After moving to Toronto with his family at a young age, Keir Gilchrist was bit by the acting bug thanks to a drama teacher at a local Boys and Girls Club who persuaded him to go to an open audition. From there he got an agent, and has since appeared in many films and TV shows, including Saint Ralph, The Rocker, and the hit Showtime series The United States of Tara. In his latest movie, It’s Kind of a Funny Story, Gilchrist tackles the character of Craig — a 16-year-old suffering from depression.
Criticize This! spoke with Gilchrist about the part of Craig and how he prepared for it. Read our Q&A below.
Criticize This!: How did you get involved with It’s Kind of a Funny Story?
Keir Gilchrist: I read the script and loved it. I [auditioned] on tape and then got a callback in L.A. with [co-director Ryan Fleck] and a few other people, and then I booked it. It was fairly standard.
CT!: Did you read Ned Vizzini’s book the film is based on?
KG: I did not, but a few friends had recommended it to me beforehand. It wasn’t until after I got the part that I put the pieces together.
CT!: Did you speak with Ned at all about the character since it is a bit autobiographical for him?
KG: He was really excited we were making the movie. He, Ryan, and [co-director] Anna Boden are friends, and he was around quite a bit. It was cool to meet the guy I was essentially playing.
CT!: Did you do much research into mental health issues or depression?
KG: I did research when I was auditioning because I wanted to know where I should be [emotionally]. But I didn’t really do much after. I thought Craig really wouldn’t know what he was doing in a psychiatric hospital anyway.
CT!: What was the vibe like on set?
KG: There was a whole range of vibes depending on the day. We spent many days in the hospital working really long hours with no sunlight and sometimes it got stressful. Other times everyone was just laughing. Whenever you got enough of the actors together the improv would get a little out of control.
CT!: Was there a lot of improv in the hospital scenes?
KG: There was quite a bit thought up on the spot. There’s actually a number of really good improv actors in the movie.
CT!: How did you find working with two directors?
KG: I thought it would be more of a change than working with one, but they’re so in tune and they put so much of their effort in the film that they know exactly where they’re going that I barely even noticed.
CT!: Having a hit television show as well as doing films, do you have a preference over the two mediums?
KG: You can’t really compare them. I think working in TV I’m used to working with the same people and I’m more comfortable I guess, but film is totally exciting the way TV sometimes isn’t.
CT!: What do you hope audiences get out of It’s Kind of a Funny Story?
KG: I hope that they want to see it again. The best movies are the ones you want to watch more than once. A sense of hope is important too. As much as the synopsis of the film would make you think it’s a dark, dreary film, it really isn’t and the movie is about hope.