EXCLUSIVE: Hypochondriac’s Addison Heimann talks mental breakdowns, New York City and casting unknowns.
Addison Heimann is a very blunt and direct individual. I found him very warm and very theatre, which are two things I always adore in my inner circle. As said many times before, show business is such a small world and it is always fascinating and wonderful to meet those in familiar territories.
One of the best qualities I found about this powerhouse writer/director, is that Heimann isn’t afraid to go against the current Hollywood norm and instead casts by talent, not name recognition. A bold move that I think many in the industry should follow.
While Zach Villa (AHS) Madeline Zima (The Nanny), Paget Brewster (Criminal Minds) are well-known names, you have other featured actors that have the grit and steel that pops on a screen and the viewer is eager to find out what else they can accomplish after such a complex project. It is not about the credits, it is about the work.
Hypochondriac is a bizarre and eye-opening film in all of the right ways. Whereas many fail to tell a true story without adding ridiculous fantasy elements, Addison succeeds. This was based on his own mental breakdown and Villa captures his mannerisms, voice, and other qualities to perfection.
Just by speaking to Heimann, I see a kindred spirit that shines in this world and I hope to see many more great things from him.
LORETTE: WHAT DREW YOU TO THIS FILM?
Addison Heimann: Yeah. Well, it’s based on my mental breakdown and it definitely was in my mind for a while. After I lost full functioning of my arms for six months (after an injury at work), it convinced me that I was dying of ALS (according to Dr. Google, anyway).
AH: And while this was happening, my mother who’s bipolar was leaving me voicemails telling me not to trust my friends.
AH: With this film, I always introduce it, like–
AH: Hey, this is basically a mental breakdown, but I’m still here. And everybody loves me.
AH: As humans, we already really go through some serious shit. It’s also a queer story and it’s my story. Ultimately, the character is going to suffer, but there is going to be some hope and that’s what I want to say when I discuss mental health.
AH: And hopefully, it comes across as correct on the screen.
ZACH VILLA IS BASICALLY YOUR TWIN. THE CASTING WAS SPOT ON.
AH: Annoyingly, so! I It’s funny because we spent like a year together because of the pandemic, it was cast in July 2020/June 2021.
But it was nice because we got to spend a lot of time together. All the time we got out of that made it worth it.
AH: By the time we were on the set, everybody was like ‘you guys are twins!‘ It was such a comfortable joke. Because what he was, what he was doing was just so right.
AH: He’s very fancy and I felt like it was a very honest combination of his intricacies and my intricacies to be able to create a character that was very believably me and him.
“Damn, you really did your homework!” – Heimann of Villa’s work ethic and passion.
WHAT WAS THE PROCESS OF FINDING THE REST OF THE CAST RIGHT? I HAVE TO ESPECIALLY GIVE YOU MAJOR PROPS FOR FINDING THE ACTRESS OF SASHA IN THE UTILITY CLOSET OF THE CLAY SHOP.
AH: Honestly, it was, it was funny because it was all during the pandemic. So it was all through my casting director and Yumarie Morales (Sasha) might be the first person we cast outside of that because she was just too good.
AH: I turn to the casting director and we had the exact same idea.
AH: “There was a moment when we both decided that we didn’t really care if people were famous. I knew I needed really good actors! We had the best of both worlds, like American Horror Story. And then we had (Chris Doubek) who was an Austin guy, and then he moved to LA and I just I saw his audition tape was blown away.
AH: My first initial reaction was: Fuck, you’re my father! He was such an awesome dude with his jean jacket and glasses, right?
AH: And he’s just so cool, so it’s funny to watch him put on a suit. And he was calm. A completely different character. Damn! I’m very proud of my cast and especially because I come from theatre.
BEING FROM THEATRE, YOU MUST KNOW ALL ABOUT THE PRESSURE AND MENTAL BREAKDOWNS. THAT IS SOMETHING I CAN HEAVILY RELATE TO. ESPECIALLY THE EXERCISES TO GET SOMEONE OUT OF SHOCK.
AH: Yeah, yes, it’s so funny to me because like, that is like a very common way to get something out of a panic attack because you’re using grounding exercises, right?
AH: And like it works first when you don’t know what’s happening! I remember a friend of mine doing it to me when I was having a panic attack in the past. She said, ‘Can you name three objects in the room I turned to her and I was like, fuck you. Stupid grounding exercise.’
AH: But it does work! And because I did it, I hated this fucking work, right? Because when you’re in that state, you can’t think. You don’t know what’s going on. Sometimes you just need to grasp being in the present, and sometimes that doesn’t work so you just start rapping!
AH: I think that I think that’s a very important thing because ultimately, you’re about to watch them go down the rabbit hole. Because of that scene, and the event before that with the physical violence between the mother and son, everything just becomes connected.
SO THIS WAS ALL FAMILIAR TERRITORY WITH THE ABUSE?
AH: Part of this whole movie is being able to do a Q&A talking to people about it. It’s having people who have experienced similar things and it’s such a good thing because it gives all of us such a healthy space to discuss. I don’t want to generalize anything, but when it’s schizophrenia and bipolar, men have a tendency to be violent. But my mother was very much more emotionally abusive and all of the voicemails that you see in the movie are true.
THAT IS TERRIFYING.
AH: I know. And it’s funny when I was like sending them to Marlene Forte (playing his mother). She was very interested that I had the actual voicemails and wanted to listen to them.
AH: I knew that I had to save them for this literal purpose. Listening to them. And I was like, ‘holy shit. I did not change them as much as I thought!
AH: They are very much word for word, which is both good– And yeah, again, terrifying.
Theaters: July 29 / On Demand/Digital: Aug. 4 (First premiered at SXSW)
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About the author: Katie Harden is a professionally repped New York-based/bi-coastal musical theater and indie film actress. She is proudly part of the Actor’s Equity Association and frequently interviews colleagues, friends, and celebrities, along with reviewing television and movies. Find her at the bottom of a can of Arizona sweet tea or in the ocean!