Ahead of their debut at the 2022 SXSW Film Festival, Allison and I got together on Zoom with the director and select cast members from the new queer horror film, Hypochondriac! In our comprehensive hour-long conversation, we cover everything from the real-life breakdown that inspired the movie, echoes of Donnie Darko, hilarious sequel prospects, and our interpretations of that zany ending.
American Horror Story 1984’s villainous Richard Ramirez actor, Zach Villa, this time plays introverted potter, Will. To call Will’s childhood disturbed would be massively underselling things. When he was only twelve, Will’s mother tried to kill him—18 years later, and she resurfaces just as Will’s life seems to be coming together nicely. Will has been dating Luke (Devon Graye) for eight months now, and works for a gallery in “the business of high end pottery.” As Will is getting into the stage of opening up fully with Luke, Mom (Marlene Forte) calls unexpectedly, leaving an ominous voicemail about trust. Next, a box of empty DVDs shows up with another warning from Will’s Mom. Her voice is soon inescapable, and Will cannot help but listen to the eerie voicemails she leaves on his cell. Read on for our exclusive interview with Zach Villa, Devon Graye, Addison Heimann, and Yumarie Morales!
We’re really excited to dig into your new movie, Hypochondriac. A big theme of the film deals with the scars and trauma of childhood before signing on. Did any of you carry a metaphorical wolf into your adulthood?
ZACH VILLA: Damn, we’re just getting right into it. I’m just reminded of the scene in The Mask when he goes, “Mr. Ipkis, we all wear masks.” No, it’s a joke. We all have a wolf. Right? We all have things that we carry. I don’t know if there’s one specifically… I ended up talking about my brother who deals with mental illness, but I wouldn’t necessarily call that, you know, my Wolf. I don’t carry that with me from childhood. That’s not like the thing that in the movie, it’s represented by the same imagery?
DEVON GRAYE: When I read the script, I remember thinking like, it’s so cool that the thing haunting him the whole time is that little piece of himself all those years ago, and that’s just the beautiful. I wish I thought of something cool like that. It’s a very cool way to tell that. I think everyone can relate to having their little wolf to varying degrees. Lots of wolves! I feel like I have a closet of little wolves.
ADDISON HEIMANN: So that’s the sequel. Next time, it won’t be one giant wolf. It’ll just be a little baby, we could partner with the Jim Henson Company, so they could just do different little wolves.
YUMARIE MORALES: The mommy issues in the film for sure. I don’t know anyone who doesn’t have mom or dad issues, after being in therapy for years. I’m a huge advocate for therapy for even our strong ones. We need somebody to talk to you and let out all the stuff that we struggled with as kids. We hang on to a lot of our wounds from childhood. We don’t know that unless we can really speak it out and have someone to kind of guide us through what those traumas are small, or large. I think pain is relative, for sure. But I think I identified with that the most just having those things that what we didn’t have as children, we seek out as adults.
I know for my character, specifically, the panic and anxiety that comes with not having the most outwardly affectionate or expressive, loving parents. That’s what I made my truth. Then being in a very toxic work environment, and tolerating a boss who just doesn’t give a fuck, and dealing with it, because I need that. There’s a deep-seated need to please and be needed, regardless of how you’re being treated. I’m sure someone can relate with that. Or everyone really?
As the movie starts, we are promised that it is based on a real breakdown. Addison, can you tell us a bit about the reality of your story, and the journey to putting it to film? Did your mother really try to take your life as a child? I really hope not.
ADDISON: Oh, no. That’s the thing. It’s one of those things where it’s like, you know, this is a horror movie. My mother was never physically violent, but she was emotionally, which is good for me. But the unfortunate circumstance is: that’s not necessarily the case for everybody. I have close friends who’ve suffered from mental illness, and it just depends.
Bipolar is an all-consuming disease which can affect everybody differently. The way my mom dealt with it is in terms of a lot of threats—constant emails and voicemails, which you see in the movie, those voicemails are real. Those are pretty transcriptive from the ones that I kept. I don’t know why, I kept them on my phone. Marlene, the woman, playing my mother, she was like, ‘Do you have anything of your mother? I’m like, ‘actually, I’ve saved all these voicemails that I transcribed in the movie that you know have since been changed to fit a narrative. Yet were pretty word-for-word in certain moments.
