interview by JANA LETONJA

Actor Felix Mallard is the male lead of the hit Netflix series ‘Ginny & Georgia’, which has been renewed for a third and fourth season by Netflix. Next up, Felix will star in the upcoming film adaptation of ‘Turtles All the Way Down’, which is releasing today (2nd May) on HBO Max.

Felix, we’ll be seeing you in ‘Turtles All the Way Down’, following the story of a teenager living with OCD as she embarks on a journey to uncover the truth behind her childhood friend’s missing billionaire father. Tell us more about the film and what can we expect from it?

‘Turtles All the Way Down’ is a film adaptation of John Green’s beautiful novel of the same name. Our director Hannah Marks has painted a raw, honest empathetic portrait of what it’s like to grow up, to fall in love, to live with mental health challenges and learning how to define oneself despite the adversity you face. It’s a sizzling, tragically hopeful story brought to life by our stunning cast. Isabela Merced, Cree, Maliq Johnson and Judy Reyes all give razor sharp, nuanced, heartfelt performances that truly captivate and explore what it’s like for one person experiencing debilitating OCD.

Who will we meet when we’ll meet your character in the film? What made you connect with him the most?

When we meet Davis, he’s a young man facing an insurmountable tide of uncertainty. Having lost his mother at an early age, his father’s disappearance plunges him into a role of responsibility that lies far beyond his adolescence. He’s deeply lonely, having lived with the constant pretense of his father’s wealth clouding each relationship in his life. When he reconnects with Aza, she is a welcome respite from the tempest of tragedy. Her bubbly ‘humming’ personality pulls him from the throes of orphan-hood and squarely into a romance in which they both feel seen and understood as people beyond their own circumstance.

I connected on a deep level with Davis’ loneliness and listlessness, something that is more often than not typical for that age. More importantly, the role Davis plays in supporting Aza, seeing her for who she really is, was deeply inspiring. Playing Davis was a humbling opportunity for me to wrestle with and ask questions about my own adolescence and mental health, and to reflect on how I could perhaps bring his kindness and support into my own life

The film transcends genres, blending elements of coming-of-age, romance and psychological thriller. What was your favorite thing of being a part of this project?

John’s book transcends in such a unique way. There is no single target audience for ‘Turtles All The Way Down’, I think due in no small part to his willingness to bring his insight and experience with OCD and reflect upon it in such a funny, honest, unflinching style. Because of this, making this film felt transcendent in much the same way.

First of all, working on a story that’s being told by women, about women supporting each other was something I’ll always cherish and consider myself lucky to be a part of. Hannah Marks, Isabela Merced, Cree, Judy Reyes and J. Smith-Cameron each lend their own particular brand of star power that was immensely inspiring to be around. Secondly, to be a part of a story that approaches mental health with such a deft, honest touch was also deeply humbling. Hannah blended many genres in a way that never loses sight of Aza’s discovery of self, especially in the face of mental health.

Similarly to the book, any time Aza’s story gets close to a genre, be it romance or mystery or high school drama, her thought-spirals wrestle her right back into her own mind. It paints OCD in such a visceral honest way without glorifying it or glamourizing it, and hopefully makes people feel as seen as they did when they read John’s book.

What is in your opinion the biggest message of the film to the audiences?

I’ve noticed how John talks about this story, specifically when people thank him for telling it, which is, unsurprisingly, quite often. He is humble and self effacing, and he thanks them wholeheartedly for bringing themselves to the book. This sticks with me, principally because you cannot engage with any piece of art meaningfully without bringing yourself, your experiences, your ideas to it.

I could tell you what I think of the film. I think it wrestles with what it is to be alive and a person in the world, and how we can each bring our own meaning to it. That it speaks to our individual struggle in a way that validates those who keep trying, even in the face of stark adversity. That love, above all else, is what makes us human, drives the entire world. I could tell you all that or I could ask you to bring yourself to the film and see what comes back to your heart once you’ve seen it.

