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Love, Simon’s Nick Robinson on loving Simon

2018-06-29 10:16
Nick Robinson as Simon Spier in Love, Simon

Cape Town – Love, Simon is a landmark release for major Hollywood studios. The film centres on Simon Spier who is keeping a huge secret from his family, his friends, and all of his classmates: he's gay. 

When that secret is threatened, Simon must face everyone and come to terms with his identity.

According to AP the gay teen comedy-drama had a reported $17m budget and will get a wide-release, unlike many other gay lead films that mostly only get limited or art house releases.

This important film is currently showing in South African theatres and is an absolute must-watch. (Read Channel24's review here.)

Nick Robinson, who plays the titular character, did a quick Q&A about the film and why he decided to take on the role. 

Tell us about Simon.

I think Simon is someone who knows who he is.  But he's just not ready for the world to know.  So he basically organises his whole life around the fact that he doesn't want people to know that he's gay.  And that really informs most of his day to day life and decision making and thought process.  

Although, presumably, he’s planning to come out at some point?

I think he's dead set on going to college and then becoming who he wants to be on his terms.  He wants to remain in control for as long as possible.  But, as I think most people can attest to, the best laid plans don’t always work out the way you want.  So then he's someone who has to come to terms with the fact that he didn't get to tell his story exactly how he wanted to. But he eventually owns it.  And he uses it to his advantage.

The film covers some dramatic ground but it’s also pretty funny.

Yeah, I think it's really funny!  And there were some great comedic actors in the film.  Tony Hale plays the vice principal and he is like uproarious. I think that one of the strengths of the film is that it isn't just one thing.  It's not a drama, it's not a comedy, it's not a romance, it's sort of a mixed bag of all of these different genres and ideas that I think make it very true to life.  

How did you first get involved with the film?

I heard about it through Greg, our director.  And he brought me in to have a meeting and we sat down and he outlined his ideas for the script and the story and character. It was a fairly quick process.  I think that Greg knew what he was looking for so he was able to kind of expedite things.

What appealed to you about the project?

A number of things.  I am a big fan of those sort of John Hughes-esque coming of age films.  And I felt like this kind of fit that mold pretty well.  And on top of that, it was telling a story that hadn't been told before from this perspective.  From a young gay man's perspective in high school.  Usually that character is the sidekick or something.  

A scene from Love, Simon

(Simon and his friends in a scene from Love, Simon. Photo: AP)

In the film, Simon has a close-knit group of friends. Did you know many of the cast beforehand?

Not really. I knew Logan who plays Martin.  But he's not really in Simon's immediate social circle.  Of the core group of friends, no, I didn't know anyone.  But I got to know everyone pretty well and it's been a pleasure. Greg had a rehearsal period beforehand.  So we had about two weeks to get to know one another, get past the icebreakers, the get-to-know-you phase, and actually get into the work.  By the time we started shooting, we had already developed a relationship.  

What did you find the biggest challenge in making this film?  

I think for me the biggest challenge in making this was trying to ensure the movie had a point of view but was also as accessible as possible. I think the large point of this movie is that it can reach people that maybe normally wouldn't go out to see a film about this character. So I wanted to make the character specific enough that he feels real, but not so pointed or specific that he's narrow in his appeal.

You are in practically every scene so there must be a sense of responsibility attached to that, and the need to make Simon both a well-defined individual and also broadly appealing and, for want of a better word, relatable.

Absolutely. And the rehearsal period definitely helped to kind of crystallize some ideas and find out what didn't work just as much as what did.  And hopefully people won't get too sick of Simon! [Smiles] Because the film definitely centers on his path, his journey. But having said that, his friends have their own issues to deal with too.

So would it be fair to say that not only Simon, but his friends too, are working out who they are?

Yeah, absolutely. I feel like this movie is all about finding your identity and it's something that every character deals with.  Basically, the way they feel inside versus the way they present themselves to the world.  Those two ideas don't always match up.  I think the film is a journey to kind of meet in the middle of these two intersections of how you present yourself and how you feel and if there's a way to do both of those at the same time.  I think one of the reasons there've been so many movies about high school is because it’s a time in your life where you're feeling a lot of emotions – love, heartbreak, loss – perhaps for the first time. 

A scene from Love, Simon

(Simon and Leah in a scene from Love, Simon. Photo: AP)

And those emotions, being new and raw, can be pretty intense.

Yeah. Jack Antonoff [who is Executive Producing the Love, Simon soundtrack] was actually talking about this. He said that it's a time when you're desperately trying to pronounce who you are to the world, but you don't really have the tools to do that. So it’s just a big ol’ stew of trial and error and emotions.

Talking of which, you have some big emotional scenes with your ‘movie parents’, Jennifer Garner and Josh Duhamel. How was working with those two experienced actors?

It was great.  Yeah, they are both so experienced. But different. Jen is very maternal.  She has a very maternal instinct and so she's always making sure everyone's okay.  And Josh is sort of a practical joker.  So he keeps everybody on their toes.  And they were both… well, I couldn't think of a cooler set of parents than those two right there.

As mentioned, you have powerful scenes with both. How was it filming those? As an actor, do you feel nervous or excited when you know you have one of those ’big scene’ days?

Honestly, it's dread.  It's just pure dread! [Laughs] But then once you actually start doing it, it starts to sort of untangle itself and the scene kind of unfolds, especially when you're working with such professionals.  It doesn't really feel like there's a whole lot of ceremony behind it.  It's kind of this very straight forward and safe environment to explore and have fun.  And make mistakes!

But those are great scenes. It must feel good when you capture them?

You can maybe give yourself a little pat on the back, yeah.  There's definitely a sense of satisfaction that comes from feeling like you did a good job and feeling like you actually reached a place of understanding with the other characters.  That you successfully make believed, I guess. You pretended well!

People certainly seem to have had a very warm reaction to it.

That’s great. It's definitely a feel-good movie.  It's a movie that is meant to be shared and it's a movie that's meant to be experienced.

*Q&A supplied

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