Read Shockya's exclusive interview with acclaimed actress and acting coach Michelle Danner, who’s making her feature film directorial debut with the upcoming drama ‘Hello Herman.’ The movie, which features newcomer Garrett Backstrom in the title role, follows the 16 year old as he kills 39 students, 2 teachers and a police officer in his school. He then e-mails pictures of the incident to his idol, journalist Lax Morales, played by Norman Reedus. Danner, who also runs the Edgemar Center for the Arts in Los Angeles, discusses with us, among other things, why she was motivated to tell Herman’s story, and what Garrett and Norman’s working relationship was like.
Written by: Karen Benardello
Shockya (SY): You helmed the upcoming movie ‘Hello Herman.’ What was your motivation in telling Herman’s story, given its similarity to contemporary school shootings, including Columbine?
Michelle Danner (MD): I wanted to tell the story of ‘Hello Herman‘… more than I’ve ever wanted to tell any other story because of the subject matter. Violence is increasing, youth violence is escalating, and it’s not only in America but worldwide. I think that we need to keep having the conversation. Because it’s such a huge concern, solutions are not easy to find. The movie does not address that, the movie is about starting and continuing a conversation that we need to keep having. Personally, whenever innocence gets squashed and people are cruel to one another, it provokes a lot of sadness for me. It’s important to keep telling those stories.
SY: Garrett Backstrom makes his feature film debut in ‘Hello Herman,’ as the title character. Why did you decide to cast Garrett in the lead role, and how do you feel he did portraying such an evil character?
MD: Garrett was the perfect Herman, the moment he came in to audition for the movie I knew that he was going to play the part. I did not want the character to be psychotic and I did not want to cast someone that was weird and off putting. I wanted to cast a kid that is an everyday kid because the reality is; anyone pushed to the brink is capable of acting out on their dark side. I was so happy with Garrett’s work. He exceeded all of my expectations and gave a performance that is highly nuanced and very deep. I know there will be many more great performances to come out of him. He blows people away in this first movie.
SY: Norman Reedus portrays Lax in the film. Given the fact that Herman idolizes Lax, how would you describe Garrett’s working relationship with Norman?
MD: Garrett and Norman hit some pretty awesome chemistry. It was great to watch their energies bounce off each other. Norman brought his incredible talent and heart to the part and Garrett could do nothing but be in awe of it. Norman has done 40 movies, I think Garrett looked up to Norman and learned from him.
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