Love, Simon is unlike any studio teen rom com you’ve probably ever seen and because of that, it’s sure to make a big impact.
The film stars Nick Robinson as seventeen-year old Simon Spier. His life is a little complicated: he’s yet to tell his family or friends he’s gay and he doesn’t actually know the identity of the anonymous classmate he’s fallen for online. Resolving both issues proves hilarious, terrifying and life-changing.
The film is directed by Greg Berlanti and is based upon Becky Albertalli’s acclaimed novel, Simon vs The Homo Sapiens Agenda. On Saturday, Nick and Greg were joined by co-stars Katherine Langford, Alexandra Shipp, Keiynan Lonsdale, Jorge Lendeborg Jr & Natasha Rothwell for a press conference to talk about the film.
Social media and the internet play a big part in the film as Simon and Blue correspond via e-mail and the characters’ secrets are put up on the Creek Secrets tumblr page. As we’ve seen with the rise of social media, it has a big impact on teens today in a positive and negative way. Nick shared just how topical the subject is in the film. “[Social media] causes a lot of anxiety to teens these days because there’s a certain kind of permanency now to what you say. People, teens especially, it’s already a difficult transitional time in your life. They’re forced to be hyper self aware and self critical at times. It’s not always a good thing. In a lot of ways it can be positive in the way it connects people that you might not otherwise have access to. There’s a community for you. It’s sort of a complicated issue, double edged sword.”
Keiynan added, “The world is still figuring out how to navigate social media. What people are starting to notice is we latch on to people when they’re authentic and then kids are like maybe I should be authentic too. We don’t have to constantly paint ourselves as these different specific pictures online. Of course it will still exist, but more and more we’re being able to be inspired by people not just showing the highlights but expressing when they have anxiety or their truths. It’s an exciting thing for where social media can go.”
This film will help many when it comes to discovering who they are and it actually hits close to home for Jorge who plays Nick in the film. It turns out three days before receiving the script his own friend came out to him. So what was her reaction when she found out about his new role? “She was not happy but not because of the project but because it was going to come out on her birthday,” Jorge joked. “She has come out to more and more people ever since. Thing is, I’m doing it for her, it hasn’t come out yet so when she sees it I’ll really know. I’ll have a real person that I really care about that I can check in with and know how they feel to really gauge.”
The project is especially close to director Greg Berlanti has well who is openly gay. Movies like this didn’t exist when he was a teenager but what would he have done if they had? “I didn’t realize until after we made the film is that I probably would have been too scared to go to the movie,” he shared. “I would have worried people would have thought I was gay if they saw me there or would have gone to the neighboring theater. I think there’s probably still going to be kids today that don’t want to tell their parent they’re going or if they go with their parent is it going to incite a conversation. I think that it’s all still a conversation that’s happening. Ultimately I would have seen it and it would have helped me in the way that many of the films that I started to see in college helped me. They were a window into my potential future once I had the courage to talk about it.”
Natasha Rothwell who has some epic scene-stealing scenes as drama teacher Ms Albright also has a personal connection to the movie. “In real life, I taught theater in the Bronx for four years. It’s a Venn diagram of Ms Albright and the life I lived,” she said. “I pulled from all those experiences to sort of find her but to Greg’s credit he really allowed me to play on set and have fun to really find her voice and the way she moved and how she felt. The thing I love about her, the theater in high school for me and even as a teacher is a home for people who felt like they were on the outside, it was a safe space . It was important for me as a teacher to fiercely protect it as a safe space. I totally felt Ms Albright. When someone attacks your brood you become very defensive and that resonated with me in playing her. Understanding that need to protect and to be not just an ally in theory but what does an active ally look like.”
Katherine Langford plays one of Simon’s BFFs in the film, Leah, and she’s no stranger to tackling important issues. She’s best known for “13 Reasons Why” and she was still working on that intense show when she got the script for Love, Simon. “This script came to me before we had even finished wrapping season 1 of 13 Reasons Why. In many ways it was unlikely, I was very deep into this intense prolific character then I read this which was so full of joy but similar in a sense that it portrays a story with a real aim for authenticity, reality and truth. It’s something that really drew me towards it. They were both very different experiences but both my first experiences of two things – 13 was my first tv series and this was my first film. What I enjoyed and took away from my experience on Love, Simon was just the love and dedication and being involved in something where you really felt like everyone was in it for the right reasons. Greg Berlanti was the perfect director for this film.”
Warning, if you see this movie, bring tissues. Plenty of scenes will make you cry but there is one in particular that seemed to make the cast and crew cry. “I don’t know if we ever set out to make a grip cry but I will say the one scene where I felt like, I hesitate to say where we nailed it but where we felt like we were in the right ballpark was the scene between Simon and his mom,” Nick shared. “It was a very emotional day for everybody and I think people weren’t actually expecting the kind of emotion that happened. Our producers were crying, the grips were crying, everyone was sort of hearing these words and having a reaction to it. I think it speaks to the fact that whether you’re gay or straight or whatever, hearing that speech of you are worthy and you deserve love and you can exhale all those things are so powerful and it really makes for a great moving going experience.”
Alexandra and Katherine also expressed that even though they know what’s coming they still cry seeing the film and even cry during interviews just talking about the film. The cast has also been able to see the reaction from fans early on as they have traveled the country hosting early screenings.
“The reaction has been overwhelming positive,” Nick said. “We’ve been to a lot of different parts of the country and everywhere we’ve gone it’s been treated with enthusiasm and excitement. Many of our screenings have been overbooked. It just speaks to the power off the performances, Greg as a filmmaker and storyteller. I can’t wait for it to get to the next stage and see if there’s just as much enthusiasm.”
Alexandra added, “They’ll come back and bring fans. Some have been like I’ve seen this 3 times. Majority of the kids were just grateful and thankful. We’re thankful to have a movie out like this but it’s really nice that the kids are thankful for it whether they identify as LGBTQ or not. Everyone knows someone who is going through something very similar and not only are we creating allies but we’re instilling the confidence in people to be their best and truest self regardless of who they want to make out with.”
As for Keiynan, who came out as bisexual in 2017, he’s also seen the impact of the film. “I’ve read things on twitter about some guys coming out after the pre-screenings and I think it’s a testament to the performances and Greg’s told this story in such a beautiful way it feels real. Nick’s performance is beautiful and when I watched it I felt like him. I think a lot of people are feeling represented.”
Be sure to experience this great film about first love, figuring yourself out and more when Love, Simon opens March 16, 2018.