To get back to your main question about it all, yes, this is an autobiographical movie based off my mental breakdown. It all stems from basically, the winter of 2018, early 2019. My mom’s bipolar, mainly on the manic side and the delusion side less on the depression side. She’s been that way for most of my life. Since I was 12. When I went home for Christmas, that year, she was in a pretty bad episode. She goes unchecked for like a year. She was in a pretty bad one.
I was staying by her. I was just staying with her the whole time. She’s being emotionally abusive, and all this kind of stuff. I left and I got back to LA with this sense of dizziness and head fog and tingles and nausea, and I never experienced something like that. So I decided to visit Dr. Google. The smartest thing I’ve ever done, you know, you don’t think about doing that. And Dr. Google was like, ‘Hey, buddy, you’re dying of ALS.’ And I was like, ‘Cool. I believe this.’ That’s the thing—I suffer from intrusive thoughts. I suffer from OCD. I just latched onto it.
Then I went to doctors… they would tell me, you’re fine. And I was like, ‘Well, I don’t believe you because Google is my main boy.’ So I go to work at this production company, because I’m in LA (not pottery like Will.) I found that pottery was very interesting. Basically, they were treating me as a gripper or a gaffer, where they were having me lift these incredibly heavy sky panels up and down steps with a freight elevator. I was alone and not realizing I was being taken advantage of. I was also in such a thought process where it’s like, if I’m not able to lift the stuff, I’m dying.
So unfortunately, that confluence of events led me to a repetitive strain injury in both my forearms. I didn’t know that at the time. I thought, this is just ALS. I freak out, have a huge mental breakdown, and go home to my dad. All those things are also kind of word-for-word. In terms of the conversations that we had back then. I go for a month, and I fixed myself. I get on antidepressants. It’s a pretty wild month. I forgot how to breathe, which is a weird thing that I had to deal with.
The reason I think I was so confused by it, is because I wasn’t understanding that panic attacks can transform into things that you’ve never experienced before. Normally, shortness of breath, that’s what it is. Then all of a sudden, I would get shocks up and down my body and be like, ‘what the hell is this?’ Or so much head fog and dizziness. I couldn’t focus on anything. Well, clearly, I know what panic attacks are. Again, I go on antidepressants that I like, kind of fix my brain, and I go home. I do the most L.A. thing I’ve ever done. My arms are hurting. They’re like, ‘well, why don’t you go to a holistic massage therapist,’ and I was like, ‘Cool, cool. I’m game.’ Then my friend was like, ‘she cured my nausea.’ And I was like, ‘we love it.’
I go to this holistic massage therapist. This is a thing: all the doctors told me I had a muscle injury. It was actually tendinitis. So he injured my tendons, and then they got so swollen that I couldn’t text… I couldn’t lift a fork to eat food. I couldn’t shave, I couldn’t type. That began my journey of being on the couch 12 hours a day waiting for my swelling to go down, watching Netflix Scandinavian detective dramas, as you do.
Anyway, I basically heal over the course, and I’m finally able to lift five pounds, and things are finally moving forward until all my mental symptoms come back! My dizziness, my nausea, my head fog, and my my arm tickles. I call my aunt who’s a doctor. She’s like, ‘I don’t want to scare you, you might have multiple sclerosis. It’s been long enough now that I think you need to get yourself checked out.’ And I’m like, ‘Cool. I’m not having a panic attack, you’re having a panic attack.’ I call the neurologist, and I find one and she’s like, ‘email me everything that’s going on.’ I’m like, ‘okay, let me just send you my omnibus of shit, my dissertation as it were for review. She emailed back, like, ‘okay, let’s have you come in.’ I go to the neurologist, and I get all the tests. An MRI, my brain, muscle tests, all the things and everything came back clear, and all my symptoms went away.
That is the impetus of the movie, or basically the main story. I originally wrote this script as therapy. I basically had to remember, my physical therapist was like, ‘okay, you should write because you’re a writer.’ I had two giant pillows on my desk, hands on both my pillows, ice packs on my arms as I wrote the very bad, first 15 minutes of this script. Just writing exactly what happened at first, and then, I would get notes like, ‘this isn’t interesting.’ But it happened! Oh, right. No one cares. Even when I was writing the initial draft of the script, I was avoiding the very real obvious impetus for all this, which is the trauma that I underwent as a child that I was refusing to accept.
