WKND: How’s your transition to Yale been going?
EJVP: It’s been just splendiferous, it really has. Smoother than I might have imagined. I suppose that’s got more than a little to do with my upbringing. I was raised in the Netherlands, you know — rolling countrysides, rivers, that just-magnificent Dutch mercantile attitude towards everything, food, drink, all of it, great fun, really — but my alma mater, Eton, just puts such an emphasis on internationalism. Frankly, the hardest part has been adjusting to how positively provincial New Haven feels. Amazing, how a bit of Shakespeare in the countryside just seems to cosmopolitanize it, doesn’t it? Not nearly enough of that here, I’m afraid. Although I’ve had some fun.
WKND: Managed to carve out some time for parties?
EJVP: Certainly. I figured I wouldn’t attend an American university and not participate in that fabled, “traditional” experience — fraternity rush starts fairly soon, I believe, so I’ve been making my rounds.
WKND: Any brotherhood you’re particularly interested in?
EJVP: Well, I recently learned that Skull and Bones is an exclusively senior fraternity, so that was a touch disappointing. I suppose I’ll have to be patient. But, in the meantime: a gentleman never kisses and tells, but I’ll reveal that I’m hoping to acquire a knapsack with the word “Sigma” on it, and a monogrammed cocaine pouch. I’d like to emphasize that I am also, in fact, studying, as part of the Directed Studies program.
WKND: Ambitious choice. How’s that going?
EJVP: I mean, thank God I’m doing it, if I might speak honestly. I searched “Plato” in the Bluebook and less than a dozen classes must have come up. Just egregious. What are we paying for here? Anyway, I’ve noticed that Yale students — maybe only the ones in DS — are rather quiet. I find myself speaking up in class much more than most. I’ve never thought of “listening” as a particularly American virtue, but perhaps that’s what’s at play. I think carrying in a bit of what I learned in grade school has been greatly beneficial to discussions, so that makes me feel useful. However I can contribute, I like to say.
WKND: Let’s talk a bit about your history. After your Broadway child stardom —
EJVP: Ah, yes, my other sojourn across the pond! Well, as I’m sure you’ve read before, being a preternaturally gifted preteen is hardly a cakewalk. It was exhausting, reading “The Norton Shakespeare” whilst performing in multiple shows a day. That’s when my co-stars introduced me to Ritalin smoothies. Kidding, of course. I avoid drugs, when I’m working. They get in the way of the cognitive cycle.
WKND: Will you be pursuing theater at Yale?
EJVP: I’m trying to determine which a cappella group I’ll take my talents to, and then I might start focusing on acting. I’m really funny, too, in case you didn’t notice. It’s very dry, my humor. Only the smartest audiences really pick up on it, if you see what I’m saying. So I might be auditioning for an improvisational troupe. Perhaps. Also, I just want to be a normal person, for once. I’m sick of being “recognized.” Maybe I just want to go to class, go to Toad’s. It’s like, “please, everyone, stop looking at me.”
WKND: And what about your nascent writing career?
EJVP: Well, as any debut novelist will tell you, my career is hardly nascent. I’ve been writing since before I could speak, my father says. Anyway, this novel — “Where Is the Y” — got started while I was still performing, and then stalled for several years after that Emmys loss. It took me a long time to feel like I might succeed again, after that. Everyone knows the Emmys are rigged, though, so I did eventually move on. Then I blew the metaphorical dust off my hypothetical typewriter, got back on the horse and then rode the wave. I suppose it’s hard to explain to civilians — by which I mean, non-writers.
WKND: Given that sort of artistic professional background, it’s interesting that you’re a prospective Economics major.
EJVP: I get the sense that that’s what “normal” people do. Plus: Most people don’t know this, but I actually interned at Goldman Sachs during the summer after my junior year of high school.
WKND: How’d you manage that?
EJVP: Well, I hate to pull the nepotism card, but it’s a dog-eat-dog world, you know? Anyway, the Von-Prestonscott’s hold a certain amount of clout at Goldman. But I found the whole business dreadfully fun, really. When you start to get confused on all the digits in a monetary figure, where to put the commas…that’s when I really get going. I think some people pursue these careers to pay off student loans, which I’m blessed not to need to do; for me, it’s more about the adrenaline. And New York is great fun, as long as you stay in Manhattan.
WKND: So, what’s next? Are you going back to Goldman, writing, acting?
EJVP: Gosh, I’m uncertain. I think underneath it all, I feel a certain fundamental emptiness, you know?
EJVP: Oh, well, you know: People tell me all the time that I’m a “genius,” that I’m “really important,” that I’m good-looking, that there’s never been a boy like me, that I’m the next Sinatra, Fitzgerald, da Vinci, whatever. But nothing I’ve ever done has made me feel very connected to those people, if that makes sense? It feels as though I just give, and give, and give, and they give me awards or assure me that I matter, but I don’t know if anyone really loves me, you know? I harbor this fantasy about joining a colony — perhaps an undersea colony, where I might have a simple job at a fast food restaurant, but I would love it, I would sing for my own pleasure, I’d have a friend with soft pink skin, I’d live in a piece of fruit —
WKND: That’s the plot of “SpongeBob SquarePants.”
WKND: You just recounted the plot in “SpongeBob SquarePants,” the cartoon?
EJVP: I’m unfamiliar.