BWW Interview - Tony Winner Alex Sharp Talks Upcoming Netflix Film TO THE BONE

BWW Interview - Tony Winner Alex Sharp Talks Upcoming Netflix Film TO THE BONETony Award winner Alex Sharp (CURIOUS INCIDENT OF THE DOG IN THE NIGHT -TIME) stars opposite Lily Collins and Keanu Reeves in the new, original film TO THE BONE, premiering July 14th on Netflix. Based on writer and director Marti Noxon's real-life experiences, the powerful drama shares the story of 20-year-old Ellen and her battle with anorexia. Ellen enters a group home run by an unconventional doctor where she and the other residents, including Sharp's character Lucas, go on a sometimes funny, sometimes harrowing journey - navigating their addictions and finding the path to choosing life.

Sharp tells BWW of this important project, "When you start a conversation about something that is under-discussed and you use art to convey it, I think that is incredibly powerful, but is always going to create waves." Read the interview in full below!

It seems that everyone knows someone who has struggled with an eating disorder. Have you had any experience with any friends or family members who have struggled, and if so, did that help you to better understand your character?

Yes, well, I just did everything I could to understand the psychology of my character. As an actor I want to get as close as humanly possible to that person. I also had a good friend who I went to Julliard with, a guy I really loved, he's an incredible dancer. He had gone through a similar situation to my character, where he had been injured and been dealing with that in a way that was similar to the way Luke had to deal with it. So in confidence we discussed, and he was very generous with talking to me about it and it was hugely informative to me in the creation of the character. I've also had a personal connection earlier in my life as well - one of my girlfriends struggled with it. So it was a meaningful project to endeavor on.

I think it may come as a surprise to some people to see a man struggling with an eating disorder, as your character does in the film.

Yeah, totally. But it happens a lot and I think sometimes because it is under-discussed and a taboo subject generally, but when it is discussed it tends to be more about the female experience because it is more prevalent, numerically. But there are a lot of guys who struggle with this. There had never been a representation of that in a feature

BWW Interview - Tony Winner Alex Sharp Talks Upcoming Netflix Film TO THE BONE
Lily Collins, Alex Sharp in TO THE BONE

length movie. So that was something I was very interested in doing, but also felt a pressure to do it as truthfully as I possibly could and to do it justice as much as I could as an actor. Although I've never been through it myself, it's my job to get as close to the experience as I possibly could.

And it was an exciting character, eating disorder aside, because it couldn't be much more of a different guy. That's what I'm drawn too, playing characters that are completely different. When I first read the script, I said, you know I don't think I'm anything like this guy really, and that's why I wanted to do it. It was sort of terrifying and seemed impossible in a way, which is very exciting, to pursue that transformation.

The film's writer and director Marti Noxon, as well as your co-star, Lily Collins, have been very open about their personal struggles with eating disorders. Did they share those experiences with the cast?

Yeah, they did. Marti was incredibly generous. And to have the writer be the director as well is less of a separation in terms of understanding where things have come from. I could go directly to her on set and really find out motivation behind different lines and different scenes. Lily and I got really close during it because it was a challenging project in a lot of ways. I really admire her, I think she's an incredibly courageous woman for doing this and it was a pleasure to be a small part of this project and to help them tell this story that is so personal to them. To be part of that is awesome.

Plus it's a movie, and this is being discussed more now because of "Wonder Woman", but there aren't many female directors. There should be more, they're brilliant. You know, CURIOUS INCIDENT was Marianne Elliot. She completely changed my life and is a visionary. So there's no reason at this point where we are in the world to not have that. And this movie was written and directed by Marti Noxon. Lily is starring in it. Produced by pretty much all women, so that was an exciting element for me as well. Me and Keanu [Reeves] were the only two guys in it, which I think is awesome.

BWW Interview - Tony Winner Alex Sharp Talks Upcoming Netflix Film TO THE BONE
Lily Collins in TO THE BONE

The movie is already generating a bit of a controversy in its depiction of eating disorders. People are drawing comparisons to Netflix's "13 Reasons Why", implying that it is possibly glorifying a very serious issue. How do you respond to those critics?

I think, and I haven't seen "13 Reasons Why", but from what I can gather it's pretty different. I think when you start a conversation about something that is under-discussed and you use art to convey it, I think that is incredibly powerful, but is always going to create waves. Also, all of the reaction is coming off a two-minute and thirty second trailer, so I'm excited for those people who have questions about it to see the full-length movie when it comes out. It's got so many textures and so many layers to it that I think are important to really understand the way that Marti has told the story. Marti's a brilliant storyteller and it's so personal to her so it's a special project for that reason. But I think controversy is an interesting thing in that it usually goes hand in hand with starting conversations that surround taboo or under-discussed topics that need to be discussed and need to be less in the shadows, in my opinion.

What message do you hope the film will convey to those struggling with eating disorders and their families?

Well I think it's a very hopeful message and like I said, it's got a lot of textures to it. This is a story that is very personal to Marti and completely came out of her life experiences. It's semi-autobiographical, but it came out of her brilliant brain. She's a very open book and she's a very generous person and I think the honesty of that will shine through and I would hope that it just creates an awareness and encourages people to talk about it. Even if the conversations are uncomfortable, I think discussion, if done sensitively and smartly, is always beneficial.

I wasn't aware that you had such a beautiful voice until I heard you singing in this film.

BWW Interview - Tony Winner Alex Sharp Talks Upcoming Netflix Film TO THE BONE

Any chance you would consider returning to Broadway in a musical?

Yeah I would love to - I would absolutely love to! It's just about the material and it being the right fit at the time. I'm pretty careful about making sure that when I choose to do something it's for the right reasons and that I really connect with it and care about it. So if the right musical came along, yes I would totally do it!

Tony Award-winning actor Alex Sharp is best known for originating the role of Christopher Boone in the Broadway Production of The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time. After graduating from the Juilliard School in the summer of 2014, he made his Broadway and acting debut in the play. For his role as the autistic teenager Christopher Boone, he was awarded the Tony Award for Best Actor in a Play, Drama Desk Award for Outstanding Actor in a Play, and the Outer Critics Circle Award. He will next be seen on the big screen in HOW TO TALK TO GIRLS AT PARTIES opposite Nicole Kidman and Elle Fanning.

TO THE BONE premieres Friday, July 14th on Netflix. Watch the trailer below:

About TO THE BONE: Ellen is an unruly, 20-year-old anorexic girl who spent the better part of her teenage years being shepherded through various recovery programs, only to find herself several pounds lighter every time. Determined to find a solution, her dysfunctional family agrees to send her to a group home for youths, which is led by a non-traditional doctor. Surprised by the unusual rules-and charmed by her fellow patients-Ellen has to discover for herself how to confront her addiction and attempt self-acceptance, in order to stand a chance against her demons.

Television veteran Marti Noxon brings her aptitude for storytelling to her remarkable debut feature, tackling the challenges of self-esteem with a refreshingly humorous-yet painstakingly honest-voice. Featuring a career-making performance by Lily Collins, and pitch-perfect supporting roles by Keanu Reeves, Carrie Preston, and Lili Taylor, To the Bone subverts expectations at every turn with its razor-sharp script, and its undiluted look at what young women face in living up to both society's expectations of beauty, and their own.

TO THE BONE images courtesy of Netflix

'CURIOUS INCIDENT' photo credit: Joan Marcus

Head shot photo credit: Walter McBride

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