My wolf was growing and growing and growing, and had his nails across my neck and was ready to slit my throat. I realized that that’s what I was doing. And so I was like, ‘I need to write this movie about inherited trauma.’ That’s where basically the version of the script that pretty much exists in the movie exists at that. I met my producers at a film festival. Then we decided to make a movie, and then the pandemic happened. As I’m sure we all remember, two years ago, happy anniversary COVID! We stayed in pre-production for a year and a half. Then I find all these amazing actors, like Yumarie and Devin and Zach. Maddie and Paget and Marlene and Doubek. Then we made the goddamn thing. Remember when COVID was over in June 2021? My main thought was like, please don’t let us get positive tests. I just I can’t shut this down. And we did it!
Obviously, a modern queer horror is a relatively new thing. Hypochondriac is in good company with films like Knife + Heart, and Spiral. Can you tell us some of your main inspirations for this film, and why it was important for you to tell such an explicit LGBT story?
ADDISON: The first movie that influenced me is not LGBT, but I mean, we could all just call out the wolf or bunny as it were in the room. Obviously, Donnie Darko is very much a big influence on my docket, mainly because you watch that movie and you see Patrick Swayze doing the hammiest performance alive, Sparkle Motion, and that teacher over-the-top stuff, and then you have Donnie in his room, with his mother was like, ‘how does it feel to have a wacko for a son?’ and she goes, ‘it feels fantastic.’
I knew when I was making this movie, this needs to be that. The tones need to exist where Blossom can be this awful human. And we can also have a scene with Yumarie and Zach having a panic attack, just very real in a scene. We’re going to conflate those two, and create a world in which you feel like you’re losing your mind, then I’ll have done my job. I set out to make a queer work, because I am queer. It just happened to me—that’s the kind of stories that I want to tell, especially post-breakdown.
Genre has a very cool and creative way of bringing out the message of things as it were, without being a movie about this. I love that, because there’s so many creative ways you can deal with it, and especially stuff like with Postcard, or Spiral, or Thelma, or even Stranger By the Lake (which is maybe the gayest, horniest movie I’ve ever seen) exists in these places.
I wouldn’t set out being like, ‘I’m making a gay movie,’ which is great. It is gay, ‘cuz I’m gay. I don’t think we can have an ass-eating scene unless we’re gay. I’m sorry, Devon and Zach. More important, especially in the genre space, just to let us exist in these worlds, and tell the stories in these worlds that exist and that we’ve seen before, but through a queer lens, and that ultimately makes it a little more original. I know that there are gay horror nerds all around the fucking world—I am one. I talked about, ‘more of this, please!’
A different doctor, every time Will goes to seek professional help was an interesting choice, especially as they increase in age and seriousness in approach to Will’s case. Was this sort of a commentary on the healthcare system in the United States?
ADDISON: All those doctors are based off actual doctors that I saw, every one of them. It is what it is. I mean, listen, I don’t blame the doctors. This was my problem going to different doctors. I was looking for a different answer. It’s also not only about the healthcare system. It’s also Will’s journey for affirmation. He doesn’t tell them the full story. The first, with Michael Cassidy, was basically ‘I’m not eating.’ Maybe thinking these things. Then the second one is a little more, I’m worried I have ALS. Then the third one, with Paget, he’s like, ‘I’m seeing a wolf.’ And then the fourth one, he’s like, ‘Okay, we got an MRI, Shit, I don’t know what to do here.’ Then the final one, we’ve gone through all these things, he finally gets a doctor… one who’s a little more empathetic, and can sit down and be real with them. He’s in a place to hear it.
Yes, everything is based on reality. The thing when you’re going through a mental breakdown, and what I tried to do with this movie is, it’s all through Will’s perspective, right? So that doesn’t mean we’re in reality, we’re in his head. It’s why we never leave him at any part of this movie. I did have a very bro doctor/nurse practitioner who was exactly like that. That was way too hot for his own good. It was like I was on the Grey’s Anatomy set. It’s not like he said the wrong things. It’s just what it was, and all I could be like was, ‘You’re too hot for this. You’re too hot for this. You’re too hot for this.’ And I walked out of the doctor’s office, and I’m like, did he say things? You know what I mean?
DEVON: That’s my favorite scene in the movie, by the way. It’s so good. It’s so phony.
ADDISON: Give me an old crotchety person in their 80’s, who’s been with this way too long. Yes, I’ll listen to you. Preferably if they’re queer, but a queer older doctor.
