Thelma Interview – Josh Margolin, June Squibb, & Fred Hechinger

by | May 16, 2024 | Interviews | 0 comments

Thelma was the opening night film for the 50th Anniversary of the Seattle International Film Festival (SIFF 2024). A film about a grandmother who gets scammed and goes on independent ops to get her money back, Thelma touches on the way we view age and how it’s okay to be vulnerable when asking for help. I had the great privilege of sitting down with Director and Writer Josh Margolin, as well as stars June Squibb and Fred Hechinger. The conversation was as lovely as the film is and I’m so excited to share it with you in advance of the film’s release! To listen to the interview click the links below!

YouTube Channel | Spotify PodcastApple Podcast

SIFF 2024 Interview Thelma

NT: Was there maybe something that you might have learned from one of your grandmothers if you knew them that you kind of carried throughout your life? Maybe was there ever something that you perhaps shared together that maybe your parents might not have loved or didn’t know?

June Squibb: My father’s mother made wine in the cellar and she gave it to me and it used to piss my mother off. She would get so mad because she was giving me wine. But she made it so it was okay.

How old were you at the time?

JS: Probably six, seven years old. okay. Yeah, yeah. She made it all the time. We had a huge grape arbor in the, we lived next door to each other and had a huge grape arbor between. She’d go out and get all these grapes and go down in her basement and make them by.

Josh Margolin: Did she make it with like a children’s ratio?

JS: I don’t know how, I didn’t, I never watched her make it. I don’t know what that would be.

She never employed you to do any of the stomping for her?

JS: I don’t think she stomped, no... But I will never forget that.

Fred, I got a question for you. I loved the line about being too young to be stuck. I feel like it’s hard to be old when you’re young. I feel like when I turned 21, you think finally I’m at the adults table and everyone tells you you’re a baby. You’re 24 now. I remember being 24 and people saying like you’re a child still. There’s so much to come and it kind of feels debilitating sometimes because it’s hard not to compare ourselves to our seniors or where other people are at in their lives. Something I caught last night on the second viewing of the movie is that you’re an executive producer on this film. And I was curious if there was something specific in the story that drew you to it so passionately that you wanted to put a little more skin in the game other than just a great performance.

Fred Hechinger: Thank you. I just felt, I mean the moment I read the script and met Josh and learned that June was doing all of those factors together, it was a no -brainer to me, I felt. (to June) You said when you read the script, you were like, I need to do this. I felt the same way and because of that need, I also felt that there were behind the scenes things that… maybe I could offer and help with. And knowing both, I find both sides of those help one another. You know, we’re so in it together that then you start to know what the crew needs to, you know, how they can feel most comfortable, how they can do the best job. And then also at the end of the day, I think when you’re acting in something, you’re servicing a story and so our preparation from a pre -production standpoint only made it clearer to me what the story was in terms of the acting. So I felt that they really connected with each other.

Kind of helped inform one another almost.

FH: Yeah, and it felt very… You’re right, it is a kind of funny and sweet paradox that in playing a character who feels most stuck and coddled and not grown up, I felt on a few different adult duties. The two hats and how they spoke up together.

Did you find you had a good experience or a good enough experience that you’re curious to maybe try some other aspects now in filmmaking as well?

FH: Yeah, I love, I’ve done it a couple times now and I feel passionate about continuing to build films that way. It feels very integrated to your presence on a set.

JM: Fred’s just very like holistic, I think, in that way. Like you, the care is about the whole, obviously the care is about the role, but the care is also about the whole thing and just about elevating it and protecting it and you know, helping make it the best version of itself. And I think that’s a beautiful quality that is very, that’s essential to that, to doing that, to being that part of the movie too. So definitely, definitely. I can vouch for both of these things.

FH: Josh’s vision was so clear that it was like, and so unique that it was like, let’s make, let’s, you feel the vision in the first talking of it. You can’t wait to get into it. You were like, Josh must have like nine secret movies he made before. You’ll have to track down my other team. Yeah, so we’re on a hunt right now.

Josh, I’ve got a question for you. So I just a few months ago had the privilege of having both of my grandmothers at my wedding, one of whom lives in Texas and I probably hadn’t seen in like five years almost. So watching this film, it brings up a lot of emotions. It obviously makes you want to call your grandparents. It makes you want to speak to them, tell you you love them in these different ways. It’s something that was just so different for me to experience was after all that time had passed and now maybe feeling a little more adult as I transition to a new place of life. The dynamic of our relationship kind of changed. How they look at me and maybe how I look at them. So I’m curious if there was ever a time where you could remember with your own Thelma, how your relationship really changed when you kind of really started seeing her in a different light.

