Drew Starkey Says 'Outer Banks' Season 3 Pushes Characters to New Limits: 'They're Challenged a Lot'

"He's constantly at a push-and-pull with what he's going through internally," Starkey exclusively tells PEOPLE about his Outer Banks character Rafe

Outer Banks

Rafe Cameron continues to find himself at odds with the Pogues in Outer Banks season 3.

While the Kook brother of Sarah Cameron has made some very questionable choices over the past few seasons, actor Drew Starkey doesn't entirely see his character as the villain of the show.

"What me and showrunners [Josh Pate, Jonas Pate and Shannon Burke] wanted to establish early on was not making some bad guy just for the sake of making a bad guy," Starkey, 29, tells PEOPLE.

"He's constantly at a push-and-pull with what he's going through internally and even though he makes some pretty insanely stupid decisions, he struggles with those."

He adds, "There's just a little hint of maybe he's still a good person, but ultimately he gives into his internal thoughts too much."

Outer Banks
Courtesy of Netflix

In many ways, Rafe really reaches his breaking point in the upcoming third season as he battles with his father Ward Cameron over how to handle the hidden treasure they acquired at the end of season 2.

In one heated moment from the trailer, Rafe tells Ward, "Dad, I don't need you anymore," before shoving him into a wall.

As Starkey prepares for those intense scenes, he says he listens to a lot of soundtracks and heavy metal to get into character. "I'm sure if someone took one of my earbuds out on set and put it in their ear, they'd be like, 'Jesus. Man, are you OK?' But it helps me get amped up."

Outer Banks
Jackson Lee Davis/Netflix

With the new season, Starkey notes that one of the main themes is getting characters out of their comfort zones, including an unlikely team-up between Kiara (Madison Bailey) and Rafe shown in the trailer.

"What we've done this season, which is really interesting, is we've taken these characters that we're familiar with and plucked them out of their natural friend groups and placed them into situations where they're really uncomfortable and they have to test themselves," he says. "They're challenged a lot."

Though Rafe is known for his impulsive decision-making, we've also seen him grapple with his inner turmoil, which continues in season 3. While Starkey doesn't think fans should necessarily empathize with Rafe in those moments, he doesn't think he's irredeemable either.

"I think anybody's redeemable," he notes. "Most 'bad people' start off as good people and then end up making bad decisions. The more you make, the larger the monster in the room becomes."

"I've said it before, I don't really want people to have empathy for him so much as I want them to understand the process in which he makes these decisions," he adds. "It's up to the audience whether they want to empathize with that or not, sometimes I don't even."

Outer Banks
Charley Gallay/Getty

Since its premiere in 2020, the show has been a whirlwind success, something Starkey admits he could have never predicted.

"All we knew the first season was we were all together making this show and it was really, really fun to do. So whatever came of it was just a bonus," he says. "Seeing how people respond to the show and these characters has been such a rare thing. The more opportunity we get to do it, the better. I love working with this group of people. I would do it for 10 seasons if they gave us that option."

Calling the cast some of his "best friends," Starkey adds that going through the show together has bonded the cast in a unique way.

"We have each other to keep each other grounded, very humbled," he says. "We knock each other down a few pegs when need be. If we were going through this alone it would be a lot tougher."

Following his darker roles on Outer Banks and Hulu's Hellraiser the past year, Starkey jokes that he's looking forward to taking on lighter roles in the future, including his upcoming romantic comedy The Other Zoey starring Josephine Langford.

"My mom was very excited to hear that I wasn't shooting or killing people in this one. She's very pumped for that movie," he jokes.

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Outer Banks season 3 premieres Thursday on Netflix.

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