I was busy unpacking a Paul Smith garment bag when actor Fred Hechinger walked into the studio, and while he was humble in height, he was extremely impressive and inviting in personality. I could see how this young man was already wowing Hollywood and starring opposite Academy Award winner Tom Hanks in News of the World. While watching him being photographed, I witnessed how he could transform himself with every outfit and create any mood. It might sound funny to some, but if I could describe his acting talents as anything, it would be “forever employable.”
Fred Hechinger first got on my radar during lockdown when I finally got to catch up on my Netflix queue. On my list was a movie called Alex Strangelove. In it, a young actor named Fred Hechinger had a small supporting role as a friend to the title character, and his performance as the confident yet confused social media protagonist left me awed. This was the first time I have seen the work of this actor and I knew I would be seeing more of him. And, as we emerged from lockdown Fred seems to be everywhere!
He’s starred in an episode of Barry Jenkin’s The Underground Railroad, was opposite Tom Hanks in News of the World, and even went to toe-to-toe with Amy Adams in The Woman in the Window in a spellbinding performance. Recently, he was in Netflix’s Fear Street and on HBO’s White Lotus. At just 21-years-old, the versatile actor is proving his range and ability to tackle any genre from drama to comedy. With an acting resume any young actor in Hollywood would kill for, Hechinger is proving to be a rare talent and one to watch.
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AS IF: I want to start off by asking what sparked your initial interest in acting?
Fred Hechinger: It is one of the things where, as far back as I can remember, there was always this attachment with storytelling, not necessarily acting. I loved the process of creating characters and building something that wasn't real. I truly can't remember a time when that wasn't the most thrilling thing to me. It wasn't even in terms that were like, Oh, I need to be an actor, or I need to do this or that, it was more just like, here is this thing that exists, here are these communities that tell stories. We can go to a dark theatre and watch a movie together, or we go to a theatre and watch a play on a stage. Whatever it was, it always felt like that's where the magic was. I just wanted to be a part of that and be with the people creating the stories.
What do you feel every young actor should know?
The times in my acting when I've felt that I was stuck, or I wasn't understanding something about a character, was missing the full scope of a character, or a moment, or a scene is to remember that every single project is its own story, meaning it has its own process. You can't just take the same process and tack it on to everything. The genuine joy of this work for me is how every project is a different beast. You're dealing with a unique living, breathing organism and you have to kind of figure out what it is. Who is this beast? How can I be with it in a way that is completely unique to this story?
Wow, that was very insightful, probably one of the best things I've heard about approaching acting so far. What's the greatest joy you get from acting?
There are very literal ones, like breaking in a scene, meaning where you just can't stop yourself from laughing. I've been lucky enough to have those days a couple times and I'm just like a giddy, giggly, little kid and it feels transcendent. It’s those moments where you're looking across from your partner and you both know that you can't hold it back is a very literal joy that I get from it. But, I'd say the deepest joy I get is a sense of community. There's a joy that happens when you feel that you're really accepted in the group, you are among your weird carnival troupe and you all are trudging along playing serious clowns together. To me that's the best feeling ever.