LA Film Festival Interview: Addison Timlin on Submission, Nudity, and Picking Roles.
In 2016, I saw the film Little Sister at SXSW. The film was a total surprise and ended up being one of my favorite films from SXSW that year. I remember loving how strange the story was but it was Addison Timlin’s performance that sold me. I have seen Timlin in other films throughout the years and I always admired her for taking on roles that felt daring and different. In Submission, Timlin plays Angela Argo, a college student with a passion for writing. Angela is in the process of writing her first novel entitled EGGS and she turns to her favorite teacher Mr. Swenson (Stanley Tucci) to read her work.
I was lucky enough to get the opportunity to sit down with Timlin after seeing Submission at the LA Film Festival. I had been wanted to talk with Timlin since Little Sister so I was very happy to finally get to speak with her about her career as well as Submission.
Scott: Hi, how are you doing?
Addison: I’m good.
Scott: You are like a festival darling. I feel like you are always at festivals. I remember when you tweeted one of my reviews from SXSW two years ago.
Addison: Oh, yeah?
Scott: I was one of the people who saw Little Sister at the World Premiere during SXSW.
Addison: Oh, Little Sister. Well, thanks.
Scott: No problem, I really enjoyed it and I’ve been wanting to interview you since I saw that movie.
Addison: Oh, good. Well, here we are.
Scott: The first question, do you live in LA now?
Addison: I do, I live in LA and New York really, but mostly LA.
Scott: What was it like when you heard that this was getting into a festival, considering you’ve been to other festivals?
Addison: Well, I was just really excited to have the movie be out in the world, and I was also really excited to see it. Yesterday, was the first time that I’d seen the movie, so I was super excited. It was also so great to be close to home, yeah, for sure.
Scott: I thought you did a fantastic job in the film. I’m just being honest with you, I saw Like Me this year at SXSW, and outside of the first 15 minutes, I didn’t care for the movie because I thought it was just too wildly out there.
Addison: It’s pretty out there.
Scott: Yeah. It was a group of three of us and none of us liked it. I feel like you are the saving grace of a lot of movies that you’re in.
Addison: Thank you.
Scott: And I feel like the roles you pick are always different. They differ from one to the next, to the next.
Addison: That’s on purpose.
Scott: How did you wrap your mind around this material? This character? I couldn’t help but think this while watching it so I have to ask, “What was like seducing Stanley Tucci?
Addison: It was not hard. I had really the best time working with him, and it’s kind of funny. I was thinking last night that Stanley and I have worked together before, about 15 years ago and I played his daughter on the TV show, so it was really kind of a hilarious and weird in a very Hollywood kind of way to years and years down the road, be playing someone that’s gonna seduce him.
I think that Stanley’s incredibly charming, and he’s just the best guy, and he’s the most talented actor, obviously, and he’s one of my favorite co-stars of all time, but getting my head around playing Angela, it was a lot. I finished this movie like three days before I started Little Sister.
Scott: Oh really? That’s how long ago this movie was filmed?
Addison: Yeah, Yeah. About three days after I finished Little Sister, I started Like Me, so it was very weird to do those movies in that order. Angela is an incredibly complex young woman, and that’s my favorite kind of character to play. Each character that I play, I try to find ones that are big departures from the last.
The thing about Angela that I could connect to so deeply was her love of her work. That’s how I feel about what I do. It’s incredibly important to me, and I work really hard at it, so that kind of drive for her and her success, and also her determination and her questioning of her skill and her talent, and the excitement of someone giving her that kind of encouragement. I think that was the easiest thing for me to jump into.
The trickier aspects were finding the lines of manipulation and what was sincere, and what was not. Richard and I had a lot of conversations about that and he kind of let me decide whatever I wanted to be, sincere or not within the story, within the character. But yeah, she was tricky. I didn’t miss her.
I didn’t miss her at the end of it. Sometimes I do. Sometimes I’ll play a character and I’m like, “Ugh I’m myself.”
Scott: Richard mentioned that envy was a big part of this story. I took away from it more of the old versus the new. You were like the new, hip thing, and I just found that part of it very fascinating.
I hope this isn’t too abrasive but I always wondered about this with independent films. There is a nude scene in this movie. It’s a pretty explicit one too. How do you go about that as an actress? I’m very curious about this because I had once met a director, one of the horror directors, I forgot his name, who said that he would never ask a woman to take their clothes off in a movie because he said he wouldn’t feel comfortable if someone asked him to do it, so he wouldn’t be able to do it to a woman.
Addison: Well, that’s something that I don’t do it often, and that was something that I felt a very specific need to do as Angela, and to this movie, and the dynamic of these relationships. I felt very, very strongly that I should, which was much to the dismay of probably my mother, and my agents and managers, and whatever. It’s not necessarily something that anyone’s jumping up and down about, myself included. I certainly don’t love it, obviously not. It’s not fun, but I did think that it was necessary for that kind of the same thing, the young and the old. In that scene, it’s so incredibly uncomfortable, the way that scene plays, and I felt like that scene became so much more powerful, or Angela became so much more powerful when he was so uncomfortable with his body and was covering up and getting dressed really fast, and that she’s just so relaxed.