ZACH: I think it’s interesting what you were saying, Addison. What struck me how you said the genre allows you to see the message of what’s underneath. I’ve heard you say versions of that before. But it’s true. I think the film really does an interesting job of portraying something that’s accurate, and based in reality. We’re allowed to see the horrors of mental illness, but it’s held at a certain distance that we can also process it. That’s the artistic vision. How you said it actually is maybe a much more efficient and concise way of putting it all together.
It’s the genre that’s doing it—the genre is the lens. You just get to look and analyze this theme, but through this visual lens. That lens is heightened even more. Not only because we’re the viewer watching the movie, but through Will’s perspective, and that’s when you’re dealing with any sort of mental illness. Isn’t that just how fucked it is? If you broke your hand or your arm, you can look down and be like, ‘oh, yeah, I did that. That’s a part of me, but this is still working, I can get myself to the doctor and take care of it and fix it.’
But your brain is an organ too, it’s just different. That’s the command center. It’s like, ‘boom, you need a little readjustment here.’ You can’t step out of yourself and look at it, and be like, ‘Oh, this is what I need right now.’ The doctors in the film—it’s really interesting to think about it, that we’re only seeing a very specific bandwidth through Will’s eyes. Doctors might actually be better at their job or more conclusive, or more wholesome in the picture, but he’s not in a place to see it. Therefore, we also as the audience aren’t in the place to see it, which is why he sees like five or six different doctors.
This question is for Zach and Devin. One of my favorite parts of the film is the duo’s silent waltz together. What was it like filming at that beautiful cabin? How many days did you shoot?
DEVON: I think we were there for two days, right, at that cabin? That waltz scene was added, like last minute, right? Am I remembering it right?
ADDISON: Yeah, you’re right! This is a fun thing to learn with moviemaking. You can’t just write songs that exist in the movies and have people sing them without being extorted for hundreds of thousands of dollars. My producers were like, ‘we can’t get the rights to the song’ initially (it was Devin singing “Fly Me to the Moon, which I think has been used in every movie, so it’s probably best it wasn’t there?)
DEVON: You sent me that same kind of right before we shot it, and I loved it. It became my favorite scene that I’d read of my stuff in the film, and yeah, it was fun. We shot that in one take too, one tracking shot.
ZACH: I loved shooting that with you, Devin, because it was so organic and it felt like a play for a minute—I’m getting emotional thinking about it right now. Oh my god. It’s just a very intimate experience to be able to play with someone in real time. No, I think you need to talk more about it. But I’ve made my point.
DEVON: I remember I cried on our last day of filming. I never cry when I wrap. I’ve never cried when I wrap anything ever. I was crying ‘cuz it was a lovely experience. Like you say, it did feel like a play, because most of the scenes I had with you were one shot. The car was one shot. The stuff at the arcade was one shot. The breakup is one shot.
You have nothing to hold on to, you’re literally just both thrown into the deep end of a pool as actors, and you only have each other and you have to just let whatever’s going to happen happen. You were obviously an amazing scene partner. I feel like that is why when we finished the film, I was so sad. That’s so rare that you get that with another actor, that you’re both just willing to let go of the safety rail, and just see what happens.
ADDISON: As a testament to the two of you, a lot of those scenes were not planned to be one shot. The combination of indie moviemaking, and also when we would roll, and Devin and Zach would act… Both me and Justin, my very talented DP, would look to each other and be like, ‘Oh, this only needs to be one shot.’ You can’t leave this when the connection is so strong there, right?
Obviously time is also a thing, especially the arcade when we’re like, hey, Zach, Devin, we don’t have time, we’re putting the camera on Dustin to create gold! I just was very fortunate because I feel like one thing I discovered in the edit room—I loved your guys’s relationship, but because you two brought so much to it, when it came to putting on the different layers of frosting—when that happened, this whole movie, this whole connection, the thing that you’re rooting for is the two of them.
By the end, when the Wolf is about to potentially end it, that’s what brings him back. The relationship at its core ended up meaning so much to me, and I think comes across in your guys’s performance. I
ZACH: I didn’t realize how much of it was one shot, but it’s true. We just had to jump, and we had each other and that was it. You’ve alluded to this Addison, when you say indie filmmaking, it’s also budgetary. and time, right? Sometimes, we just got to get this because it a) saves time, and b) that’s it. We have to get it like this, because it’s the end of the day. I think that there’s an art to that.
