Alex Strangelove comes on the heels of Love, Simon, only Alex Truelove is isn’t keeping a secret — he just isn’t sure if he’s gay.

Alex (Daniel Doheny) seems to be a typical straight, high-school senior with a magnetic girlfriend, Claire (Madeline Weinstein). But when Alex meets out and proud Elliot (Antonio Marziale), he begins to questions certain feelings he has for his new pal.

Alex Strangelove reclaims a typical high-school romantic comedy from an LGBT perspective and offers another perspective of what it is like on the journey of sexuality in today’s modern world. Writer/director Craig Johnson (The Skeleton Twins) hits all the right notes in these liberated and confusing times. The screenplay clearly reflects the ever-evolving attitudes of teenagers as society becomes more accepting of different gender identities.

The film becomes almost like an American Pie or Superbad comedy when Alex’s friends discover that he and Claire have not had sex yet even though she has tried. Of course, Alex then becomes obsessed with losing his virginity and he turns to Elliot and his friends to figure where he lies on the Kinsey Scale- if he is bisexual, straight, or gay.

ScreenPicks got the chance to sit down with the stars of this coming-of-age dramedy, Daniel Doheny and Antonio Marziale, and this is what we learned about Alex Strangelove.

On the relevant:

Daniel Doheny: I liked how the script embraced Alex’s confusion and doesn’t really telegraph where it is going. It doesn’t tell you what is going to happen. So I liked sort of the mystery of it. When I was reading it for the first time I legit did not know how Alex was going to feel about Elliot or Claire or where he was going to end up. I thought that was cool.

 

Antonio Marziale: I love the script when I first read it. It was like nothing I had ever read before. And I am really attracted to projects that have a message undertone. For some reason that makes me less nervous about the whole audition process. Because I am like, this is bigger than me and I really felt that way about this script. And Elliot in particular. His confidence is something I really admire that I don’t necessarily have. So it was really fun to play that. And I think the script was such a blast. It was really exciting to read.

On leaving out the parents:

Doheny: I think it’s a big plus for the movie that it’s not parent focused. It helps to maintain that positive message that the film is trying to convey and it is such a celebration and joy at the end of the movie how these characters feel about each other. It just focuses the story and characters so well.

On working with Craig Johnson:

Marziale: He is the best. His writing is amazing. That was one thing about reading the script that I loved is that the story just comes off the page and it is so natural as an actor. Half the time as an actor with some the auditions you get, you’re just kind of like, how do I make this sound believable. But this story is just so believable because the writing is so natural. I could have fun. You go in and there is an energy and the words just come through whatever you’re feeling if it’s good writing. Craig really encouraged improv and keeping it alive. And he really loves actors which is fun. He creates a really fun environment to play in.

On the audition process for Alex Strangelove:

Doheny: It was such a fun audition process. We got to go in and work on the scenes. Most auditions you just have to read it once and you leave and you have no idea how they felt about it. We did a screen test together, and we got to do the scene over and over again and he gave us notes.

Marziale: It was almost like we were shooting it. It was a rehearsal environment, which is so rare. It was like we were practicing. We as actors spend a lot of time preparing and then to meet the guy who wrote it and have him give you feedback, that’s just such a great moment. And when the project is right you sort of rift off the character. And when me and Daniel met, that was the greatest gift as an actor. Like, here’s another person giving me all that he has and I am giving him all that I have. And that’s when a scene happens. It happens in the space between and that is what was happening when we auditioned together.

Doheny: Craig is a director who actually cares about that kind of stuff. Usually, it is just actors caring about that stuff. Craig makes you feel good about that.

On st meeting each other while filming an episode of Supernatural:

Marziale: Yeah, we played a couple of bros from Wisconsin. We called it bro-drag. Daniel’s character gets killed by the goat man and I discover him later on in a fridge. And then I get killed by the goat man.

On why it was so hard for Alex to come to terms with his sexuality in the film:

Doheny: There are so many reasons. Social pressure, the trauma from his childhood, the confusion that he talks about not having a clear identity he can relate to like he says in this “wild west world.” The biggest thing is his love for Claire. He has genuine love for Claire so that confuses the hell of out him when he meets Elliot.

On why his character was so comfortable being out and proud in high-school:

Marziale: I think it was just in his DNA. I think he was just more in touch with those things. I also think there is a scene where Elliot talks about his father not accepting him and I think when you face that kind of denial from your parents it can really force you to reflect on what is important to you and what kind of narrative you want to create for yourself because you are not just endowed with one. So I imagine Elliot was paving his own way from a very young age living through movies and queer icons when he needed the love and support he wasn’t getting at home.

On whether they identify with the characters in the film:

Marziale: I have definitely experienced feeling outside of the box or weird or too much. I had a lot of ADD growing up and academics were really difficult for me. So, I definitely know what it is like to feel different.

Doheny: Yea, I have definitely experienced confusion in romantic relationships and overthinking things, making the wrong the decisions and hurting people that you don’t need to hurt.

On what other teens who struggle with coming out take away from this film:

Marziale: I hope they are sensitive to the people around them in a certain way. Wow, that came out real hard and I don’t know why. I think whenever you are marginalized, there is a lot of hurt inside of you and I think it is so important to be aware of that. But I also think it is really important to check yourself when you are hurting the people around you. I think Alex is such a great example of someone who is not perfect who hurts the people around him. I think there is so much focus on the individual who is coming out or going through anything is being protected, that’s so crucial. But I also think it is important that the individual themselves isn’t bullying. It’s funny I feel like marginalized groups don’t create a good environment to be supportive of one another because of your own pain. It’s important to be kind to the people around even if you are not receiving that yourself from them. It is just a reminder that there is no good excuse to be mean to someone else.

Doheny: I think that is a great answer. It is a confusing time and if you don’t know where you are going to be at the end of it, to be aware that it is a confusing time to be sensitive to the other people around you even if you don’t have an answer for yourself. Just say, hey I have these questions just to let you guys or girls know I am going through something. I don’t know what is going to happen. Let’s all be there for each other and be sensitive to it.

 

 

On what advice would you give young teens struggling with their sexual identity:

Marziale: I think coming out can be harder when someone grows up in a small town vibe. Like I grew up in Switzerland and they are pretty xenophobic. The number one thing is having a supportive family or friends. Or claiming an environment for yourself where you feel comfortable. Even if it just in your room alone. So many kids today are creating that environment by filming themselves and finding that community online through fans or followers. So basically create a non-judgmental environment for yourself. Focus on your immediate surroundings instead of trying to change the world. But it is just such an individual issue so there is no one right answer. Just love yourself and have positive narratives around you like this film. Having representation in film and TV can only help.

Doheny: There are two avenues to go through. One is creating strong identity and community and then there is integration where you make others feel comfortable, too.

Alex Strangelove premiered this week on Netflix.