The coming-of-age drama ‘Chemical Hearts’ is out now. HL spoke with Austin Abrams about the role of Henry, Henry and Grace’s relationship, the movie’s ending, and more.
Austin Abrams is one of the most talented young stars in Hollywood. From melting hearts playing shy Ethan in Euphoria to a dark turn as Marc in This Is Us, Austin has shown us his incredible range in just the past year alone. He now stars as Henry Page, a high school senior yearning for a great love, in the Amazon Studios film Chemical Hearts.
Austin talked EXCLUSIVELY with HollywoodLife about why he was drawn to the role of Henry Page. He discussed Henry’s hunger for a love like his parents have, which influences his relationship with Grace. Austin also opened up about his future with Euphoria and his upcoming show Dash & Lily.
You’ve been incredibly busy lately with Euphoria, This Is Us, and previously with The Walking Dead. You’ve had a variety of different roles over the years, so what was it about Henry that really stood out to you?
Austin Abrams: First, I found the story very compelling. I think there’s a really good story there, and then also the director, Richard Tanne, is a good director and that was a good draw. Sometimes it can be a little bit difficult, at least I’ve found, to find those really interesting, complex high school characters. Henry has a lot of complexities to him. He finds it very difficult to speak, so he’s drawn to writing. But then he also sees his parents’ relationship and sees their love, and I think he’s really in a spot where he’s really craving love and craving a relationship. That was an interesting thing to try and explore. I feel, at least written wise, he’s a lot. He’s got a lot of things going on, so I think there was a lot there that I was able to go into and try to understand.
You’ve been acting since you were really young. Did you have a similar high school experience to Henry or more of like a Hollywood high school experience?
Austin Abrams: I didn’t really have any sort of Hollywood high school experience. My experience was pretty similar to an average American teenager in a lot of ways. I went to a public high school. I didn’t do any virtual stuff. I know some actors worked when they were younger, and they ended up doing a lot of virtual school and stuff like that, but I had a public school that was, for some reason, very willing to work with me. So I didn’t end up having an extremely Hollywood school experience.
Grace and Henry’s relationship is obviously very complicated. Do you think Henry really loved Grace or the idea of Grace?
Austin Abrams: It’s like, how much do I want to say? Because I do value an audience member watching it for themselves and deciding what they think because that is, I suppose, a pressing question when it comes to the film. I definitely think that is very much up for debate, but I’ll say I’m not sure. I think Henry perhaps at the time would say he loved her, but I would say if he were to review it perhaps a year later, he may feel differently.
When I look back at high school, I wonder: how much did we really know about love when we were that young?
Austin Abrams: I think he just wants love so badly. I think looking at his parents and seeing what they have, I think he craves that so deeply, especially since he’s never had that before. So I definitely think that has an influence on his relationship with Grace in terms of how pure is it?
I think at the same time a lot of young people see these “perfect” relationships in television and movies and think it has to be exactly like what they’ve watched.
Austin Abrams: Honestly, I think seeing relationships through the media can be a bit dangerous. I mean, I can relate that. When you’re a little bit younger, you’re not really seeing the real intricacies of what’s really happening. They’re fantasies. There are some movies that try to do the best they can to show what it’s really like. But at the same time, as a viewer, you’re viewing it from an outside perspective. You’re not really in it. There are so many feelings involved when you’re having a relationship that you have to experience it for yourself.
With so many coming-of-age movies we’ve all watched, everything is wrapped up in a neat little bow at the end. The couple, even in high school, gets a happily ever after. But with Chemical Hearts, Grace and Henry’s relationship is incredibly relatable to a lot of high school relationships where it doesn’t work out. How do you feel about the ending? Do you think it was the right ending for Grace and Henry?
Austin Abrams: I think it is the right ending for the story. There are a lot of lessons learned, at least from Henry’s angle, and I’m sure from Grace’s as well. I do think it is a good ending, especially for this story. I think it works.
One of the scenes that stands out to me the most is the scene between Grace and Henry in Grace’s bedroom when Henry realizes how connected she still is to her boyfriend who died. That was such a raw and intense scene. What is that like for you as an actor to really dive headfirst into all of those feelings?
Austin Abrams: Look, it can quite intimidating at times, at least for me personally. Maybe there are some people where it’s not at all [intimidating], but at the same time, I do enjoy very much going into those difficult, emotional places. It’s interesting playing Henry because he wanted this thing so badly. He wants her so badly or perhaps wants the concept of her that’s in his mind. It’s just a real sort of desperation. That was very interesting to investigate. Sometimes that stuff can be just as enjoyable as a lighter scene perhaps.
Lili Reinhart is your co-star, but she was also an executive producer. What was it like working with her in front of the camera and behind the camera?
Austin Abrams: It was great, man. She’s very collaborative. She and I have known each other for quite a while now, so that was really nice to be able to reunite with her again and work more closely with her again. She was a producer, but it’s not like she was in there like trying to control everything. She did a really wonderful job of being a producer and also being an actor. I think she did a great job on both ends.
You also have a new show for Netflix coming up: Dash & Lily. Is there anything you can tease about that?
Austin Abrams: I think there’s a really good story there. We filmed it last year in New York, and New York is sadly nothing like it was as really nowhere is in the country. New York is almost like a character in that show, so I think it will be nice for people to be able to experience what it was like a year before when things were not as intense.
There’s also Euphoria season 2, which has been put on hold because of the pandemic. Are you coming back? Do you think Ethan’s story is over?
Austin Abrams: I’m supposed to come back. As of now, I have absolutely no idea what’s going on. We were having table reads right before the pandemic started, but I believe all the scripts have been completely rewritten. I have absolutely no idea what’s happening and when we’re supposed to start working. There’s not much I can say about it because I literally have no idea.