Actor Nico Tortorella is best known for his role on TV Land's hit series "Younger," on which he plays Josh, a Brooklyn tattoo artist in love with an older woman. But we're also fans of his ever-changing personal style (and hair colors!) and for being a man in touch with his emotions. The 2017 TODAY Style Hero opened up about his love of fashion and why it's so important to have a softer side.
I was definitely a chubby kid. I'm from a big Italian family and we love to eat. There were never any restrictions on what you could or couldn't eat, or limits, for that matter. My mom would make enough food for 100 people and there were four of us in the house. I would just eat and eat and eat. I went through lots of stages with diets. In fourth grade I went vegan ... and then in high school, I went raw, only eating fruits and vegetables and seeds and nuts, for three years.
And I come from a family of eaters. They have all been through their own phases of diets. The Atkins diet was famous in my house growing up.
As a man in Hollywood, we're definitely supposed to look a certain way. I'm a white, cis-leaning man on television. I have some sort of responsibility — it's almost like there's an unwritten rule to look a certain way. I'm shirtless a lot. I have to take care of my body. I notice that when I'm working, I'm working out a lot and watching what I eat. And when I'm not working, I let loose. And I think I'm beginning to very much love all stages of my body a lot more.
I would describe my personal style as fluid. I use that word a lot. I think it's this ever-changing, transitional thing, depending on how I'm feeling, or who I'm hanging out with, or what I'm doing. I can go from wearing something super futuristic and high-tech fashion to antique Victorian French workwear from the 1800s, of which I have a massive collection. (Editor's note: Really? Yes, really.) I grew up in an antique store in Chicago. I've always had this strong connection to Victorian clothing for some reason.
For the most part, if I'm just hanging out, I'm in jeans and a T-shirt. I have a massive collection of white, vintage T-shirts. Just plain, no logos. I find them all over the place — vintage shops, thrift stores. My go-to for everything right now is Etsy. I spend way too much time and way too much money on Etsy. It's a massive global estate sale that exists on the computer 24 hours a day, seven days a week.
I have a bunch of tattoos, too many to count. If I wasn't a full-time actor, I think I would be fully covered. I get tattoos all the time. My agents want to die. They gave up hassling me a long time ago. The art of tattoos, historically, is one of the most sacred practices. I'm really strongly connected to the ancient practices of tattoo work — not just, 'Oh, it's cool to get tattoos now.'
Josh (the tattoo artist he plays on "Younger") and I are pretty similar. I dumb it down for Josh and strip out a lot of Nico to play Josh. Josh is a much simpler version of Nico. But at the end of the day, Josh is this person who is very much run by his heart and emotions and the love he has for people. I think where Josh and I really differ is the love we have for ourselves. I think I respect myself more than Josh.
I really like this idea of loving my fragile masculinity right now. And what I mean by that is that there are not a lot of men talking about being super vulnerable and emotional, and I think that is one of my favorite things about myself: my ability to cry and feel and emote and be an empath. I can watch a commercial and start crying, and it makes me so happy. I'm not afraid to claim it. It doesn't mean one thing to be masculine. A lot of men can't understand their emotions. I don't think they understand how powerful that can be.
As told to TODAY's Rheana Murray. This interview has been edited and condensed for clarity.
This article was originally published on Sept. 13, 2017 on TODAY.