Although their film has already received rave reviews, the stars of Love, Simon hope that audiences will connect with the story on a personal level. In the film, Jennifer Garner and Josh Duhamel play parents to high school-aged teen Simon (Nick Robinson) struggling to tell his loved ones he’s gay.
PEOPLE recently sat down with Garner, Duhamel and Robinson to discuss the emotional weight of the film and what they hope audiences and LGBTQ youth in particular take away from it.
“I hope that it’s inclusive, first and foremost,” Robinson, 22, said. “That people feel respected, represented as much as they can and that it is a fun way to spend a couple hours.”
Garner, 45, touted the film’s entertainment value as well as its emotional core: “We want to be entertaining. We want anyone who sees it to have a good time, and they should,” she said. “I think it’s a really fun comedy that anyone should connect to.”
The three actors said that one of the many reasons they wanted to be a part of Love, Simon — which is based on Becky Albertalli’s book Simon vs. the Homo Sapiens Agenda — is because it’s a universal coming-of-age story that also has a message of acceptance.
PEOPLE and ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY, along with GLSEN, the non-profit that fights to make schools safe for all kids, invited individuals from all walks of life to share real-life coming out stories. COMING OUT STORIES (produced by Ryan Buxton) can be seen at people.com/comingoutstories and on PeopleTV (download the app on your favorite mobile or connected TV device).
“So many times these movies are heavy-handed in some way or preachy, I never felt that from this,” said Duhamel, 45. “I think that that’s really why it works. I think that if there’s a message, it’s that it’s not that big of a deal if you’re lesbian, gay, straight, trans, whatever, you’re still a human being. We don’t have to make a huge deal of it. What I love about this movie is it’s not heavy-handed, it’s light and at the end of the day we’re just human beings, trying to exist.”
Added Garner: “To me, if I could say something that I hope that a teenage kid who’s struggling with whether to come out, what they’re feeling, I hope that they see this and don’t stay alone in their head,” she said. “I hope they find somebody, whether it’s Blue [Simon’s email confidant and crush in the film], whether it’s their mom, whether it’s a friend where they let themselves talk about what’s going on, because that’s the scariest thing when you’re alone with yourself in your head, especially for teenagers, that can be a big big wide dark place.”
Love, Simon is now playing in theaters.
–with reporting by JD Heyman