I’m a musician. The second you release music, everybody’s like, ‘Oh, God, I hate talking about it.’ I don’t want to publicize it, why can’t I just release it and have that be good. But there’s an art to that… there’s an art to talking about it, and pumping it. If you can get just as jazzed about the artistic process as you can actually making the music… It’s similar to being in filmmaking. My hands are tied behind my back a little bit, because the sun’s going down. This is the setup, and this is where it has to happen. And then you go, okay, but with structure comes freedom. Now I have very limited options, so I know exactly what I can do.
I found myself in that situation a bunch. Devon, our relationship in the movie… the kinds of actors that we are and the roles that we were given, it’s such fun, because you were such an incredible scene partner. I think that’s why I’m remembering what those days were like, and how emotionally charged and intimate they were, and vulnerable they were. I want to flip that over to and spread some praise around to Yumarie, you set the precedent. One of the first really big scenes, ‘Okay, why don’t you just show up, step up to the plate and bawl your eyes out.’ I think one of the first things we did was the opening scene of the movie, right after the pottery montage.
ADDISON: Yumarie, was that the first day? We didn’t shoot horror that first day, but we did shoot a bunch of emotional stuff.
ZACH: To your credit, you set the precedent. It allowed me I think to get to some of the places that that Will’s character needed to go later with Devon’s character. I’m just very grateful for both of you. The moment that we had in that scene [Yumarie] because of where you were willing to go, I felt more free. You just really set a precedent for where I wanted to go performative wise. Kudos to you. That was a really crazy day.
Yumarie, at one point early on, Will helps Sasha push through a panic attack. Ironically, when he needs her to provide the same guidance, Sasha is unable to aide him. Do you think Sasha’s presence could have helped calm him? Or was he already past the point of no return?
YUMARIE: At that point, what’s happening in the film is mirroring what happened for Addison. The neurons from whatever’s happening psychosomatically, and what’s happening physically—it’s not computing. During the pandemic, I struggled a lot with anxiety myself. There was a void, because of the lack of social connection. I had never realized how important social interaction was to me, for getting out of my own hypochondriac tendencies.
I’m a Latina, my parents and my family are very much worrisome people. They always go to the darkest, worst possible outcome. Having a community and having social interaction allows you to kind of distract. During the pandemic, we didn’t have that. We had Zoom, but you’re still in your four walls, and you turn the Zoom off, and you’re like, ‘Okay, great. I have cancer still.’
At that point, in the beginning, Will is just dipping his toes into what’s going on: his mom is on his back, his boss is on his back. He’s doing his best job at managing and doing the emotional labor for his work bestie, who’s tripping because of the work situation and what’s going on in her personal life. But of course, it’s easier to deal with someone externally than it is to deal with it internally. By the time he has his full-on panic attack, Sasha is not equipped to deal with this. She can’t even deal with her own stuff. When it comes to seeing it completely crumble in front of her. She’s like, ‘okay, that’s my cue to leave, because I can’t deal with this.’
Although her presence is calming, and I’m sure it helped, she doesn’t have the training to give him manageable steps to deal with his trauma. Sasha also is like, ‘no, that’s triggering for me. You’re supposed to be the person that helps me when I have my panics. You’re the buffer, between me and Blossom, and me in the world.’ So when he’s falling apart, she’s like, ‘well, you’re falling apart. What about me? No, I’m gonna go smoke some weed, I’m leaving.’ So it’s a very interesting relationship.
ZACH: Man, this movie doesn’t have anything pertinent packed into it, does it?
ADDISON: I liken this to a beautiful Marvel movie. Good good people being chosen.
ZACH: There’s just nothing like it. You’re scared, but also, you’re laughing your freakin’ ass off. The Scream series does that, but it’s camp, and this isn’t camp. In this interview right now, we’re talking about shit that (I don’t know about you guys), but I’m gonna go have an existential crisis about later. I’m gonna be smoking a cigarette and be like, ‘Oh, my God, everybody was talking about, is the wolf inside of me, do I carry it from childhood?’
The fact that we’re even having this conversation and that kind of awareness in general, is evocative and also speaks to the times. A film like this might have been made, but I don’t think it would be received in the same way. Suddenly, we’re all asking these questions of ourselves. This is very special and very important. This film needs to exist, and I believe in it. It’s furthering the fucking conversation. It’s doing it through the guise of a hit horror movie, but we’re having these conversations as a result of it.
