NEW YORK — While he was acting in “Admission,” the new comedy drama about the rigors and fickleness of the college admissions process, 18-year-old Nat Wolff was also resume-deep in his own, real-life efforts to get into his chosen university.
Wolff, the son of actress Polly Draper (“thirtysomething”) and jazz musician Michael Wolff and older brother of Alex Wolff, with whom he starred for three seasons on Nickleodeon's music-based “The Naked Brothers Band,” has been working to establish a solo film acting career since the TV show ended in 2009.
After supporting roles in “Peace, Love & Misunderstanding” and “New Year's Eve,” and putting three more in the can for future release (“The Last Keepers,” “Behaving Badly,” opposite Selena Gomez, and “Palo Alto”), Wolff landed a plum part in “Admission,” opposite Tina Fey and Paul Rudd, as a quirky high school math and science whiz vying for admission to Princeton University.
His character is Jeremiah, a likable, obtuse, breezily intellectual oddball whose abstract patter sent Wolff to the reference books to put him at ease with various abstract science and math theories. All of which nearly got him serious admission consideration at that Ivy League brainiac factory, the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.
Here's how Wolff related the story during a press day for the film sponsored by Focus Features:
“I was actually in the college admissions process while I was making the movie,” he told film reporters during round-table interviews. “Thankfully, I'm done now. But I was looking at schools right before making the movie, and I'd go visit these college fairs with my Mom. And there was this one college fair where I didn't see any schools that were in New York or L.A., which is where I want to go.
“So I decided to use it for character research,” he said. “And so I went around in character as Jeremiah, pretending to be this math and science genius, which I'm horrible in math and science in real life. And I started talking to the M.I.T. guy, and we really bonded. And we were talking and I was telling him about all my math and science achievements.
“And at the last moment, when he was asking for my name and email, I felt bad and gave him my real name and email,” Wolff said. “But M.I.T. called me twice a week for a couple of months after that, and I just had to tell them that I'm really not good at math and science.
“Anyway, now I've applied to a couple of schools and I should find out soon if I got in — but one of them is not Princeton.”