Denzel Irby, the Dane County Boys and Girls Club Youth of the Year in 2012, headed west to chase his dreams as an actor in 2017 and landed his first major role earlier this year, as the Colonel in the teen drama “Looking for Alaska,” a limited eight-episode series on the streaming service Hulu based on the wildly popular John Green novel. The entire series will become available on Hulu on Friday.
Irby, who acts under the name Denny Love, will fly back to Madison to host a watch party at 7 pm Friday evening, having rented out an entire movie theater at Silver Cinemas at Market Square on Madison’s west side.
“I had to take a step and recognize that where I’m from, this doesn’t happen a lot, a young black man, achieving his dreams,” Irby said in a telephone interview Tuesday, just before the Los Angeles premiere. “I share it with all of the people who supported me from the ground level. Because to me, none of it matters if you don’t reach back and have the people surround around you that have supported you from the beginning. I just wanted to do something cool, rent out a theater and just watch it the day it comes out with the people that have been there. Because, for me this is the biggest moment in my career.”
Early reviews of the show have been positive and there’s a good bit of buzz building. Hollywood trade magazine Variety even called out Irby’s performance: “Love in particular makes an immediate and lasting impression as the Colonel, whose smarts and resentment get the better of him more often than not. In the latter episodes, after the tragedy has well and truly struck, his furious grief is a blaze that lights up the screen.”
Irby said he’s invited about 80 friends and family to the screening, leaving about 110 seats for whoever from the community wants to come.
“I’m trying to make it a little bit, kind of like a Hollywood premiere,” he said. “I’ll have the backdrop for people to come and take pictures. Then we’ll do the viewing. And then after we all hang out and talk, and just experience the moment with everybody.”
The theater will only show the first episode, after which, “people will have to get those paid (Hulu) subscriptions,” he said with a laugh. “Each episode is an hour long. I ain’t trying to kidnap everybody and have people in the theater for eight hours straight.” A basic Hulu subscription is $5.99 per month.
Irby, who spent several months shooting in New Orleans earlier this year, said he’s seen the final cut of the entire series and is very happy with the way it turned out.
“It’s something that I’m very proud to share with everybody,” he said. “I think people will be really proud and impressed to see the work, not only on my part, but just the show itself. I think we created something extremely beautiful, and I just can’t wait to share with everybody.”