Fred Hechinger is having quite the year right now, but I’d like to bet you’ve witnessed how immensely talented he is even before seeing Fear Street and The White Lotus. While his role in Bo Burnham’s Eighth Grade is small, it does wind up being an especially memorable sequence of the movie. And then on top of that, he doesn’t just hold his own opposite Tom Hanks in News of the World; he downright shines in that role.
With the recent release of the Fear Street movies on Netflix and with The White Lotus currently underway on HBO, Hechinger took the time to join us for an extended interview to talk about those new projects, but also to revisit his journey in the industry thus far, beginning with Eighth Grade.
Hechinger appears in the film as Trevor, one of Olivia’s (Emily Robinson) friends that Kayla (Elsie Fisher) meets at the mall. So yes, it’s a small role in the movie, but that didn’t stop Burnham from taking the time to completely change how Hechinger viewed the audition process. Here’s how Hechinger explained it:
“I have a small part in that movie and yet when I got cast, he let me read with other people who hadn’t been cast yet, and in that we got to improvise and play and find the character. And it was also really illuminating as an actor because I auditioned for all this time and always sort of thought if I didn’t get something, something was wrong with me. For him to sort of open the curtain and show that other side of the process was this incredible thing where [I] read with all these unbelievably amazing actors and they were all completely qualified and talented and it was just this thing of finding the right mixture. Moving on then, I felt less personal about a lot of it.”
Whatever Hechinger’s been doing in the audition space since is certainly working. From there, he went on to score roles in Human Capital, Let Them All Talk, News of the World, The Woman in the Window and, of course, Fear Street. In Fear Street 1994, Hechinger is a scene-stealer as Simon, a hugely charming Shadysider fighting the killers alongside Deena (Kiana Madeira), Sam (Olivia Scott Welch), Kate (Julia Rehwald) and Josh (Benjamin Flores Jr.). Hechinger then returns in Fear Street 1666 as Isaac, a Union resident who tries to stop the town from persecuting his friends, Sarah Fier (Madeira) and Hannah Miller (Welch).
Given the fact that it’s rather unusual to get the opportunity to play two different characters in the same film series, I opted to ask Hechinger about his experience moving from the role of Simon to Isaac and if he had any conversations with director Leigh Janiak about shared traits to hit. Here’s what he said:
“I felt that that stuff was so wonderfully in the script, that there was this thing where the characters are different in 1666, but there are shared sensibilities and there’s also this shared struggle for the town of Shadyside that is, people who have been pushed to the side, outcasts and misfits. The characters who in any other movie would die in the first 10 minutes are actually the heart and the essence of this film, this whole trilogy … I do think of them as different, but, you know the way I think about it? It’s like they’re different people, but I think if Isaac and Simon met, they’d get along. They’d have a good time together.”
Just as Fear Street wound down, The White Lotus kicked off on HBO. In that one, Hechinger plays Quinn Mossbacher, the son of a mighty wealthy search engine CFO (Connie Britton). Even though he’s at one of the most luxuries resorts in Hawaii, Quinn often has his head buried in his phone screen or Nintendo Switch and doesn’t exactly leap at the chance to get quality bonding time with his dad (Steve Zahn).
While The White Lotus is very much a seering satire, that doesn’t necessarily mean you can’t empathize with the characters. Here’s why creator, writer and director Mike White is able to accomplish that without ever shying away from the cringe of the characters’ behavior according to Hechinger:
“Mike is this incredible combination as a writer and as a director on set, which is that he’s sort of unflinching in terms of the cringe of it. He will twist the knife to the furthest degree. He’s ready to see – most people would cut there, but what happens after? And what happens after that? And what happens after that? Because in life we do not have the convenience of edits, you know? So often I’m in the middle of an interaction, I’m just like, ‘Oh no, what did I do?’ And you can’t go to the next scene. You have to stay in it and endure whatever is happening, or however you’ve made this person uncomfortable or you feel uncomfortable or whatever it is. And I just think he’s really unflinching with the cringe of it, but he has a lot of compassion for the characters and so I think that yields a certain empathy as a director to also see the story through their eyes.”
If you’re looking for more from Hechinger, be sure to check out our full chat in the video interview at the top of this article. There’s much more on his experience working with Hanks, the movie trivia game he plays with Fear Street co-star Olivia Scott Welch, how he thinks he’d fair against a horror movie slasher and so much more!
Sometimes you just have to trust in yourself — and Dr. Beverly Crusher.
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