In 1996, 34-year-old elementary school teacher Mary Kay Letourneau – a married mother of four – entered into a relationship with her 12-year-old student, Vili Fualaau. She was fired, charged with second-degree child rape, and took two separate trips to the clink. While she was awaiting sentencing in 1997, Letourneau was pregnant with Fualaau’s child. After she finished serving her second sentence in 2005, the couple married. They remained together for 12 years, eventually filing for divorce in 2017. They share two children.
The Letourneau-Fualaau relationship was parodied in a 2006 South Park episode, aptly titled Miss Teacher Bangs a Boy. Despite the hellish onslaught of vitriol on this relationship, Letourneau and Fualaau flounced the naysayers and proved their love was genuine. It’s a tabloid-ready truth that’s stranger than fiction – but it’s one which remains an eternal fascination for long-term adolescents. Now, it’s a story Italian actor Lorenzo Zurzolo has to convey as Niccolò – the Fualauu, in this case – who porks his gym teacher Monica in the second season of wanton teen Netflix series Baby.
“The first season ended with me kissing the teacher, so the second season explores my relationship with the teacher a bit deeper,” Zurzolo, 19, casually explains over the phone from an undisclosed seaside location near Rome. “It focuses on why a 17-year-old boy should go out with his 40-year-old teacher.” It’s quite the scandalo in a series flush with them: the premise of the show is two-teen-high-school-chicks-recruited-for-a-prostitution-ring. Think Euphoria meets Taken, but based on the real-life “Baby Squillo” scandal. As the young girls – Chiara and Ludo – have sex for Euros by night, Niccolò, a teen Statue of David, is seducing his teacher after class.
“When I read [the season two script] at the beginning, I was a bit embarrassed and not very comfortable with the idea, but I met the actress [Claudia Pandolfi, 44] and she was really good to me. She’s perfect because she’s not very old; she’s really young at heart,” he says.
Zurzolo is “not really” into older women himself. He much prefers girls his own age, he says, belle ragazze he’s had to fend off since the breakout season hit Netflix last November and his Instagram account ballooned to over 420,000 followers double-tapping on his placid-faced selfies. Baby was popular in Italy, sure, but through the bounty of Netflix, it border-hopped to extend his fame to pockets of Europe and America. It remains niche, but still has some amateur sleuths on Twitter making insanely detailed threads trying to ascertain just how eligible this bachelor is. (For the curious, he is currently single.)
“I went to Amsterdam with some friends of mine and I met a group of students who were on a school trip and they started to scream and shout at me, and they were from the Netherlands so it was totally unexpected, in another country, to see something like that,” he says of his newfound fame. “In Rome, I live near a school, so there are a lot of teen students… I can’t go out in my pyjamas anymore. But no pressure at all, I’m happy about it,” he adds, laughing. “It’s amazing that Italian TV is watched all over the world, because that’s not what we’re used to.”
Lorenzo Zurzolo was born in Rome. He started acting at age seven when his mother, apparently floored by his astute elocution skills, took him to a casting for a commercial. The casting agent, possibly taken aback by his Adriatic gaze, put him in an ad opposite Roma football captain Francesco Totti. “I immediately fell in love with the job,” he says. He continued acting throughout school, appearing in the occasional movie or TV show, and studied marketing in college last year while making a movie. He is now fascinated by, of all things, the psychology of crime.
“My dream is to play a really evil character,” Zurzolo says, “because I think they are more complete. They have to be very bad and dark but they always have a fragile side. [Playing] a killer would be extreme but amazing. You have to find the humanity in the evil.” He cites Beetlejuice as one of his favourite films, has seen two episodes of Elite, none of Euphoria, and recommends I watch Perfetti Sconosciuti by Paolo Genovese. “He made this movie about a group of friends who were having dinner one night, and they decided to do a game exchanging their telephones and looking through each other’s private messages. A lot of secrets come out.”
Like any hot Euro thesp, Zurzolo plans to come to America to ply his trade and half-mast gaze in Hollywood. His English is accented in that cute hop-on-my-scooter sort of way, but he is practicing. It also doesn’t hurt that he looks like the younger brother of Hayden Christensen. The fashion crowd has already seized upon it – the actor recently attended the Armani and Gucci Cruise shows.
Baby will “maybe” have another season, he says, but in the immediate, Zurzolo is filming a movie in which he plays a blind character. He’s also just living, and, uninterested in becoming the Vili Fualauu of Italy, has no planned affairs with any professors. That’s one thing he’d rather leave on the small screen.
Baby is available on Netflix on 18th October.
Styling Assistant Mina Erkli, Daniele Falzone, Makeup Alessia Stefano, Hair Gianmarco Grazi, Special thanks Atomo Management.