(Featured image courtesy of Richie Lubaton)
It’s a classic tale: a young woman moves to a small town to escape all of her painful memories, only to realize that she must face her past head-on to accept all of the new love right in front of her. This is the story of Mel Monroe, the nurse practitioner at the center of Netflix’s touching drama Virgin River. Mel encounters former Marines, bakers, and actresses who all become the key to healing her heart, harboring endless surprises to reveal along the way.
One of those Virgin River residents is Christopher, a young boy forced to run from a mysterious past who is even more lost than Mel is. Despite his own heavy memories that weigh him down, his impenetrable resilience and insatiable drive for a better life turn him into an inspiration for all. TV Wasteland had the opportunity to sit down with Chase Petriw (Christopher) to discuss the brand-new third season of the Netflix drama, as well as the responsibilities of an actor and how to make the most of one’s time on set.
Growing up, Petriw knew that he was an especially shy kid. Fellow cast members and small armies of crew experts just off-camera in any given scene make every set an intensely social experience that can quickly turn overwhelming for many, especially children. However, Chase would always be too fueled by his passion to let a little shyness stop him (a little helpful advice from family members in the industry couldn’t hurt either). As that drive for acting brought him parts in various commercials and web series, he grew to develop a stronger sense of ease on set, no longer feeling the need to “hide behind [his] chair,” now sitting up and absorbing everything around him. Now, he’s able to make friends everywhere, most recently with a co-star on the set of his latest commercial, an ad for Cheerios, and even accidents like tripping and literally falling on the ground during an audition can’t faze him anymore.
Not long after entering his first audition rooms at just five years old, Chase was cast in the web series Android Employed, a science fiction story with a philosophical lens focused on artificial intelligence. The YouTube comedy was his first time venturing past the world of commercials, and while the mechanics of production were all still the same, he admitted to still feeling cautious in the new narrative landscape: “I didn’t really know what to do.” All this nervousness was only compounded when he found out his character’s reaction to discovering a dead hamster meant that he would need to cry on command for the first time. A display of emotion on that level is an acting exercise that provides a challenge for most adults, so even though Petriw joked about looking back at his previous work with a more critical eye, his success is that much more impressive.
Just a year later, Petriw found himself in the running for love interest Heath’s nephew in the Hallmark romance A Time for Me to Come Home for Christmas. “That was probably one of my first big roles that I wanted to pay a lot of attention to.” After a chemistry audition with Josh Henderson, he recalled feeling unsure about whether or not he would book the job but being pleasantly surprised by an invitation to a callback and eventually being offered the role. He was reminded of the “awesome” time on the production of that film when he unexpectedly reunited with co-star Trevor Lerner on the set of Virgin River. “It was a fun experience for my first big role.”
Over the past two years, Petriw has settled among the Virgin River community on Netflix’s eponymous drama as Christopher, a child with a turbulent family past who has just settled down with Preacher (Colin Lawrence), a Marine-turned-chef whose dedication to his new protegé helps the young boy thrive in the new community. Equipped with more freedom than previously afforded by his mother’s mysterious rules, Christopher’s curiosity is beginning to drive questions about the nature of those rules and the reasons he was sheltered for so long. “He’s just a normal kid. He wants to have fun… [and though] he’s under a lot of pressure, he doesn’t know.” The more time he spends with Preacher exploring life outside the constant secrecy, the more answers are sure to come to light. This new season “really focuses on his bond with Preacher… how he’s like a father figure to him.”
Petriw and Lawrence have just as strong of a relationship off-screen as their characters do, having even created a secret handshake together that ended up making it into a few scenes. “Every day, we show up… [and] add something new to the handshake.” One of Chase’s other favorite memories from filming involved the scene where Christopher dyes his hair. The character’s natural hair color is black, but in one of his mother’s early attempts to disguise him further, she dyes his hair a lighter blond, which is of course what Chase’s hair actually looks like. While filming the transformation, the crew used a special conditioner in Petriw’s hair to simulate the dye, which they massaged into his scalp in take after take, for hours on end. “By the end, my hair was like clay.”
Between his dark history with his father and the struggles he’s faced with his mother, Christopher has had to mature much more quickly than other children his age, and he hasn’t gotten the opportunity to spend much time being a “normal kid.” Chase’s natural empathy has become essential to the ways he’s chosen to dive into the deep wells of emotion Christopher hides, but he’s careful to step away from each scene to re-center himself and avoid carrying that emotion further. “I always just remember to get up and get rid of those tears after,” choosing to grab a snack or chat with a friend after filming particularly powerful moments. Petriw hopes that anyone (adult or child) who feels like they’re lacking a parental figure can find truth in his performance and relate to Christopher’s search for the places and people he can call home.
“When I’m not acting… I do anything else a normal kid would do.” Chase likes to collect Hot Wheels, play video games like Minecraft, and train in a ninja warrior gym. He hopes to book more action projects in the future, namely a Fast and Furious role or something alongside Tom Holland, who he named as his biggest acting inspiration for his versatility and range. His personal philosophy that you can make friends with anyone on set, no matter the differences in careers or age, has driven him to create lasting connections with countless people across all of his projects, and we’re sure that he’ll continue to do so for years to come.
You can see Chase Petriw in the brand-new third season of Virgin River, now streaming worldwide on Netflix.