Grant Rosenmeyer and Hayden Szeto are two young actors who star in the new comedy-drama film Come As You Are, which they extolled to uInterview exclusively at the South by Southwest (SXSW) festival in Austin, Texas.

“The movies is called Come As You Are [and] it is inspired by a true story of this guy [named] Asta Philpot, and it was also made into a hit Belgian film back in 2011 called Hasta La Vista,” Rosenmeyer explained. “The story of Come As You Are follows three young men with disabilities: one is a quadriplegic, the other a paraplegic and the other blind, who go on a road trip to a brothel in Montreal that caters to people with special needs so they can lose their virginity and embrace their independence, and make some unlikely friendships along the way.”

Szeto, who is best known for his role in the 2016 Hailee Steinfeld-led coming-of-age comedy-drama film The Edge of Seventeen, plays one of the three young men with disabilities in his new film. The 33-year-old explained his character’s traits and what he goes through over the course of the story.

“I play Matt, and he is that ‘unlikely friendship.’ He’s a paraplegic boy that meets [Rosenmeyer’s character] Scotty, and Scotty recruits him to come along on this journey with him, and at first my character is very resistant, and eventually due to his life circumstances and [Scotty] just being persistent, I give in and go with him.”

In the original Belgian film, the brothel the three young men visit is located in Spain. Rosenmeyer and Szeto revealed that they had much material in order to prepare for their roles, as they were fortunate enough to talk to Philpot about his experiences.

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“I had the benefit of having the real-life inspiration Asta Philpot,” said Rosenmeyer. “You know, he was in England for a lot of it so he was mostly just over FaceTime and Skype but just back and forth pretty much every day for about two months. We were talking for hours on end and yeah, he would coach me on the physicality, we’d have long conversations about his mindset over the years and the challenges and he was just amazing.”

Rosenmeyer also revealed that he and his sister regularly cared for their uncle, who was an amputee.

“He’s a true inspiration because I feel like he never used his situation as an excuse to be a jerk to anybody, you know. He was nicest guy in the world and he was very anti-victim,” Rosenmeyer added of Philpot. “I took some of that inspiration into my character.”

The actor added that he and the cast were able to meet with several members of the disabled community in Chicago, where most of the movie was filmed.

What do the pair of actors hope audiences take away from their film? Part of the message, they revealed, is that humans — able-bodied or disabled — ultimately share many of the same desires and wishes in their lives.

“Hopefully there’s not just one message to the movie and what’s been nice, you know, we premiered yesterday. Just the initial conversations that we’re having with everybody is that everybody’s taking away something a little bit different but my thing is everyone has needs like everybody we all have the same wants the same desires,” said Rosenmeyer. “I think a lot of great movies are about that but this one in particular tells it and delivers that message in a really interesting way. I would say that I just kind of changed the way that I look at disability, it almost changes the way that you look at a room you know.”

Szeto added that he believes the film delivers a strong message of us being able to control our own happiness despite not always being able to control what we’ve been given or are lacking.

“I would say the message of the film, to me, when I read it was how you can’t control what you’re given but you can control where you’re going,” Szeto added. “And it I think it’s a story of triumph and friendship and of a brotherhood, especially for my character because he was the one that wasn’t born with it. It’s a recent thing that happened to him and he’s struggling with his old life and his new life. So yeah, I think it’s about finding people with, you know, a commonality of pain and then through that pain you find a warmth and a bond like no other. What I’ve learned is it just shows me like how much I take for granted what I have.”

Read the full transcript below:

Q: What’s the plot of the film?

A: Rosenmeyer: The movie’s called Come As You Are it is inspired by a true story of this guy Asta
Philpot and it was also made into a hit Belgian film back in 2011 called Hasta La Vista. The story of Come As You Are follows three young men with disabilities one is a quadriplegic, the other a paraplegic, and the other blind, who go on a road trip to a brothel in Montreal that caters to people with special needs, so they can lose their virginity and embrace their independence and makes it some unlikely friendships along the way.

Szeto: I play Matt, he is that ‘unlikely friendship,’ he’s a paraplegic boy that beats Scotty and Scotty recruits him to come along this journey with him and at first my character was very resistant and eventually due to his life circumstances and you know him just being persistent I give in and go with him.

Q: How did you prepare for the roles?

A: Well, I had the benefit of having the real-life inspiration Asta Philpot pretty much you know, he was in England for a lot of it so he was mostly just over FaceTime and Skype but just back and forth pretty much every day for about two months, we were talking for you know hours on end and yeah, he would coach me on the physicality, we’d have long conversations about his mindset over the years, and the challenges and he was just amazing. Before this project even came along, you know my sister and I we regularly took care of my uncle who was an amputee and we just were around him like for you know for his whole day and just we’ll just watch him live and see how he you know gets around and everything. He’s a true inspiration because I feel like he never used his situation as an excuse to be a jerk to anybody, you know, he was nicest guy in the world and he was very, like, anti-victim. I took some of that inspiration into my character.

Two months before we started filming we just practically lived in those chairs you know just trying to get around the production office like going all the way around doing laps. And also we shot a majority of the movie in Chicago and I have to say that once we told the the disabled community, the Shirley Ryan Ability Lab down there and everybody that we encountered who was disabled or in the disabled community down there, we just said hey we’re making this film we want to be as authentic as possible, and they just opened up their doors and their arms and it was truly amazing, they’re like so you want to tell the story huh all right well we’re gonna take you for a ride, and it was like really great, it was yeah it was a wonderful experience.

Q: What’s the message of the film?

A: Rosenmeyer: Hopefully there’s not just one message to the movie and what’s been nice just you
know we premiered yesterday so just the initial conversations that we’re having with everybody is that everybody’s taking away something a little bit different but my thing is everyone has needs like everybody we all have the same wants the same desires and I think a lot of great movies are about that but this one in particular tells it and delivers that message in a really interesting way. I would say that I just kind of changed the way that I look at disability, it almost changes the way that you look at a room you know. The disabled community has been and frustratingly so has been just so overlooked and marginalized in so many ways and I mean just even to say the disabled community it’s like there are so many forms of of disability. So it’s, you know, it’s just kind of like it’s misunderstood and so I’ve just learned to be really open minded and it just changes everything. Whenever you play… whenever you take on any kind of challenge like this acting wise or filmmaking wise you just you you learn so much, and I think that’s the goal and that’s the beauty of it is hopefully you do learn a lot as you’re going along and and you never quite the same well.

Szeto: I would say the message of the film to me when I read it was how you can’t control you know what what you’re given but you can control where you’re going. And it I think it’s a story triumph and friendship and of a brotherhood, especially for my character because he was the one that wasn’t born with it, it’s a recent thing that happened to him and he’s struggling with his old life and his new life. So yeah, I think it’s about finding people with you know with a commonality of pain and then through that pain you find a warmth and a bond like no other. What I’ve learned it just shows me like how much I take for granted what I have and it makes me think, that you know sometimes when I complain about things I’m like “are my problems really problems.” If I want to do something, I can just, you know, get up and do it and then doing this movie made me realize I’m crap it’s… yeah, you have to, like, map out everything you have to do like you said, you look at a room differently, you know, because you have to navigate it to like physically differently and it’s a very different perspective.