In Netflix's Outer Banks John B (Chase Stokes) is the unofficial leader of the ragtag Pogues. But it's JJ, his righthand man with a painful family life, who is, perhaps, the glue of the friend group. He's played by 21-year-old Rudy Pankow, an up-and-coming Alaska native who knows a thing or two about growing up in a small town. Ahead, what you need to know about the actor, including why he thinks JJ and Kiara (Madison Bailey) are "end game."
He originally auditioned for the role of John B.
Before Pankow could steal hearts as JJ on the show, he actually auditioned for the role of John B. "The last audition I did in L.A. was John B., so I flew to Charleston thinking like, 'All right, they want me as John B,'" he told Us Weekly about the casting process, which involved him reading for the roles of John B, Rafe, and JJ. But Pankow said he ultimately chose to fight for the role of troubled JJ.
Co-creator Jonas Pate asked which part he'd rather vie for. "And I said JJ because I loved the character. I thought he was somebody completely unlike myself, but I saw similarities,” Pankow told Us. "I really relate with this character and his arc through the show…it’s so much deeper."
Pankow grew up in small-town Alaska.
According to Wonderland Magazine, Pankow grew up in Ketchikan, Alaska in a town not unlike the North Carolina area depicted on Outer Banks. "The two places are fairly similar. Both are fishing, tourism towns," he told the outlet. "The biggest difference is the temperature. It was fun to be on boats and catch people off guard when they noticed I already knew how to drive a boat and tie it up and be comfortable on the water all day."
Pankow explained that after graduating high school, he was accepted into culinary school. But he opted to move to Los Angeles, where he took his first acting class. "I knew it was the route I was suppose to take," he said.
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You may recognize him from The Politician…or a certain Muse music video.
Before his breakout role in Outer Banks, Pankow played small roles on the ID series Solve and Netflix's The Politician. One of his more fascinating early gigs: appearing in the music video for Muse's 2018 song, "Thought Contagion." He told Wonderland, "A good friend of mine worked for the director of the Muse music video previously and he needed a dude that looked like a Steve from Stranger Things and well…I had the hair down. So I met with the director and he wanted me to show off some dance moves so [I] busted out what I could do and boom—I got it."
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As for what role he'd like to take on after playing surfer JJ? "I would love to do a period piece either set in the 50s or medieval time period. Something like Knights Tale or Oliver Twist," he told Wonderland.
Pankow commends the decision JJ makes in jeopardizing his scholarship.
In the Outer Banks season finale, JJ makes the heartbreaking choice to defend Pope (Jonathan Daviss), effectively ending his bid for a merit scholarship. It's a sacrifice that's both shocking and, in Pankow's mind, noble. "I think this is the beautiful part of JJ," he told Hollywood Life. "He recognizes that his opportunities of getting out and living a life are a lot slimmer than Pope, Kiara, or John B even…But the reason why he takes the fall for Pope is because JJ does care. He does have this soft side. He does have this sensitive awareness and thinks to himself, 'I’m not really going anywhere and that was my choice. That’s my outlook on life.' When he looks at Pope, he thinks, “This man has a future.'"
He thinks JJ and Kiara could end up together—just not yet.
Although his character spends much of the first season without a love interest, Pankow agrees with fans that Kiara and JJ could be a match. "I think it's cute. I don't think it should happen immediately in season 2," the actor told Us Weekly. "And I know some people would be a little mad at me for saying that, but I think just to have Kiara go from John B to Pope to then JJ within two seasons would be a little, like, she wants all three of them. So I think it’d be a little much." However, he still believes the couple is "end game" by the end of the series.
Until then, we'll have to set our sights on season 2.
Catch up with season 1 of Outer Banks on Netflix.
Savannah Walsh Editorial Fellow Savannah Walsh is an Editorial Fellow at ELLE.com. This content is created and maintained by a third party, and imported onto this page to help users provide their email addresses. You may be able to find more information about this and similar content at piano.io