From Dawson To Diplo: James Van Der Beek Is Not Basic


Now 40, James Van Der Beek continues to distance himself from the role that made him a late ‘90s heartthrob, introspective dreamer Dawson Leery. Next up for Van Der Beek, a comic, satirical take on EDM/superstar DJ, Diplo.

What Would Diplo Do? has been described as, “Louie meets WorldStar HipHop crossed with This Is Spinal Tap.” Van Der Beek is the show-runner for the series, as well as a writer, producer and calls it, “EDM Jesus sucks at life.” He plays a fictional version of the international DJ who can bring 60,000 people to their feet, but has a more difficult time dealing with the one-on-one stuff.

Like Spinal Tap, WWDD? is a “mockumentary” set in the music biz. The EDM scene seems as ripe for parody as the Spinal Tap world of metal. Van Der Beek portrays Diplo, aka Thomas Wesley Pentz, as a ninja-fighting, social media-wrangling, globe-hopping, party-hosting whirling dervish. The real DJ has collaborated with everyone from Beyonce to Bieber, M.I.A. to Madonna.

Dawson’s Creek ran for six seasons, ending in 2003 and was a pop culture phenomenon. Van Der Beek and his co-stars (Michelle Williams, Joshua Jackson, Katie Holmes) spent the ensuing years showing their range in a variety of roles, and a variety of high-profile relationships. Van Der Beek did more TV work and a few moderately successful films, but seemed to finally put the sweet, earnest character behind him for good on the outrageous, yet tragically short-lived sitcom, Don’t Trust the B—- in Apartment 23, portraying a “meta” version of himself as an arrogant, self-centered tool. He even appeared in Kesha’s Blow video as her pelvis-thrusting nemesis!

Van Der Beek-as-Diplo uses IG-era lingo like, “It’s just life, fam” or “sup, fam?” The actor is staying current with the latest slang saying, “There’s this fear of being ‘basic,’ which seems to motivate a lot. People live in mortal fear of being basic! Maybe it makes me basic that I’m not.”

What Would Diplo Do? premieres August 3 on Viceland.


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