It doesn’t matter what it does, for me anyway, in the box office, or what it does commercially or not, or for any of our careers. The fact that it exists, and we’re already having this conversation—we’ve already won.
YUMARIE: I also wanted to add to what you’re saying—it’s so true. If anything, it’s going to evoke thought for people who struggle with mental health issues. We do need to be more normalizing the fact that we each struggle with our own stuff. Healing itself is not just we start and we’ve accomplished it—it happens every day for the rest of your life.
A really great example of that is in the movie, spoiler alert, we realize that he does not get better. At the end, he is still with the wolf. He’s just kind of learned to manage and live with it. If anything, people will recognize themselves, and realize that the end goal is not to overcome it, but to live a life with it, and live a life that’s meaningful, and have relationships with your significant others, with your co workers, with whoever comes in and out of your life. Being real with it allows you to have deeper connections with other people.
This question is for Devon. Will and Luke say that they have been together for eight months. Their eventual level of intimacy and Luke’s care for his wellbeing came as quite a surprise to me. When do you think Luke became “in too deep,” so to speak?
DEVON: That’s a good question. I think we talked about this a lot (Addison and I) in the beginning, the the idea that Luke’s definitely getting something from this. I’ve been both versions of the characters in a relationship, but when you’re the one that’s the caregiver, it feels really good a lot of the time. It feels like it gives you purpose. It feels like you get to be the one that’s the good one, the one that’s in control.
There is something for Luke that is selfish in that. That’s kind of fun to play with the darker side of Luke, because he does all these very nice things. He works in therapy, he works with people, he’s drawn to that. Being drawn to a partner that also gives him access to getting to feel sort of powerful and in control is part of what probably drew him to Will in the first place. We talked a little bit in one scene about Luke’s sister having a similar thing, that she OD’d. I’m sure that has impacted him in a big way, as a person as well, and why this is familiar territory to find someone.
In terms of getting too deep in it, I think when he’s broken up with, I think that comes as a really big surprise. That’s not something that he was expecting. It’s not something that I was expecting when I read the scene. When we did that scene, I was a lot more emotional than I thought I would be. It’s that sad thing of ‘oh, fuck, this has not been an equitable relationship. I’ve gotten to be on this high and mighty place the whole time.’
I don’t really know how vulnerable Luke ever was with Will. I don’t know if Will was always vulnerable with Luke. I think in that moment, I had this sense of for the first time, when we were doing that scene, of, ‘Oh, my God, there’s so much more territory to go with this person. And now it’s over. It’s gone. And that’s it.’ That’s so sad! Coming back, at the end, I’m still confused by Addison. Am I actually there at the end? Or is that all in Zach’s mind?
ADDISON: I had answers, but it’s more fun if people make up their own damn mind, when a movie plays with time and reality and all that kind of stuff. I will say that, to piggyback off you, Devin, I think for me, what, especially that I did with the dancing scene is in the end the crux of the relationship, right? There’s this kind of timidness and there’s obviously love. Everything he does is exciting, and new and wild. That scene where he’s like, ‘dance with me.’ That moment that I hold on to as a filmmaker when I was going through this, I can see these moments of pure joy and pure synergy that you two brought so well. That, to me, kind of solidified their time in that early relationship.
I didn’t have a boyfriend during this actual story. This isn’t my actual boyfriend. No one ever wanted to love me before now—I’m kidding. I understood, because you’re at that point where you probably said, I love you. You’re also at that point where you could have a toe out if you wanted to. For me, that was very interesting. What do we do here, especially with someone like Luke’s character who is essentially involved in crisis, and where that bleeds into your relationship too.
Was there any hidden symbolism behind the adorable winking dog with a libations poster?
ADDISON: When I was writing the script, that calendar was hanging on my wall. I don’t remember who gave it to me, it might have been my sister, but I never got past January because I was too depressed and hurt to flip it. Every day, I would sit down and write at at my desk, I was looking at that goddamn fucking dog with the little wink. So that that is how that got in there. I looked at it a lot when I was in my little breakdown. Also, the obvious symbolism of every doctor’s office is the same.
ZACH: I don’t know about y’all, but when I’m depressed, seeing the happiest shit, I’m like, ‘fuck that in particular!’ Why is everybody so happy? I’m just tired and mad!
