First of all, we love the Netflix movie The Half of It over at Brief Take. We were so moved by the performances and the beautiful film by Alice Wu (see our recent interview with Leah Lewis for more evidence of our adoration). But one of the things that we like to do at Brief Take is single out talented people that we think would make for cool interviews, and this is what happened with British Columbia’s Daniel Diemer, who shared immediately that he was concluding his first ever press junket when he was speaking with us, and brought a great amount of energy. Of course, it helps when talking about a great film, and you are definitely going to fall for Diemer’s adorkable Paul Munsky. So grab a sausage taco and stream this LGBTQ tender and moving film.
The following is a condensed and edited version of our phone interview with the sweet Daniel Diemer of The Half of It.
BT: When I hear Squahamish, I think of British Columbia, but you filmed in New York?
DD: That’s what I first thought. Yeah! Yeah! No, my first thought was: “Did they spell it wrong?” But no, it’s based off a small town near Seattle. Very much a Pacific Northwest vibe and I come from a small town in an island off of Vancouver, so felt very much at home.
BT: When you heard that the trailer passed five million views, you must have been floored. What do you think it was that attracted such an audience to be on board with this film?
DD: I think the same reason that I fell in love with the script, from the first time that I read it. It felt so heartfelt. That it was a human soul that had written this, that it wasn’t just to entertain, it wasn’t just to make money, it was someone telling their story. And I think telling it in a way that was so well-done, so well-articulated with humour and heart and passion, and I think that alongside entertainment, that’s what we look for. And to have that come across and to have that many people jump on board just for the trailer has been overwhelming, to be honest.
BT: I love the intimacy of the cast, it’s basically you alongside Leah Lewis, Alexxis Lemire and Wolfgang Novogratz for much of the movie. How did you click so well with them?
DD: I think that I just got lucky. I’ve worked before on projects in which I have been very friendly with them, but the personal connection wasn’t as tight as quickly, and with Leah, I’ve talked about it before, it was immediate. The first time that we met, it was like: “Hey”. It was for the chemistry read for the project, when we were auditioning for it. We met and we were both very nervous for it, and to be able to talk to somebody about these feelings and that we were able to connect so easily was just a great experience to have going in. I think that set the tone for everything, knowing that I was going to be going into a project with someone who I connected with made me very comfortable. So when I met Alexxis and Wolfgang, I wasn’t as nervous going in and I was able to just connect with them from a heart-to-heart position very quickly.
BT: Your mother on screen is played by Catherine Curtin and she’s so funny and you even look alike. How did that work out?
DD: I think just amazing casting decisions, but she was lovely. She was absolutely hilarious, again, connected really well with her, she was a force with which to be reckoned on set, just so powerful and with so much experience. I learned a lot from her and just how to conduct oneself and from her confidence as well.
BT: Let’s talk about the sausage tacos. Did you in fact eat those? What is your favourite food?
DD: [Chuckles] I ate probably 12 I think over the course of those scenes. I think that they made 20 or 30 and then Collin (Chu), who plays Ellie’s dad, had to chow down on a few. And they were delicious. They were delicious. They had some guacamole on them, cilantro, the sausages were great, so [chuckles] I got very lucky. [chuckles] Favourite food? Man, I’m 6′4″, I eat everything in sight, but I think that pizza is probably the go-to guilty pleasure. But man, you put anything in front of me and I’ll devour it in seconds.
BT: What was it like to film the awkward date scene? What was your favourite scene to shoot?
DD: I mean that was easily one of them, honestly. I had to devour, again, like 12 milkshakes in the course of four or five hours. So my belly didn’t appreciate the scene as much as I did. But that awkwardness was just a joy. I think also just the train scene at the end of the movie was really something special. We’d been filming a month and a half I think at that point, and we’d gone through so much together, and to be able to portray a scene in which the real life relationship was so similar and so deep was really special.
BT: What was the best part of working with Alice Wu?
DD: I think that it was her brain and her care for us. She was so intelligent and so caring and I think that the biggest thing about it is how she went about directing us. There’s still a lot of questions. So it was allowing us to discover things on our own through her guidance and allowing us to just really dive into the heart of the characters without being forced into something, which as an actor is such a gift.
