David Corenswet, a Breakout Star in ‘The Politician,’ Takes Flight


LOS ANGELES — If you haven’t given much thought to the correlation between flying planes and milking cows, the actor David Corenswet may be your man.

Mr. Corenswet, 26, came to attention last year in “The Politician,” Ryan Murphy’s addictive twist on high school feudalism for Netflix. With his arctic blue eyes and dimples deep enough to serve martinis in, he was the high school crush who seemed too good to be true.

On a languid Sunday afternoon, Mr. Corenswet elaborated on the bovine-aviation nexus as he headed to a flight simulator class at Van Nuys Airport, a busy hub in the heart of the San Fernando Valley in Los Angeles. It was something to do with working with your hands, and seeing the fruits of your labor, he said.

It was the same reason his sister, a law student who spent a year working for the World Bank on global poverty, wanted to be a farmer.

“Her thing is that on a farm if you don’t milk the cows, the cows are not going to get milked — so there’s something really rewarding about that proximity,” Mr. Corenswet said. “It’s the same reason I want to fly planes.”

It’s also the reason he enjoys acting, although not the audition process. “It can really turn into a terrible experience because it’s a lot of rejection,” he said. “Not even rejection. Mostly you just never hear anything.”

Those days, however, should be a thing of the past. In addition to the “The Politician,” which will return for a second season, Mr. Corenswet will star and serve as executive producer on Mr. Murphy’s next series for Netflix, “Hollywood,” a drama pitched as a “love letter to the Golden Age of Tinseltown.”

Mr. Corenswet is also editing a movie, “Down the Barrel,” which he wrote and directed shortly before landing “The Politician.” It features actors from Juilliard, where he studied.

More recently, Mr. Corenswet’s name has been floated as a potential successor to Henry Cavill in the Superman movie franchise, though neither he nor his publicist would comment on that.

After grabbing breakfast at a no-frills Mexican cantina, Mr. Corenswet arrived at the Encore Flight School only to find that his instructor had not. Taking the setback in stride, he sat in an oversize cream leather sofa to consider his options. Ceiling fans, designed to resemble propellers, rotated mockingly above him.

Another instructor, Joy, effervescent with good humor, eventually came to the rescue.

Joy guided Mr. Corenswet past a wall of photos in which various women posed fetchingly on the wings of single-prop planes, and into a low-ceilinged room lined with flight simulators. A row of white metal cabins on red platforms, it resembled a cool fairground ride, but without the long lines.

“What plane do these most resemble?” Mr. Corenswet said, as he climbed inside a cabin. “Cesna,” Joy said. Mr. Corenswet approved. “That’s what I’m most familiar with,” he said.

The machine began to hum like a loud vacuum cleaner. The control panels glowed green. Sitting in the pilot seat, Mr. Corenswet guided the plane onto a runway at a virtual LAX.

Although it was his first time inside a self-contained simulator, Mr. Corenswet had learned the basics on a computer program he downloaded in Philadelphia last year while taking care of his ailing father (he died of cancer last June). “I was thinking, ‘What could I do that would feel more engaged and worthwhile than just playing video games?’” he said.

Conquering his fear of flying was a fringe benefit. “I always try to use the experience of turbulence as a reminder of my own mortality,” he said. “I go back and forth between reassuring myself, and going, ‘Maybe this is it.’”

In the simulator, Mr. Corenswet followed Joy’s directions. “You want the nose touching the horizon,” she said. “Turn right over here, towards this reservoir.” She pointed to a spot just north of Route 101. The plane seemed to struggle.

“I’m turning right, but is it turning right?” Mr. Corenswet said. It wasn’t. “I don’t think the control wheel is working very well. Do we want to try a real airplane?” There was only one good answer for that question.

Ten minutes later, equipped with safety gear, Mr. Corenswet walked onto the runway, this time to try his hand at a real Cesna. In the far distance the mountains that fringed the San Fernando Valley were turning red. Using the edge of a wing, Mr. Corenswet helped push the plane onto a taxiway and then clambered aboard. His head brushed the ceiling. “You’re so tall,” Joy said.

As he taxied down a runway, Mr. Corenswet was giddy with anticipation. Joy, sitting alongside in the cockpit, chose the moment to tell the story of a student who threw up over the controls during a steep dive. “Try to avoid that,” she said.

Mr. Corenswet was buoyant with confidence. After opening the throttle and pulling back on the yoke, the plane bounced down the runway and suddenly the ground was falling away and the houses and cars below became toys. The sun blazed back into view.

Mr. Corenswet took in the panorama and pulled a wide grin. For a moment everything was a little brighter.


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