We have two more questions. So the film’s one major sex scene features Will at possibly his most vulnerable state, both emotionally and physically. Not including the aforementioned ass-eating. Zach, did you find it challenging to channel Will’s anxieties, while being quite literally stripped down as an actor?
ZACH: No! Any scene especially now, in today’s world, we’re handling nudity, and we’re handling intimate scenes and sex scenes very differently in film and onset. Addison wrote a doozy. Yes, on the page. First, I was like, ‘oh, yeah, this is gonna be something. This is gonna be vulnerable.’ Maybe difficult, from a self-conscious standpoint. When you say,‘did you have a hard time with that?’ I can’t be like, ‘oh, yeah, this is so hard to be naked in front of people.’
Personally, as an actor, I’ve performed in burlesque, and just in theater, and being a theater kid, it’s nudity. Being physically vulnerable on camera, of course, everybody’s first thought is like, ‘Oh, this is gonna be tricky.’ I’ve personally, the actor Zach, never had a problem doing that, because I know that it’s a performance. I know that there’s some distance between my personal life, whatever that may be, with physical intimacy, and what we’re portraying for the story and for the characters.
This particular scene, all that being said, yeah, it was intense. Did I have a hard time channeling it or feeling what the character was feeling? Maybe this is just a weird, sadistic power trip actor thing that I think actors have—the harder the scene is, or more emotional the scene is, or darker it is or whatever—the more whatever it is, we as actors, dig in. That makes me want to go harder, that makes me want to be like, ‘I can do this in a frickin room full of 100 people, baring my soul, and my body.’
It kind of becomes an Olympic Challenge with yourself. Then you add to that, that there’s this vulnerability, and not only literal nakedness but emotional nakedness. Devon was there with me, man. We were fine. I knew that I could trust Addison. I knew that no matter what we did on the camera and on the monitor that we were safe. That’s it. That’s all I need. That’s all I need as an actor, is for someone to look me in the eye that I trust and say, ‘you’re safe. I got your back.’ Then you go on in front of the camera, and make a bunch of mistakes. Somewhere in that is the performance. I had Devin and Addison that day, and we just got it done.
By that time in shooting, we’d been kind of in battle, so to speak, with the film and me with the character for enough time, that I was like, ‘Oh, this isn’t hard in the way that you you think of a performance being hard anymore.’ Will is just there is. It’s so raw, and right under the skin. That’s where I was, and I would venture to say you were as well Devin, by that point, and shooting that whole day. That was epic, man. Our performances and emotional tension was just right under the fucking surface, and we cut, after Devon’s cradling me, and I freak out. I remember we’d like do takes of that, and Devin and I would go to opposite sides of the room and keep pacing. And everybody was just like, ‘God, it’s stressful in here!’ Yeah, because we’re trying to sustain this performance!
ADDISON: It was definitely the most difficult day. That and the mother and son reverse choking scene later, in the fantastical moment, those two scenes were all done at the same time in a room together. We had that shit planned out. We had our intimacy coordinator. I never worked with them before, but we all basically set all the parameters before of exactly what we were doing, what people were comfortable with, and going through it. By the time we got there, I was like, ‘Okay, now let’s play!’
We’re all comfortable enough because we had been later enough in the movie to be like, ‘I’m uncomfortable with this in the moment.’ Great, we’ll cut it out. Let’s playback for Zack and Devin so they can understand what we’re doing with that. Okay, cool. We’re going with that. Even some of the violent stuff it took forever. Some was handheld, and Devin was on the ground and coming back up. We had to do that punch so many times. We had intimacy there. We had gore there. It was like everybody trying to create.
ZACH: Propriety really goes out the window, not not to cut you off. I think what you’re implying to some degree is, you’re doing a sexy scene, and it’s intense, and it’s very bare-all, and it’s very 2022. There’s not a lot of ass-eating sex scenes that I remember growing up. It’s not exactly considered mainstream, although it should be because there’s nothing wrong with that! People do that. And that’s how sex is!
ADDISON: It really came from me seeing every gay sex scene—it’d be like, you can’t just do that! I love Rocketman. Taron Egerton and Robb Stark are fuckin’ and I’m like, ‘you don’t just do that!
