“Human touch… we need that touch from the one we love almost as much as the air we breathe. I never understood that until I couldn’t have it.” — Stella Grant
You may remember Cole Sprouse from The Suite Life of Zack and Cody, and over the past few years he’s proven himself to be a teen heartthrob as Jughead Jones in Riverdale.
If you thought that was Cole at his hottest, brace yourself as his latest project is about to make you cry your heart out as he takes on the role of a bad boy love interest of Haley Lu Richardson in the movie Five Feet Apart.
The romantic drama film follows two teenagers, Will Newman (Cole Sprouse) and Stella Grant (Haley Lu Richardson) who face the most insanely maddening series of roadblocks to falling in love. They can’t touch each other – let alone kiss – or even stand close together. Why? They both suffer from cystic fibrosis, a genetic disorder that affects the lungs and immune system.
Despite their shared diagnosis, they couldn’t be more opposite. Stella is a vibrant vlogging star who likes to be the master of her universe. Meanwhile, Will is everything she meticulously avoids: a disorderly rebel and rule-breaker who doesn’t seem to take even his own future seriously.
When they first met, the two are more than happy to keep to their doctor’s strict decree of remaining five feet apart at all times to avoid Will giving Stella a dangerous infection. But in a series of funny and stirring events, both started upending the rules as they try to steal back the space that divides them — even if it’s one foot of electrifying emotions at a time.
Ahead of the movie release in Malaysia on March 21, let’s take a closer look behind the scenes as the main characters share their experience working in this movie.
1. How would you describe your role in this movie?
Cole: I play this character called Will Newman. He suffers from something as it stands right now, a version of cystic fibrosis that’s rare and not well understood in the medical field. He arrives at the hospital to take part in an experimental drug trial which is something pretty common for cases like this and sort of throws his care away during his stay at the hospital. When you first meet Will in the movie, he’s a person who selfishly resigns to the nature of his condition.
Haley: I play Stella, a 17-year-old girl who’s doing her best in every aspect of her life despite suffering from cystic fibrosis. She’s a character that bears loads of pressure to be alive for the people in her life who love and need her.
2. How was the experience like working with each other?
C: Haley is an absolute goober but she has all the innocence and charm we wanted Stella to embody, as well as the way Claire Wineland (Youtuber and cystic fibrosis activist who inspired the movie) had carried herself in her videos through the nature of her living with cystic fibrosis that we were looking for. We were really lucky to have landed with Haley who’s such an amazing actress with natural talent that could bring the character to life. She’s incredibly talented and we had chemistry from the start.
H: The coolest thing about Cole is that he’s been helping me a lot while we were making this movie. He has the ability to see the truth and looking at the bigger pictures, which I think is parallel to his character in a way. He’s just a very truthful and thoughtful person. It’s been great working with him.
3. What about the movie director, Justin Baldoni? How was it like to work with him?
C: As an actor, I think there’s a point where you ask yourself ‘what kind of job do I want to start pursuing?’. I reached a point where I want to work with someone who’s passionate about source materials and Justin is truly enthusiastic about them. He’s been making documentaries on similar contents before he started acting, so this is kind of like his brainchild for years. For him to feel comfortable enough with me and the choices I made to portray my character in the movie is extremely flattering. It reminds me that I can bring passion to life and that’s really all you can ask for at the end of the day — to have a close interaction between a director and an actor.
H: Justin is an angel working in a man’s body. I’ve known him for a while because my fiance and him are on Jane the Virgin together. He’s an incredible director. He brings in great energy to the set and even when things are stressful and hectic, he keeps the energy positive and maintains a creative mindset which I appreciate so much. I would love to work with him again in the future.
4. Were you familiar with what cystic fibrosis is prior to shooting the movie?
C: Well, I’ve heard of the illness and know that it’s not particularly well known to the general public, which is why it’s a part of this film’s goal to bring a tremendous amount of awareness to this illness. When we started working on the pre-production, we did an extensive amount of research. We had medical professionals on board with us and patients with cystic fibrosis to teach us the details about the treatment and psychological struggles lots of patients have to deal with, especially those who are at a young age.
5. To fully embody Will, you worked with the film’s nutritionist to lose about 30 pounds. Tell us more about it.
C: Cystic fibrosis is an illness that makes maintaining weight incredibly difficult. As a result, many patients are quite thin. It was a challenge but it also gave me a deeper insight into Will. I don’t think it’s something that should be glorified, but it’s something that felt necessary to represent Will authentically.
6. Both of your characters in the movie are very optimistic. How do you stay positive in your own life?
H: I’m quite an optimistic person in life, but things do disappoint me from time to time when they go wrong. I’m learning to try not to have too much expectation from a situation and let them happen naturally.
C: I think we’re all given a very specific hand of cards and we sort of have to make do with what we have been given and just do our best. Filming this movie showed me how the cystic fibrosis community is restricted to an extensive set of rules, and this is something we’ve all been taking for granted. Throughout the process of filming, pre-production, post-production and working with people who have cystic fibrosis, I learnt to redefine things in a different way. This is one of those projects that have helped me grow and I hope it offers a new perspective to other people.
Five Feet Apart will be released in TGV cinemas nationwide on 21 March 2019.