Another young thinker for Hollywood’s line-up of conscientious heartthrobs.
WONDERLAND – If Nick Robinson hadn’t been cast opposite Sabrina the Teenage Witch in agreeable American sitcom Melissa & Joey circa 2010 — later as the protagonist in Rob Reiner’s addiction drama Being Charlie, then as the Olly to Amandla Stenberg’s Maddy in last year’s pastel-fronted Everything, Everything — there’s every chance his trajectory would have been anchored in history. “I think the turn of the 20th century is very interesting,” he tells me over the phone from the Dominican Republic. “The ideas, the technology — you still had a very antiquated world view and a lot of antiquated customs — yet they had airplanes.”
It’s present day 2018, and the actor and I have battled a dodgy connection to discuss his latest picture, Love, Simon; the big screen adaption of Becky Albertalli’s YA novel Simon vs. the Homo Sapiens Agenda, which drops in the US today. Directed by Greg Berlanti (whose previous credits include the similarly teen-centric Dawson’s Creek and Riverdale), the film tells the story of Simon Spier, a closeted gay high schooler whose sexuality is unceremoniously revealed online.
“Initially what struck me was how different and potentially helpful this story could be,” Robinson says of the project’s draw. “That it was pulled from a young, gay man’s perspective, with him being the protagonist, was something I hadn’t seen before. It felt very timely, but also like something I had seen with a lot of John Hughes’ movies. Usually [though], in a film like this — if there is a gay character — it’s just a one-note thing. So that was exciting. Then, on a personal note, around the time that we started this my brother came out, so it sort of became a movie for him.”
Call Me by Your Name the film is not, neither is it a Moonlight or a Beach Rats: produced by 20th Century Fox and with the corresponding pre-packaged social accounts, it’s the product of a mainstream formula. “That’s the thing,” Robinson recognises, “usually if the movie is a ‘gay movie’, it’s about that relationship and it’s done in an art house kind of way — this was coming from a major studio, so I think that just shows the tonal and cultural shift. And for me in particular, I wanted to do something that would make this character the hero.”
A fan of old schoolers Gene Hackman and Gary Oldman, the 22-year-old elsewhere asserts inspiration in the “huge amount of young talent” filling Tinseltown currently, namedropping Timothée Chalamet — “killing it” — and the cast of Stranger Things. Of his own aptitude and Berlanti’s casting, the director reckons: “Nick has a wonderful, sly sense of comedy and you immediately root for and connect with him. It was hard for me to imagine anyone else.”
Off-screen, the actor’s “very liberal, middle class household” and Bush-era youth first awoke his politics, something that’s visible on his otherwise guerrilla social channels. “This year was just so backward in American politics, there’s no way you can’t have a say,” he offers of the posts and retweets illuminating each feed. “I usually try and not be [overly political], but I just think that as a citizen you have a responsibility to pay attention. After the next election, maybe things will quieten down, I can go back to posting pictures of mountains.”
Taken from the Spring 18 Issue; out now and available to buy here.