At 25, actor Colton Haynes has lived many lives: feral country boy, outcast, Texas ally, sepia-toned model, starving artist, recipient of early stardom, and, throughout it all, a traveler.
It seems just another fair-sized town in the middle—almost the exact middle—of the continental United States. Not that the inhabitants would tolerate such an opinion—perhaps rightly. Though they may overstate the case (“Look all over the world, and you won’t find friendlier people or fresher air or sweeter drinking water,” and “I could go to Denver at triple the salary, but I’ve got five kids, and I figure there’s no better place to raise kids than right here…”—Truman Capote, In Cold Blood
Haynes was born in Andale, Kansas, a town of 900 people. To give frame of reference, the actor is currently sitting pretty with 530,000 Twitter followers [suffice to say he has fans outside Andale]. He grew up “wild” on his uncles’ farms with his five brothers and sisters. “When I say ‘wild,’ I mean we were these free-spirited kids, my parents these free-spirited hippies, so I did whatever I wanted to do and I think that got [rebellion] out of the way. We were running around the farm as kids, naked with animals, being free. It was fun,” Haynes says, soon after we sit down at Hollywood bar staple Cat & Fiddle. He continues wearing his leather jacket, despite the 80-degree temperature.
In person, Colton’s about as all-American wholesome as it gets. He stands to shake hands, makes eye contact like a presidential candidate, and grins constantly with a deep dimple and toothpaste-commercial teeth. But in a predominantly red state of Kansas, he and his family drew scowls, dirty looks, and judgment. “Kansas is very religious, very Republican, and very straight-laced. I needed to get away from that. […] My family moved to town and we were kind of the outcasts. It was funny leaving the town and not having a lot of friends and then coming back now; there were people who used to kind of bully me and now they want to be my friend.”
Despite the growing pains, Haynes has a soft spot for his home state. “Now going back I realize the beauty in it…There’s nothing there, you know? There are clouds. You don’t see a damn cloud in L.A., there isn’t a cloud in the sky…I thought I was going to be a meteorologist.”
Arkansas, New Mexico, Florida, Texas
Outside their state I think Texans are a little frightened and very tender in their feelings, and these qualities cause boasting, arrogance, and noisy complacency—the outlets of shy children. At home Texans are none of these things. The ones I know are gracious, friendly, generous, and quiet. —John Steinbeck, Travels with Charley: In Search of America
Haynes spent many of his formative years moving around. “So I grew up in Kansas, moved to Arkansas for five years, then I went to New Mexico for five years, and then I moved back to Kansas until my sophomore year of high school. Moved in with my sister, who’s in the military. Moved to Florida, and then moved to Texas.”
In the Lone Star State, Haynes finished high school with a prom king nomination and a majority vote from his peers that he was “Most Likely to Succeed.” His fond words for Texas stand out like a tree on the prairie. Particularly for a liberal-minded guy, the state often stands as a beacon of hatred for its staunch senators and backwards ways. Haynes says of the Lone Star State, “Texas was different for me. I lived there for a year-and-a-half and I’ve never been around nicer people than I have in Texas.”
New York City
She seemed to think you came from Manhattan. Everyone in Kansas thought you came from New York City. […] She asks about Fifth Avenue, The Carlyle, Studio 54. Obviously from her magazine reading she knew more about these places than you did. She has visions of the Northeast as a country club rolling out from the glass and steel towers of Manhattan. —Jay McInerney, Bright Lights, Big City
In New York City, Haynes signed with DNA Model Management at the age of 15, spending summers in the big city, returning to normalcy and suburbia the rest of the year. “I signed with an agency in New York, and then my first big job, I did Abercrombie & Fitch. I think I did it three times. So I started doing that, and then I’d go (in the summers) to New York, and then to Europe.” Haynes also learned a bit of humility in his time in NYC—“I was super short so they would make me wear lifts. So I literally would wrap [and] tape socks and put them in the back of my shoes to be six feet tall”—and how to handle defeat: “I know how rude some people can be, and you gotta toughen up. There were times I’d get fired on shoots, I’d be told this, I’d be told that, I’m too this, I’m too that. I’ve been dropped by numerous agencies; I’ve been dropped by numerous managers.”
Through the success and turmoil of his modeling career, Haynes realized that though his future was in front of a camera, he hadn’t found the right one. To do so, he would have to take one more trip across the U.S., to the land of sunshine and wheatgrass.
Tip the world over on its side and everything loose will land in Los Angeles. —Frank Lloyd Wright
He had seen much of the world before moving to Los Angeles, and was longing for something new, a fresh start. “I took a leap,” he says assuredly, then stops to slurp the last of his soda. “I was going to go to college, and three weeks before, I decided that I wanted to take a chance. I was going to do theater; decided that it wasn’t really the route that I wanted to take at that moment, so I moved to L.A…I kind of just fell into it.”
By “falling” he means getting a role in Transformers—not much of a role [credited as ‘Café Kid’], but young Haynes was stoked. “I’d just moved here, and I had no idea what was going on, so they gave me a line. It was just like ‘Look out!’ or something like that. And I was in the back of my head going, ‘I’m on the same playing field as Shia, I’ve made it, this is it. Blue skies, smooth sailing from here, I’m in Transformers,’ and I truly believed that. [In reality] I’m an extra, I’m so far [away], everyone’s screaming at me, and I just really, truly believe that’s what it was like to be in a movie. I wasn’t in the movie, I got cut out, and you know, it was embarrassing. But it’s funny to still remember how I was fighting to try to be on camera, to try to get that chance,” says Haynes, looking at me earnestly, not a hair out of place, perfectly groomed like a Westminster spaniel.
It would take a few more years to find his niche, but sure as a country boy can spit, Haynes found his in MTV’s Teen Wolf, a show he would spend two seasons on, gaining a following of young fans who ogled his high cheekbones and blue eyes. This brings us to the here and now:
Colton Haynes has recently ditched the life of an MTV effigy and currently appears on Arrow. Yes the show is on CW, which may not have the best track record, but it’s generally accepted as the best show on CW in years. [Let’s not forget that another superhero-themed CW show, Smallville, quietly clocked in 10 seasons.] With his character Roy Harper, Haynes finds a man as varied a history as himself, “You know, in the comics he turned into three different things—Speedy, Red Arrow, and Arsenal. So now it’s figuring out where they want to go with that. And [the show producers] keep me in the dark, because they probably know that I will spill what’s going to happen.” Compound the fact that Arrow is filmed in Vancouver, BC, and we’re pretty caught up on Haynes’ travels, barring any family vacation to the Adirondacks he failed to mention.
Still, he’s not yet world-weary; Haynes has plans for yet another move. “I really do miss New York, I think New York is definitely where I think I want to end up, that’s where I see myself living.”
Photographer: Eric Ray Davidson for artmixcreative.com.
Stylist: Yohanna Logan at YohannaLogan.com.
Groomer: Paul Rizzo for bumbleandbumble.com.
Photography Assistant: Jules Bates.
Styling Assistant: matthew hensley.
Grooming Notes: Eye master skin minerals for men by Giorgio Armani Beauty. Sumotech and Spray de Mode by Bumble and Bumble.