JM: It’s interesting, it’s funny, it’s like, I’ve, there’ve been so many sort of chapters to her old age in a way, because I guess she’s technically been sort of an older person ever since I was born. She was like in her seventies, but now that feels like nothing. She’s 103 now. That’s true. It’s like 104 in July. So she’s like, there’ve been these different chapters of her getting older and obviously alongside I’m kind of coming of age through that time. So I think when we’re all when we spend a lot of time it’s the times when we don’t spend as much time together when I’m going to school if I’m working if I’m away that I almost can feel… can see more change and feel more difference coming back. But I think also it’s been kind of beautiful for me about our relationship is the constant nature of it that it felt pretty… In some ways, it’s felt like exactly as it did when I was young, because I think even then she sort of always just had really sort of strong support and belief in me in a way that I think I really took in. So it’s a great question. I feel like I’m giving a long and confusing answer.

Life is long and confusing.

JM: Life is long and confusing and so is this. So are my thoughts on it. Yeah, it’s interesting. There have definitely been… I think the thing that I felt more recently is that there’s some irony in that in working on the movie I feel like I’ve actually probably spent a little less time with her than I’ve spent in other chapters of my life just because it’s been so busy, it’s been so all-consuming. I’ve thought about that sometimes, there’s sort of a strange irony in this like I’m so immersed in the world of like her story and making this movie for her and in turn somehow I feel like I’ve there are times when I’m like my god I feel like I haven’t seen her in a long time I need to go over there I need to catch up but totally I’ve been lucky that she’s been been such a constant in some ways and then even now and you know in her 100 she’s still herself which is you know a lucky thing to sort of you know her body is slowing in some ways, but her mind is still, you know, her mind. And that’s been a real gift to have around.

Absolutely.

I was just gonna say, like any, I would say great piece of art that really moves you that you either watch or you contribute to, I feel like you end up taking something away from those experiences, whether it’s a monologue, whether it’s a painting, a movie you’ve done, and so I’m curious what you feel maybe you came away from with this film that you’re gonna take in your life going forward.

FH: There are lines in this that definitely… since we filmed it, so over a year now, maybe two years now. And I sometimes have that where something will be happening in my life and I’ll respond to it. Like I’ll talk to myself with something that June and Stella said, and it’s funny in that way. You hear the voice. It sticks with you.

You’re going to be OK.

FH: Yeah, I do. I actually have times that I’ve been stressed about things. I’ve heard the sweet sound of Jude’s voice saying, you’re going to be OK. And it means something.

JM: Our time with Richard too was a really meaningful part. I mean obviously our time with each other but we still get to see each other and you know obviously Richard sadly passed away but I think we all really loved working with him and he brought such like a warmth and a joy and just a charm to the set and I think everybody really just loved having him around and he’s just such a you know a wonderful actor and gave such a such a beautiful performance but I think our time with him felt kind of special because we didn’t know it was going to be sort of..

It’s a really honest performance among a lot of honest and wonderful performances that definitely stands out.

JM: We feel lucky to have gotten to do that with him too.

JS: And he loved it, he had a great time.

Well, he got to work with you.

JS: Yeah, that was fun.

Fred, I thought it was cool. We share a birthday on December 2nd and now I know three people who have that birthday. If IMDB is to be believed.

FH: That’s not right but we’re very close. We’re both Sagittarius. That is true.

I gotta call IMDB. You know what I’m glad I clarified.

FH: But we are both Sagittarius.

[June] I wanted to say what a treat this was the first ever interview I got to do when I was a sophomore in high school was for Nebraska and that was I got to speak with Bob Nelson and we talked about your performance and it was the first time by the privilege of seeing your performance so it’s cool some six years later having not done interviews and coming back and having my first one be with a leading role for you is really special so it’s just a treat for me.

Josh the Dr. Pepper.. you know my grandfather when I was little… that was his… out at our ranch we’ve got a picture of it. But my grandpa snuck me Dr. Pepper when I was probably a few years old and we’ve got a picture of it and it has started a long affair. The rivers run with Dr. Pepper in my house.

JM: I’m glad to know it. It’s been my go -to.

FH: My favorite commercial you know. That I got a cool I had a I had a Dr. Pepper shirt like that I haven’t seen it with Popeye. There’s one it’s that guy who was in American Werewolf in London that actor okay singing he’s like marching on the street singing the Dr. Pepper theme. And then an animated Popeye like comes out and starts drinking Dr. Pepper. It’s wild. 

I got a We’re a Pepper shirt during COVID. Dr. Pepper was doing a whole bunch of stuff supporting local restaurants and bars. So working at a restaurant and I was like, I’ll supply Dr. Pepper. Got the nice moon style sleeve cufflinks. It’s pretty fun. It looks super vintage and old school, but very fun. I love it. Hit the Dr. Pepper Museum and wake up. If you get down there, it’s worth it.

FH: I used to buy cane sugar, but you could only get it in Texas.

There are certain ones that I’m like, you can get the bottled ones elsewhere, but they really do have a pure cane sugar version down there that’s Texas exclusive.

Thank you all so much!