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Youngest Oscar Nominee Lucas Hedges on ‘Manchester by the Sea’ Learning Curve

20-year-old actor tells TheWrap that co-star Casey Affleck taught him how to approach his lauded role

While Casey Affleck and Kenneth Lonergan have received much of the awards buzz for “Manchester by the Sea,” 20-year-old Lucas Hedges took many by surprise with his Oscar nod for Best Supporting Actor, making him this year’s youngest nominee for the award.

Hedges spoke with TheWrap on Tuesday shortly after learning of the major acting recognition — his career first Oscar nomination. He didn’t have enough kind words for his co-star Affleck, who is nominated in the Best Actor category.

“What I think I learned from Casey is how to truly dedicate yourself to the role, to be there for every single second of the movie being made,” Hedges said. “Ask every question you can possibly ask about every moment.”

Hedges plays Patrick Chandler, a hockey-playing teen who fights to cope with the death of his father as he is taken care of by his uncle Lee (Affleck), who is dealing with trauma of his own.

Already, Hedges has worked with plenty of acclaimed filmmakers, such as Wes Anderson in “Moonrise Kingdom,” Jason Reitman in “Labor Day,” and Terry Gilliam in “The Zero Theorem.” But, he said, his work with the “Manchester By The Sea” team was a particularly special learning experience.

Much of Hedges’ scenes are one-on-one dialogues with Affleck, as Patrick and Lee each deal with the struggles of losing loved ones in their own way and disagree over how they are going to move forward together. Ultimately, the paths that both characters settle on by the end of the film are largely defined by those interactions and what Patrick and Lee learn from each other. Hedges credits Lonergan’s guidances as a director for helping him understand the importance of this relationship.

“Acting is not about showing what you’re feeling. It’s about doing something. It’s about what you’re doing for the other person,” Hedges explained. “Anything other than ‘doing’ is not grounded in the truth. That’s what I learned from Kenny — focus not on how I’m doing but what I’m doing.”

That advice has paid off. “Manchester by the Sea” has critics hailing it as a tender yet unflinchingly honest look at how difficult it can be to cope with losing a loved one, especially when one blames oneself for the tragedy. Hedges says that he has met moviegoers who saw themselves and those they love in Patrick Chandler.

“I met a guy recently whose brother committed suicide,” he said. “And he said his brother looked and acted just like me when he was my age. He also said that his brother was struggling with some of the things that Lee was dealing with in the movie. So it’s really good that a lot of things in the film are connecting on those kinds of wavelengths.”