When did this story come to you?
I was a person who thought I knew what was best for everyone else, but I had this epiphany where I realized the more I’m focusing on other people’s lives, the less I’m looking at myself. That led me on this journey of being a less harsh critic to the people around me.
You’ve talked about the value of therapy. Did your own therapy influence the screenplay?
Oh, 100%. I was going to therapy and reading so many books, trying to educate myself on what was going on with me but also what might be going on with people around me to gain a perspective different from my own. That helped me create these three-dimensional characters having a very authentic emotional experience.
Your character had a romantic relationship with co-star Natasha Lyonne’s character in But I’m a Cheerleader in 1999, and again in this film. Has Hollywood changed a lot since then?
For sure. When we made But I’m a Cheerleader, the ratings board gave us an NC-17, and it’s the most tame movie. With this movie, it’s not even a big deal. The fact that there are gay characters and it’s not the lead story shows how far we’ve come. That’s important, normalizing something that is very normal but to some people still seems exotic.
Have you caught the directing bug?
Absolutely. Being an actor is a great job, and I’m so grateful that I’ve had such a long career. But I’m not as interesting to myself as I once was. I’m so much more interested in other actors and so excited about being responsible for coming up with solutions to the many problems that happen throughout the day on a film set. I felt so engaged. I want to do that all the time.
This appears in the September 05, 2016 issue of TIME.
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