weeds—its fifth season, premiering on Showtime June 8, is still in production in Los Angeles—and the neurotic Adlers (Meryl Streep and Alec Baldwin) of a still-untitled Nancy Meyers film currently shooting in New York. “My next week is retarded. I fly to L.A. after this interview, work all day tomorrow on Weeds. And then I fly back to New York on Sunday, work on the film Monday, fly back to L.A. Tuesday to do Weeds, which I do on Wednesday all day, then I fly back to New York Wednesday night and work on the film Thursday and Friday,” he says, laughing. “And then it repeats itself.” The grueling schedule and constant switching between characters would give anyone else an identity crisis, but Parrish, who made his Broadway debut last summer as Melchior in Spring Awakening and who hopes to return to the New York stage, appears determinedly sane.
Parrish, a Christian whose wholesome good looks and morals skew more Disney than drug dealer (unlike his Weeds alter ego, Silas Botwin, a hydroponic farmer, he has never smoked pot and had to be taught how to use a pipe), started pumping iron before season four and suddenly found that hunky Silas was shirtless in nearly every episode. “I didn’t know it would make that much of a difference,” he says. “But I don’t want to do projects where everything is pure. Ninety percent of the scripts I read have drugs or sex.” On Weeds, Parrish has engaged in sex scenes since the pilot, and they’ve only gotten more graphic: Just last season, the 17-year-old was having an affair with a thirtysomething MILF. The actor admits this can be challenging. “My morals are important to me. It’s a constant struggle being in this industry and having moral dilemmas. But my desire is to do these edgy things. Ultimately, I’m fine with everything that I’ve done.”
As he did with Harper Lee’s Finches, Parrish dreads the inevitability of one day having to bid adieu to the Botwins. “Weeds is so much bigger than just a TV show for me,” Parrish says. “I have grown up on that show. There’s a family dynamic: When Andy [Justin Kirk] comes home or Doug [Kevin Nealon] comes in, there are emotional things that happen once they say ‘action’ that I won’t feel anymore. I take advantage of it now.”