“Everyone has a story of coming out in a way,” remarked actor Nick Robinson at a special screening of his latest film “Love, Simon” in New York on Thursday. The 22-year-old actor plays the film’s titular character who is poignantly coming to terms with his sexuality while navigating the typically rocky social terrain of high school life.
Robinson described director Greg Berlanti’s own experience with coming out as gay as “a major touchstone for this character” in helping the young actor understand the complex emotional journey that accompanies coming out while coming-of-age.
“He championed this whole project and he’s the one I talked to about what it was like to come out,” added the actor. “Every character in this movie is trying to reconcile their inner life and their persona with who they actually are. I still do that. Everyone does — it’s universal.”
Berlanti, whose other production credits include “Dawson’s Creek,” “Riverdale” and “Arrow,” reflected credit for the film’s charm and relatability back to his cast of talented young actors, saying his hope for audiences is to “connect [to ‘Love, Simon’] in a way that is deeper than just a film experience.”
Rachel Roy sipped a cocktail in the lobby of the Landmark Theater at 57 West ahead of the screening, which was presented by The Cinema Society and matchmaker app Wingman. Earlier in the day, the designer was named a “champion of innovation and change” by the United Nations in a ceremony marking International Women’s Day. “It’s such an honor,” said Roy before explaining how her life — much like the film’s characters — has been filled with a series of brilliant highs and terrifying lows.
“The hardest things I’ve ever done have also been the greatest triumphs and lessons,” said the 44-year-old before explaining hers may “not have been as hard as coming out as gay, but the journeys always keep coming.”
Roy singled out her most challenging moment to date was the decision to file a 2014 lawsuit against business partners Jones Apparel Group who wanted to eliminate her designer line and sell her eponymous company for $14.6 million without her consent. “I had the choice of fighting for it or just letting it go and I chose to go to court.”
Roy successfully won the right to creative control of her company, which created a legal precedent. “Before I fought for my name, that didn’t exist and because I fought for it [and won] it makes me feel really good for designers coming up. It’s pretty damn necessary to take a leap [of faith] and grow your wings on the way down.”
Brenda Vaccaro, Ben Platt, Josh Henderson, Charlie Plummer and Jack Antonoff were also on hand for the special screening. Molly Ringwald described her own “coming out experience” as transitioning from screen work to writing personal essays for publications including The New Yorker. “Everything I’ve done other than act has been a little bit of a coming-out moment,” she explained. “It’s always difficult anytime you assert yourself and say, ‘this is who I am and this is what I want to do.’”
Actress Katherine Langford, who makes her big-screen debut in “Love, Simon,” looks back on the past two years of her life as a roller-coaster journey of emotions. Before landing a breakout role last year in “13 Reasons Why,” for which she earned a Golden Globe nomination, Langford found herself penniless and discouraged. “I had given up drama school, had no job and had no money, but that’s when ’13 Reasons Why’ came along.”
The Australian native quickly followed filming of the Netflix series’ first season with her role in “Love, Simon,” but is ready now to take a moment to breathe. “I want to push myself and challenge myself. The next thing I want to do is write some music and sit down to hone my skills before I go out and try to use them again.”
Alexandra Shipp, who also co-stars in the film, revealed one of her most trying moments of truth came in revealing her career plans to her parents. “Coming out for me was telling them I wanted to be a [professional] actor,” explained the 26-year-old, who revives her role as Storm in “X-Men: Dark Phoenix” slated for release this year. “At the time I was 17 and told them I was graduating early and moving to LA. It took them a little while to warm up to that fact.”
“I thought, how do I have all of these passions and feel supported and validated within [my art] when I know that the people who love me the most don’t understand it,” she continued. “They never had any experience with an actor or a musician. I was their first taste. Luckily they liked the taste.”
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