What a pleasure it is to be able to reconnect with the handsome and talented Wyatt Oleff and Fin Argus. Getting to reconnect with actors we have worked with here at BELLO is truly inspiring as we get to see how they continue to grow! The boys currently star in the film, STAY AWAKE, directed by Jamie Sisley. A storyline and characters based on his childhood, the boys play two brothers, Ethan (17) and Derek (19), who try their best to navigate the pressures of teenage life while tending to their mother’s debilitating prescription drug addiction. Get to know more about their experience in another exclusive interview below! We love it!

Hey boys! Great to speak with you again. Congrats on STAY AWAKE! Can you each tell me why you were originally drawn to it? 

Wyatt: So for me, when I got the original email, I read through the script, and I didn’t watch the short because I didn’t want to get any ideas in my head, so I just read the script. And I was immediately drawn to the characters, specifically Ethan, obviously because that’s who I play, but just how well all of them are written, and all their dialogue and interactions are so natural and real. Sometimes characters in movies do things that don’t match up, but everyone’s very consistent in this movie and I really appreciate that. And then, when I really knew I wanted to do the project was when I hopped on my first call with Jamie, just to talk to him about the movie. I could just tell how passionate he was from that call and any question I asked, he could answer so quickly, because he’s already thought about it, because that’s how good he is. He just knows everything he wants to make already and I completely and utterly respect that. And that’s basically why I was drawn to it. 

Share with us what it was like from the first day on set until its completion. What were some major changes? 

Wyatt: I would say not much changed, honestly. We were constricted to a 21 day shoot and we had to stay on schedule for all of it. But I would say the general vibe was like family, everyone got along so well. And everyone was so collaborative and nice. We were working together but it was more like we were just making something we were very passionate about, which is also very true. 

Fin: I think the biggest thing for me was the bonding between us all. It was a very intimate experience. Our entire production was staying at this lodge near the Catskill mountains and it sort of felt like summer camp. The work on day one was smooth and effective but of course by the end of the project we were all a well-oiled machine, and also very good friends. It felt very collaborative and I’m so proud of what we accomplished together.

Wyatt, what do you believe Fin brought to set? And vice versa? 

Wyatt: I feel like he brought a lot of emotional knowledge if that makes any sense. He is so in tune with his emotions that it blows my mind. He knows himself so well that he’s able to just get to where he needs to be and he can instantly change the mood of a set by just how he acts. Specifically for me, he brought the sadness out of me in some of the scenes. I feel like being with him really, really helped me so much.

Fin: Wyatt is an incredible grounding force. It was easy to get lost in the heavy emotions of the story we were telling, but Wyatt always brought back the comedy and lightness to set. While we were still able to tap into sensitivity for filming, most of our days on set were so much fun, because Wyatt and I were just messing around being friends. It was very impressive to watch Wyatt go from his affable self, and then drop into highly emotional scenes without a hitch. He’s a star.

Do any of you relate to the story line in any way? Explain. 

Fin: Unfortunately, the story we’re telling with Stay Awake is quite common. I think most people can relate in some way to loving someone experiencing addiction. What I love so much about the perspective in Stay Awake is that Michelle isn’t depicted as a villain. I think people forget, or perhaps just don’t know, that addiction is an illness that is supported by a corrupt opioid industry. It is incredibly difficult to heal from, and affects not only the person experiencing the addiction, but everyone around as well. It was very cathartic to show the family dynamics that occur in such a difficult and nuanced situation.

Wyatt: I feel like I’ve been pretty lucky and, no, I haven’t really experienced anything close to this. I was also lucky because I also got to talk to Jamie a lot about what his experience was like and I really relied on him as a storyteller. I asked him for everything, because I knew this was his story and I wanted to make sure that I told it right. So I relied a lot on him. He gave me everything I needed.

In what ways did this film change your guys’ perspective? 

Wyatt: I would say, just hearing from Jamie firsthand about his experience. With Stay Awake, a movie about the caretakers rather than the addict, that’s something I hadn’t really thought about before. In the media, or film and television, they don’t cover that side. How much you can care for someone and deeply love them until it consumes your life, then where do you draw the line? A lot of what I learned you’ll also learn when you see the movie.

Fin: For me, It is a great reminder that while remaining patient is important, it is sometimes the best option to establish hard boundaries. For anyone out there whose loved one is experiencing addiction, it is OKAY to take space and time for yourself. It is up to you to heal yourself and put yourself first even though it may be hard. I believe in you.

Tell us more about the premiere of the film at the Berlin Film Festival. 

Wyatt: Yes, I was able to go. It was my first time in Berlin and it’s beautiful. It was also my first time at a big film festival, too, so that was really cool. The premiere itself was amazing. We had a huge theater and we were at full capacity. When it was over, the film got such a nice applause then we got to do a Q&A that almost everyone stayed for. I felt like people liked the movie and that’s all we can really ask for. 

Was this the first time you guys met? How did you work on your on-screen chemistry?

Wyatt: Before filming, we talked a little bit online and then we found out we lived in the same state and around the same area, so we met up at a restaurant and we just talked for hours and we got along really well. Fin: Took us all but five minutes to realize how much we had in common. Actors, musicians, curly haired dorks from Chicago. I feel very lucky we got to tell this story together. All we had to do really was get to know each other. 

Wyatt: So that was the beginning of our friendship.

What comes next?

Well, I’m about to go to New York to shoot an AppleTV+ show called City on Fire for four months and I’m really excited for it.

Fin: I’ve been in New Orleans the past six months filming a re-imagination of Queer as Folk. The characters are vibrant and so full of life. I’ve never been more excited about the dynamics of a character I’ve played. Keep a lookout in June! Also, I’m excited to finally release new music this summer. I’ve poured my heart into this music, as well as the music videos, and I can’t wait to share them, and start doing live shows again. This body of music is new era of eclectic queer angst. Stay tuned!