‘Suncoast’ Cast Gushes Over How Well Director Laura Chinn Brought ‘Humor and Life to Grief’ | Video

Sundance 2024: The team also revealed that one time Woody Harrelson took a “swimming” break on set

The cast of “Suncoast” couldn’t get over how well the film’s director Laura Chinn translated the struggles of grief on screen.

During a panel discussion for “Suncoast” in TheWrap’s Sundance Portrait and Interview Studio presented by NFP, the cast and crew opened up about their experience working with Chinn and their journey as a cast telling a story about loss. The panel included Chinn, Laura Linney, Ariel Martin, Daniella Tayor, Ella Anderson and Amarr M. Wooten.

“I think it’s easy to write the stereotypical mean girl, the stereotypical high school girl,” Martin said. “I think what Laura does so well is that each character has so many levels and so much dimension. Nobody’s the good guy, nobody’s the bad guy. There’s a little bit of everything in every character. There’s not one clear antagonist or protagonist. Everybody has something you can relate to and understand. She’s incredible at writing these well-rounded, whole, beautiful characters.”

Linney shared Martin’s sentiments, saying that writing a story centered on such a heavy topic like grief can be “tough” if the script isn’t fleshed out well and if there’s a lack of cohesion amongst a cast.

“It’s hard when it’s not well-written. That’s when it’s tough,” Linney said. “It’s tough when you have a bad time on set, when you’re working with people you don’t like [or] when you don’t understand what the director wants or the script isn’t good. And, in this case, it was the opposite of all of that. So when you have that and if you prepare in the right way you’d be surprised how easy it is.”

Per a description of “Suncoast,” which is loosely based on Chinn’s life, the film follows the journey of a “teenager who, while caring for her brother along with her audacious mother, strikes up an unlikely friendship with an eccentric activist who is protesting one of the most landmark medical cases of all time.”

“It was a really personal story. I wanted to talk about grief because I’ve dealt with a lot of grief. I wanted to show a lot of different people grieving in different ways,” Chinn explained. “The nugget of inspiration came from when I was a teenager, my brother was in hospice….in 2005, which is such a odd, coincidental thing that I was going into this hospice to visit my brother but getting patted down for guns and bombs, dealing with all of this at the same time.”

Chinn continued: “But, from there, just wanting to talk about grief in all the different ways and finding a way to bring humor and light to it — which brought me to the cast. Because it’s, like, ‘who can do that?’ Who can ground emotion in reality and bring tears to your eyes with their emotional vulnerability, but also make you laugh because they’re just naturally hilarious?”

Not only did Chinn provide her cast with a transparent and well-thought out plot, she also catered to her actor’s needs beyond their roles as thespians.

“For my specific role, there were things that I may have not said in my life, but I have been around plenty of teenage girls who I’ve heard the exact same thing from,” Taylor said. “I was impressed that Laura was able to translate that so authentically. She made sure that we felt comfortable before we even stepped one foot in front of a camera. She made sure that we were comfortable with each other, that we just felt good about it all. She’s great. She’s an angel.”

Anderson called it the one of the greatest moments she’s had as an actress.

But there was plenty of time for levity despite the tough subject matter. “There was one day when we were filming by the ocean. We were on a rooftop bar and Woody’s having a scene with Nico Parker. It’s a beautiful, very emotional scene. It’s amazing. The crew was crying,” Chinn explained. “We finished that scene; we’re moving on to the next scene, and we’re like, ‘Where’s Woody?’ And we all looked over the roof and he was swimming in the ocean. We were like, ‘Okay, he’s taking a break in the ocean.”

Watch the full interview above.

“Suncoast” hits theaters and Hulu February 9.

Check out all our Sundance coverage here.


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