Interview With Paget Brewster For ‘Hypochondriac’

I’ve seen some really amazing films this year, but one that has really stuck out the most for me is Addison Heimann’s queer horror thriller about mental illness, Hypochondriac. Based on a real breakdown, Hypochondriac has been on my mind, even days after I watched it. First time filmmaker Addison (our interview) didn’t shy away from anything, and the resulting film is funny and dark. To celebrate the film upcoming release, I chatted with Paget Brewster (Criminal Minds TV series) via phone, and we discussed how she got involved with the project and mental health in entertainment.

PopHorror: I loved Hypochondriac, and I’m a huge fan of yours, so thank you for your time.

Paget Brewster: Oh, cool! Thank you.

PopHorror: What intrigued you about the film and made you want to be a part of the project?

Paget Brewster: I had never read anything like it before. It really felt that instead of looking at this issue of mental illness as a way to just be scary, or creepy, or bloody, it was really a study of this dissent and fear, and the main character, Will, not understanding what’s going on and trying to get help and not receiving it. I thought there were just these different levels of horror to it. It didn’t feel like one single topic in a linear narrative: the horror of his childhood trauma, and the horror of feeling out of control and not knowing if he had a medical issue or a mental issue, and not being heard. And then being haunted by this thing that he doesn’t know if he’s created or if it’s real.

I thought it was really scary, and I really enjoyed that. But I didn’t want to do the movie. It was right in the middle of the pandemic. I had done a movie with the producer, Bay Dariz, before, and he sent the script, and he says in the email, “Hey, how’s your pandemic going? Listen, I’m doing an independent, low-budget LGBTQ psychological horror film. First time director, no money. I want you to play Dr. Sampson.” And I was like, “Ugh, God. No, I’m not going out there.” Then I started reading the script, and page after page I’m like, “Oh, no. This is really good. I’ve never read anything like this. This is really interesting.”

So, I go back to his email, and I’m like, “Alright, who’s involved in this? How do I get out of this?” Then I saw that Zach Villa [PopHorror interview] is cast as well, and I’m a huge fan of his. I just think he’s exquisite. He’s so great to watch and just really nuanced. I think that guy is a huge talent.

I went back and kept reading the script. I was like, “I have to do it. I have to do it.” I called Bay and said, “Son of bitch. It’s really good.” And he’s like, “I know! You’re going to do it?” And I’m like, “I’m going to do it.” And I’m so glad that I did though, because it turned out even better than what I read. I understood that there are these themes, and this is the way people talk to each other, just the way people talk. And you don’t read a lot of things that give the audience the benefit of the doubt that people have inside jokes, and nobody has to tell the audience, “This is what this means,” or “Remember when we came up with this phrase?” I just felt like this was people talking to each other.

It was very clear who this guy was, and it just takes a second with good writing, and the audience knows who they’re looking at. And I think a lot of times, people really speak down to audiences and don’t trust them to have the imagination or the investment to not have everything explained to them. I knew that it was really remarkable new writing, but I didn’t know that it would end up being as good as it is.

When I got the movie, like 10-11 months later, they sent it to me in an email with a code, and I was watching it on my computer. I was just like, “Oh my God. How did they even… Who’s the DP on this? This looks incredible.” It was not what I expected from an indie low budget. I just think they did an extraordinary job, and I’m so proud to be a part of it.

PopHorror: It was a beautiful film. I’m glad that you brought up the mental health portion of it. How do you feel about the current representation of mental health in entertainment?

Paget Brewster: I think the conversation has started. I think we’re actually in a far better place right now regarding mental health and people being able to ask for help and explain what they’re going through. I think there’s a far more respected viewpoint on people feeling anxiety, or being anti-social, or dealing with bi-polar disorder or suicidal ideation. 

Social media is a double-edged sword, because on the one hand, I think people can get help. They can get support from their peer group even if they have no one where they live. I think people can reach out and say, “Hey, I’m suffering from this,” or “I’m self-harming,” and ask for help. I think Covid was so insulating, and I think that was really destructive especially for younger people, teens, and people in their 20s. I think there’s been a devastating toll taken on young people, but I think with the pandemic, I think there would have been more suicide. I think there would have been more violence 10 or 15 years ago before that conversation started about mental health.

And maybe I’m being naive or overly hopeful, but I think we are in a better place. I can’t speak for other countries. I can’t even speak for our country. My impression alone is that I feel like people are able to reach out and ask for help, support each other, and notice each other’s behavior. And instead of brushing it under the rug, I think we’re in a place where people can get help. And they’re not ashamed to ask for help. I hope we’re in that place. It seems to me… What do you think? Does it seem that way to you? I’m sure we still have a long way to go, but do you feel like we’re in a better place?

PopHorror: I do. I feel like it’s being normalized more. I 100% agree with everything you said. I love that it’s being more normalized, and I think that the pandemic helped that, and I think that’s a positive that has come out of the pandemic. It has brought mental health, isolation, being away from people, dealing with tragedy and how it affects people and your mental health. It’s more in entertainment and media now, than it was before. That is a positive.

Paget Brewster: Yes. You’re right! You know what? I didn’t make the correlation that the pandemic may have been part of the support. You’ve made a really great point, that maybe because we all went through some form of anxiety and fear, that people needing help for mental illness is more acceptable now because more of us understand what that might feel like. That’s really interesting, though. I didn’t see that correlation. That is very helpful. Very optimistic. I love it! You just made me feel better. 

PopHorror: We’re out of time but thank you so much for your time and the conversation. Hypochondriac blew my mind, and I can’t wait for more people to see it.

Paget Brewster: Me too, thank you! I hope a lot of people get to see it. I can’t wait.

Thank you so much, Paget, for taking the time to speak with us. You can catch Hypochondriac in limited theaters July 29, 2022, and on digital August 4, 2022.

About Tiffany Blem

Horror lover, dog mommy, book worm, EIC of PopHorror.

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