Scott: Yeah, she gets up, goes to the printer …
Addison: Yeah, and just walks around. That was the part of the scene that I felt I really had to do the rest of the scene completely naked because I wanted it to be uncomfortable for everyone. I wanted everyone to feel how uncomfortable Professor Swenson was feeling at the moment. That’s an incredibly disarming. Yeah, it’s an incredibly disarming thing to be that comfortable naked, so I thought it was important, and I hope it worked.
Scott: Yeah, well it did, it definitely did. It did pay off, don’t worry. I found that scene so humorous in a weird way because he’s like, “Oh my tooth, my tooth, my tooth,” and then she’s like, “All right, I’m going to go print out the next chapter. Ok, here’s the next chapter, read about this.”
Addison: Yeah. There’s also a moment in that scene where I scratch my butt, and I was like, “Oh man,” I was like, “Really?” Yeah, it was really a character, really didn’t care about being naked at all. I remember when I was doing ADR for that scene and I wanted to see it because that was the only scene that I kind of wanted to see. I remember looking at it, and through the glass, I could see Richard, and he saw right at the moment that I did it, and he was laughing so hard at me laughing so hard and going, “Did I just? I did, I sure did scratch my bum.”
Something to look for.
Scott: No, I saw it. It’s literally, like, yeah. That whole scene was very awkward at first, and then it became hilarious because of the fact that she got up so casually and was just like, “I’m just gonna go about it.”You talked a little bit about it, but did you have any reservations taking on the material … This is a topic I feel like is very relevant, and we hear about it in the news like once a month, where a teacher sleeps with a student, a student sleeps with … Yeah, whatever the case would be.
You talked a little bit about it, but did you have any reservations taking on the material. This is a topic I feel like is very relevant, and one that we hear about it in the news like once a month, where a teacher sleeps with a student, a student sleeps with a teacher. I was telling Richard it is interesting because you’re both adults in this situation. It’s not like, “Oh, a random teacher slept with a 16-year-old.”
You’re both adults. How did you go about tackling such a difficult subject matter like that?
Addison: Well, like you said, they are both adults and I think that the relationship is really interesting because it wasn’t about that. They were finding this connection through their work. That recognition of a kindred spirit, or soul and whatever, and that they were both talented writers, and I think that relationship with someone that you admire, I think admiration can be confused for attraction and vice versa, then the attention that you get can become highly addictive.
Also, I think on the other side of it there is an abuse of that power sometimes, and that’s probably why this happens a lot. As far as the subject matter of a young woman and an older man, I wasn’t necessarily intimidated by that. Mostly the biggest thing for me was trying to find the lines of where the manipulation began. I was like, “What was the line, what wasn’t?”
I do think that their relationship was interesting to me, and the thing that compelled me the most as an actor was that it was these two people that found each other through their words.
Scott: What was your interpretation of this movie?
Addison: My interpretation is that she had already written the novel almost entirely. Maybe it didn’t have an ending quite yet, but I think a writer’s process takes a while, and there are drafts, and drafts, and drafts, and drafts, but I do think that she had the story under her belt already.
But, I do think that as she’s going back and submitting these chapters and he’s giving her notes, I do think that that’s where the manipulation kind of starts. She starts planting seeds there for him to find. Yeah, that’s a big part of the manipulation string. I do think that she had the story in her already.
There’s one thing that I really protect the most about Angela, is that I believe that she is an incredibly talented young woman.
Scott: I like that. The film is going to play well because everyone is gonna have a different interpretation.
My last question, because I know you got to run and do other things. You brought up a very interesting topic that I didn’t know about earlier, but it actually brings up a very bigger picture.
You said you filmed this movie first, then you did Little Sister, then you did Like Me.
Scott: As an independent actress, what is that process like when you actively have to wait for each thing you already filmed to get released?
Addison: Well, it can be disappointing at times and it can be really exciting at times. I guess that’s the thing for me, I’m just always really happy when a movie that I did, that I worked hard on, that people worked hard on, it takes a lot of people to make a movie, so when it finds it’s way to the world in any way, I’m thrilled by that.
It’s hard. There are so many movies, but there are also now so many platforms for distribution that I feel like we’re kind of turning a corner here, and that it’s easier to get movies to eyeballs.
Scott: Hulu, Amazon, Netflix, On-Demand.
Addison: Yeah, so that’s exciting. I think it’s an exciting time for independent films now.
Scott: Well thank you very much, it’s always great seeing you on the big screen and I wish you nothing but the best. I hope you keep taking daring roles.
Addison: Thanks so much! Yeah, I hope I keep my title as the Festival Darling. It’s all I’ve ever truly wanted.