Fans best know you from your role on Netflix’s series ‘Ginny & Georgia’. How has this role impacted your career?

‘Ginny & Georgia’ has given me so much it’s hard to quantify. It’s brought some beautiful people into my life that I will forever cherish. It’s brought an immense platform and a wonderfully supportive audience I could only ever dream of before joining the show, but probably most of all, it’s provided a space for me to tell meaningful, nuanced and engaging stories with some intensely wicked talents.

‘Ginny & Georgia’ talks about issues like race, mental health, disability and toxic masculinity, while straddling the line between comedy and tragedy on a razor thin edge. It’s that space between the light and the shade that I believe drama truly lives, and the world Sarah Lampert has so deftly crafted allows us all to grab that drama by the waist and dance with it. I’m beyond excited to be back shooting season three.

For the role, you had to learn the American sign language. What other things did the role of Marcus require you to learn?

To portray Marcus honestly and respectfully, I think it requires me to learn a fair bit about my own emotional intelligence, the things I experienced and felt at his age and how kids in the US feel today. Marcus isn’t necessarily a unique person in that he is deeply flawed, misunderstood and trying to wrestle with who he is in the world, and more importantly to the people around him. I say he isn’t unique in the sense that this is something I believe every teenager faces at one point or another. We meet him at such a precarious time. There’s a deep-maroon apathy that threatens to smother his world, given the slightest chance to proliferate, and it’s only his love for Ginny that prevents him from being swallowed whole.

Marcus has taught me so much about what it means to be a kind partner, to be aware of my own mental health, to recognize how I may be affecting those around me, and to show up even if I don’t necessarily have the strength to, which I think is a constantly evolving challenge for anyone.

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What has been the most impactful storyline from the series for you so far and why?

I think Ginny’s mental health journey deserves some serious love. Watching this brave young woman find herself and her own identity in the face of such steep trauma and such an intense childhood, and to see her advocate for herself and her mental health, to see her keep fighting despite countless challenges is one of my favorite storylines to follow. It mirrors Georgia’s struggle within herself. These two women both have to reconcile who they are in the face of deep trauma and I could watch Bri and Toni waltz along that line all damn day.

The series has been renewed for third and fourth seasons. What can we expect from the upcoming episodes when the series returns?

I’m not allowed to reveal a single thing about the new season, other than the fact it holds a space for every single thing that’s made the first two seasons special and then gives those gems even more room to grow. You’ll have to wait and watch for yourself.

How did you develop passion for acting and performing?

Performing has always felt less like a passion and more like a necessary extension of myself. I don’t particularly have a passion for it in the same way my lungs don’t have a passion for oxygen. It’s just always seemed to be a part of how I can try to process the world and all the tragedy that seems to be contained within it. I was privileged enough to have been afforded the space to develop a passion for music, dance and performance from a super early age.

The experience of being able to give tangible shape and texture to something as ephemeral as a feeling is intoxicating. It becomes a vocabulary with which we can attempt to capture and amplify and understand things we couldn’t possibly ever hope to know. All we can do is throw some paint on the canvas and cross our fingers. Maybe if we’re lucky enough we can catch a glimpse.

What other projects, besides ‘Turtles All the Way Down’ and new season of ‘Ginny & Georgia’, do you have coming up?

‘Ginny & Georgia’ is keeping me squarely busy for the foreseeable future. I’ve got a fun audition this week. We’ll see if I’m lucky enough to get that one to stick.

TEAM CREDITS:
talent FELIX MALLARD
photography DENNIS LEUPOLD
styling WILLYUM BECK
grooming CANDICE BIRNS
creative producer SABRINA PATINO
digital tech KEVIN LEUPOLD
photography assistants TOMMY BLANCO & SHO STEWART
motocross riders RYAN RITTER, ANDREW HERTZLER, CHRISTIAN DRESSER, & BROC STAAB
collage artist IAN WOODS
editor TIMI LETONJA
editorial director & interview JANA LETONJA
cover design ARTHUR ROELOFFZEN