Sundance Film: Hellion
Interview by James Patrick Herman Photographs by Jeff Vespa
Where are you from?
“Houston. I am a die-hard football fan — the Cowboys and Texas A&M.”
Is this film your big break?
“It’s the first thing I’ve done aside from goofy little YouTube videos. Every time I auditioned for this part [as Aaron Paul’s son], I nearly peed my pants in the waiting room. But then I used to get nervous in gym class.”
Any other notable acting experience?
“I did theater arts in sixth grade. We would lip-synch the theme songs to Disney movies and do a little dance wearing button-down shirts and short-shorts with suspenders. I like to think I’m a tough guy, but I was always kind of a goody two-shoes in school.”
What advice did Aaron Paul give you?
“To stay grounded. He’s not, like, all in your face about his success. He said: ‘Stick to what’s important — your family and friends — and don’t buy into the things people say.’ Aaron became my mentor. And he screamed ‘bitch’ a lot on set to make the crew laugh.”
What other actors do you admire?
“Leonardo DiCaprio, Sean Penn, Matthew McConaughey, obviously. Also, I have a man crush on Liam Neeson. Not that I am a violent person, but I’m a sucker for revenge stories.”
What have you heard about Sundance?
“That it is insanely busy, which I would assume is a good thing. I have heard there is a lot of press and you’ll be attacked, so I’m gonna be prepared for that.”
How would you describe your character in Hellion?
“Misunderstood. His dad has a drinking problem because he lost his wife. So my character had to become a father figure for his younger brother. He’s definitely mad at his dad — and the world — but he still cares about people whether he wants to admit it or not.”
Do you identify with your character?
“I am not rebellious at all. But he’s been through much more and has leftover hurt from all the things that have happened due to his absent father.”
What’s the buzz?
“There are some laughs, but for the most part it is a hard, heavy, very rough and realistic film with a lot of emotion.”
Did you ever have a normal job?
“My friend and I briefly started a dog-walking business for people in the neighborhood. But before this, school was sort of my job.”