ZACH: Realistically, queer physical intimacy is underrepresented, and it’s not accurate. In general, in any media, across the spectrum. The cis norm is the norm, and that’s fine. But we have to understand that that’s a choice. Many other things are underrepresented, and now finally being attested to in 2022. Socially, and ethically. Black Lives Matter.
I think we’ve all gone through that vibe check. We can’t just coast through life anymore. We have to be conscious and aware of these things, and do the things in our daily lives that further the conversation. I think that sex scene does it really beautifully. Again, when you’re doing any filmmaking, and gore’s on set, and the intimacy coordinator’s there, and Addison’s there, and Devin and I are both naked, and there’s makeup and there’s lights, and it’s a million degrees. Propriety goes way out the window, which is I think what your original question was implying. I think that goes out of the actor’s mind, in my opinion, if the actor is good anyway.
I had a teacher once tell me ‘connect to something more important than your nervousness.’ Connect to something more important than your self doubt. That doesn’t fucking matter to Will. He’s getting his ass eaten and going and having a fucking mental crisis, come on. That’s what’s happening. That’s way more powerful than any doubt I, Zach, can feel. So it’s like ‘Get over yourself, get the fucking job done,’ you know? That’s what happens when you have all that chaos going on on set. Everything else fades away, and you just zero in.
As a closing question, we always ask about upcoming projects. We want to know what each of you have on your radars, if you want to share anything.
YUMARIE: I just came out on The Dropout on Hulu. I’ll be in season three of Barry that comes out next month. I’ll also be in season three of Star Trek: Picard, which comes out in 2023. I go ahead and film all of that really fast just for Sir Patrick Stewart. So those are some things that I have coming up. But I’m super excited to do this—it’s my first time going to South by Southwest. I’m so glad that we’re going in person. I’m also just super happy to have had this experience with my Hypochondriac family, because I know that this is going to be another launchpad for each of us.
ZACH: I actually have been having a lovely year. If you haven’t seen Archive 81 yet, you should.
Oh my god. I loved it. It was amazing. Incredible dude, oh my God. Dean is incredible in that. I was supposed to do a week-long gig. It turned into a month-and-a-half in Pittsburgh. It was crazy. I’m really proud of that performance, really proud of that series. It’s pretty cool to see what that’s done.
Obviously, Hypo, South By, and then next on the docket… I can’t exactly say. Let’s just put it this way. It’s very soon. The drop is very soon. I can’t give you the exact release date because I don’t think it’s been announced. I’m in this movie called Good Mourning with a U. It’s a movie with my many pop-punk heroes. Machine Gun Kelly and Mod Sun wrote and directed it, and I’m in that, I’m one of the leads, and it’s awesome. It’s gonna make you laugh. I’m very freakin’ stoked for that.
I just wrapped up another film called Discussion Materials. It’s a Wolf of Wall Street meets Ferris Bueller, which is like a really weird romp. But you know how long it takes for films to get done. So we’ll see that at some point soon. Sorry, I have a list. The last thing I’m doing right now is I’ve been in the studio for about three weeks. We’re up to like, 16 songs in 15 days. I’ve been just kind of banging out. I do music you guys. I have a band called Sorry, Kyle. We have a full record that we’ve been hanging onto the whole pandemic that’s done. So that’s going to drop soon. I call it music. Then I’m also venturing into solo music in the same genre. Think MCR, Black Parade that kind of vibe straddled with the big side of Weezer and Blink. I’m moving into a solo pop punk album of some sort. I think it’s gonna be my version of American Idiot. So we’ll see where that goes.
DEVON: Right now, I’m just trying to not be really sick but this terrible cold I have and be able to go to South by Southwest. That’s the main thing I have going on. Career-wise, I have a small role in Jordan Peele’s new movie, Nope. Zach helped me with that actually, I won’t say anything other than Zach helped me a lot with that. He literally came to my house, and helped me with what I had to do in this movie. That will be really fun! I’m supposed to have ADR for it tomorrow. I think I’m gonna have to cancel that because of how I sound. I kind of am always about to quit acting all the time.
It was a pleasure to chat about Hypochondriac with Addison, Zach, Yumarie, and Devon! We had so many questions—particularly interpretations on that wild ending—and we had a blast spitballing the answers with this supremely talented crew. Hypochondriac screened at 2022’s SXSW Film Festival, and is currently awaiting distribution.
Read our full review here.
To obtain more information about the festival, please visit the SXSW website.