BT: Did you come naturally to ping pong?
DD: I actually coached ping pong over the course of five summers to kids growing up. My main sport was soccer and tennis, but my dad had coached the Canadian National Junior Team to the world championships for tennis. And so I played a lot of racket sports growing up and I spent a lot of time playing ping pong with my brother as well. So yeah, those scenes were a lot of fun as well.
BT: You and Alexxis had quite a conversation about your love of Parasite. What are some of your other favourites?
DD: Right now, I watched Mud with my girlfriend a few weeks ago, with Matthew McConaughey, and that was phenomenal. I finished Ozark recently. I just binged Waco with Taylor Kitsch and Michael Shannon. I love gritty, realistic, heartfelt shows and movies. Obviously, The Half of It is more on the comedy end of things as well, but I think that there’s this art to it, it’s something which I both enjoy being a part of as a performer but also to consume as entertainment as well.
BT: What do you feel about the concept of letter writing and really getting to know someone through texts?
DD: I love both of the concepts. The first time that I fell for a girl I made her a homemade card and I first time I asked someone out, I asked her with a homemade card, so I do love these physical portrayals of love in which you show someone through effort. Words for me have always been huge. Communication is such an important part of relationships in general. And as you see with Paul and Ellie, the more that they’re able to communicate how they feel, the more that their relationship is able to dive deeper, and as a writer, I think that’s something with which I connect on a large front and it was an honour to be a part of as well.
BT: This film has an incredible feel to it and was scheduled to play in competition at Tribeca. What was it about this film that felt like the perfect fit?
DD: Other than the story, it was the character. I grew up as an athlete, but I wasn’t the confident partygoer. I was also the nerd. I mean I ended up going to school for pre-med first for a semester before I dropped out to pursue acting. So I didn’t fit with the athletes the same way that I saw in movies. And so to play a lead character that didn’t always fit in and had a lot of things going on in his life that he really didn’t know how to communicate to people that were his friends, was something which I really related to and was something that I’ve been looking to play for a while. I got really lucky [chuckles] in so many ways and thankful for Rori (Bergman), the casting team and Alice for allowing me to do so.
BT: You’re friendly with a few of our favourite people in the industry, such as Tiera Skovbye and Sarah Grey. Who are some of the people to whom you really relate and who are some of your role models?
DD: Yeah, for sure. I actually had the pleasure of meeting Tiera a short while ago and she’s absolutely lovely, and my girlfriend’s friends with Sarah, so it’s been cool to be able to connect with these Canadian stars that are up and coming and to grow from them and to be inspired by them as we’re trying to dive into the American market together. I think on a personal front, Dylan O’Brien was a huge inspiration for me in his portrayals. He was such a fun loving guy, who also came from such a place of heart and inspired me in a lot of ways. It was something with which I connected on tv that I didn’t connect on a lot of other projects.
BT: How excited are you for an audience to be able to see and connect with this movie?
DD: I’m terrified. [chuckles] I think there’s a part of me that hopes that people really love the performance and then selfishly, that they don’t hate me. But I think that there’s also so much excitement for it and this project meant the world to me. I really am so eternally grateful to everybody who put me on this project and guided me through it, and to be able to share that with the world now, it really means everything.
BT: How do you feel being quarantined right now? I know that you are an avid hiker, but it also gives more people a chance to see this film.
DD: Definitely! I’m first of all really grateful to everyone that’s making it possible for me to stay at home and people on the front lines. I have a bunch of friends with whom I grew up that are nurses that are braving the hospitals, and then obviously, people at the grocery stores and delivery services. I mean so much of my life is dependent on those things and they’re all there taking care of it, while I’m able to sit at home and hopefully flatten the curve a little bit alongside all these people that are abiding by the guidelines. I think that in the meantime, I’m just trying to be grateful of the whole process and be aware of what the situation is exactly, but also try to stay mentally and physically healthy during this time, working out. I actually recently finished a book of poetry that I’m hoping to publish later this year. I’ve been trying to stay creative and productive, but also very excited to see the response of everybody and hope we bring some smiles and bring love into the homes of people that are stuck during this quarantine.