Connie Britton said her new film “Good Joe Bell” is not just a story about an LGBTQ family but an opportunity for others to learn how to be better allies to their kids and loved ones.
“Good Joe Bell” is the story of a father played by Mark Wahlberg who takes a walk across the country to educate others about the impacts bullying had on his gay son, played by Reid Miller. And because Britton was lucky enough to be able to speak with the woman she’s portraying, the real life mother and wife of the film’s subjects, she began to appreciate the complexities of being a gay kid in a small town.
“It felt like such an amazing opportunity and also an amazing responsibility to do justice not only to her story and to their stories but to give a very accessible representation of what it is to be a young kid who is LGBTQ and be in a small town, in this case in the United States with a community who doesn’t understand, with a family who doesn’t quite understand, but there are so many complexities to that,” Britton told TheWrap’s Sharon Waxman as part of the TIFF Virtual Studio. “We can all learn more about ourselves and how to be better allies, and it’s really a journey to understanding.”
Miller, who plays her son in the film, said he could relate to his character Jadin because he too felt like an outsider in his own school growing up.
“I grew up in a few small towns that were very sports oriented, I don’t know if you can tell but I am very much not an athlete, and I was always interested in things that didn’t interest them, specifically the arts, filmmaking, and being creative in general wasn’t really their forté,” Miller said. “To them I was very weird. So I understood growing up in a place where you felt alone, in a way like you didn’t belong.”
Miller said that he had to recognize he wasn’t just playing a character but a real person, and he put all of his own experiences into the role.
“I’m not playing a character, I’m playing a person, a person who lived and breathed and suffered. But because of that he was also a very strong person,” Miller added. “He is a very outward person, not afraid to show who he is, and I loved that. I loved showing that side of him, because he was a good kid who wanted to be himself and was in a very unfortunate situation I think. So for me, having known what it feels like to be alone and to deal with that sort of loneliness, it definitely helped me prepare for the role.”
“Good Joe Bell” is directed by Reinaldo Marcus Green from a script by Larry McMurty and Diana Ossana, and he said reading the script “absolutely broke my heart.” He eventually got to meet with Wahlberg and became determined to be a part of the film in whatever way he could.
“As a parent myself, it’s something we all ask ourselves, how to be a better parent, be a better ally, how to be more active in our kid’s life. And I asked myself, if I could have one more conversation with my father if he was still here, what are the things we could still say, or all the difficult things we could never say while he was still here.”
Check out TheWrap’s interview with Green, Britton, Miller and Ossana above.