Jason Biggs spoke with Solzy at the Movies about his role in a new film, The Subject, and where things stand on the future of American Pie.
The Subject is a very unsettling film but it offers one of the best performances in Jason Biggs’s acting career. Seven different film festivals honored Biggs with awards for his performance. Screenwriter Chisa Hutchinson penned the screenplay in 2010 and over ten years later, Lanie Zipoy directs a film that is just as timely and relevant. Jason Biggs leads a cast that includes Aunjanue Ellis, Anabelle Acosta, Carra Patterson, Nile Bullock, and Caleb Eberhardt.
What was it about the script for The Subject that attracted you to the role of Phil Waterhouse?
Jason Biggs: Well, for starters, it’s different than most things I do, right? That’s sort of the glaringly obvious thing. I tend to do mostly comedy and the drama that I’ve done, certainly as an adult, was nothing like this. I knew when I read the script that it was going to require me to dig really deep. I felt finally—for the first time in my life—that I was maybe equipped to do that with the right director and the right script. Both of those things presented themselves here with Chisa’s script and Lanie Zipoy’s directing. It just required me to sort of access parts of myself that I never have had to access before. And for that reason, I was really scared to do it as well. I kind of knew—because I was scared—that maybe it was the reason I should do it and so I did. For me, if nothing else comes of this, I’m proud of what I was able to do in the movie and the places I was going in. It gave me a sort of renewed confidence in the types of roles that I feel like I could go after.
How honored were you to take home a number of awards for your acting in The Subject?
Jason Biggs: I’m obviously incredibly honored. Yeah, it’s so cool. That’s the sort of—you do this work and you do it in a vacuum really, right. You don’t know if anyone’s gonna see it, never mind like it or enjoy it. You just have no idea, right? You set out to do these things for your specific reasons. In this case, I felt like it would be a challenge. I was excited to work with Lanie. I thought the script asked a lot of important questions. That’s why you do it and then anything else is sort of icing on the cake. To get recognized in that way, ultimately, it just made me feel really good and validated like, oh, wow, I’ve worked really hard on this and I felt like I did good. And for someone else, even just one other person, to think, yeah, you did a great job, it just instills confidence more than anything else. I’m incredibly grateful that. first of all, that it’s even out living in the world at all but for it to have gotten such a great response to these different film festivals, it’s been really cool.
I watched the film on Sunday night but for a film written in 2010, it feels like The Subject could have been written during the past year.
Jason Biggs: It’s interesting. It’s funny how these things sort of work out. I know, for better or for worse, it’s almost scary that this was written in 2010 and yet right now is when it sort of speaks to the current climate now almost more than ever but it kind of indicates that things haven’t really changed in a substantive way and that’s obviously what’s really scary and that’s one of the questions that the film asks, I think, and why it’s so important. It’s just kind of amazing—we shot this before the Black Lives Matter movement had really started in earnest and now it’s coming out after. It just really is interesting that the timing of it all, for sure.
What do you typically look for in a character while you’re reading a screenplay?
Jason Biggs: The humanity, I guess. What can I relate to this character in some way? Or not even necessarily relate but is there a part of me that I can access and sort of understand perhaps. That doesn’t mean I agree with—it just means can I understand why this character might do what he does? I think that’s kind of important.
He’s ultimately not the most likable guy, I think. I mean, it certainly depends on what lens you view it through—pun not intended. It’s just really interesting. I was talking earlier—I love documentary films. This certainly raises a lot of moral questions about the role of the documentary filmmaker and in this particular case, given what his subject is, it raises the question: does this type of film—Phil’s documentary—while it’s shedding light on a certain world perhaps, and maybe in his mind helping, it ultimately maybe just perpetuates this sort of divide. Is he helping or hurting? That’s the big question now that I have when I watch any documentary.
Do you ever think about what you would have done if you were in Phil’s shoes in real life?
Jason Biggs: Yeah, I guess I’ve thought about the idea. I don’t know that I have the answer. It’s really one of those things where I think you just don’t know. I’d like to think I know, right? I would, of course, run full steam ahead. I would have dropped the camera immediately. That’s what I like to think I would do but that begs the question, would I have even put myself in that situation to begin with? Certainly now, knowing what I know and feeling the way I feel, which is that shooting that type of movie as a white filmmaker, does it only sort of perpetuate this sort of divide as opposed to helping bridge it? I might not even be picking up the camera in the first place. Right? I might want to tackle something else. Or maybe I just produce it and have—I mean, I don’t know. I don’t know that I ever even am in that situation to begin with.
On a much lighter note, next year will mark 10 years since the release of American Reunion. Have you heard any updates about the fifth film in the franchise?
Jason Biggs: It’s a conversation that comes up every so often (laughs) as you can imagine. Look, I’ll say this, I would love to play that character again. That, for me is the greatest gift—that film, that character, those relationships that I made with the rest of the cast. I would do it again in a heartbeat. There’s a lot of things that need to come together in order for it to happen but there’s ideas that have been kicked around, certainly. I honestly think that there’s great places that we could go to with these characters and with the franchise, in some ways, almost even more interesting places as more time elapses but we’ll see. If you hear anything, how about you let me know? Deal?
If I hear something! How’s the pandemic been treating you otherwise?
Jason Biggs: We’re here, we’re healthy, we’re safe. We’re trucking along.I’ve got two kids in school so that’s sort of my biggest concern is their well-being, emotionally and physically, obviously. It’s not easy. You just want to take care of them and try to keep them safe but you also want them to live as normal a life as possible. That’s sort of where our priorities have been. Otherwise, I can’t complain. I’ve managed to get a little bit of work during the pandemic, which I’m incredibly grateful for and again, like I said, we’re healthy so that’s sort of the most important thing. What about you? How’s your pandemic been?
Once you take out the studio films, it meant pivoting to streaming, my physical media collection, and in some instances, books.
Jason Biggs: Yep.
It’s just not the same watching all these films from home as it is watching it on the big screen where you don’t have your cell phone sitting a foot away.
Jason Biggs: Yep and where you get to be with other people and sort of have collective reactions. And yeah, it’s true. It’s crazy. Thank G-d TVs are really good these days. Right? Can you imagine this happened about 20 years ago when we were watching TV before High Definition?
I can’t even imagine it. We didn’t even have a smart TV at the time. You didn’t even have streaming!
Jason Biggs: No, none of it. We’d pop it in VHS’s on standard definition televisions that were 13 inches big. We would have been in trouble.