Jason Ritter spoke with Solzy at the Movies about the upcoming 8th Annual Freeze HD to support the fight against Huntington’s Disease.
After two years of virtual programming, the popular event is returning to an in-person fundraising gala to support the Huntington’s Disease Society of America (HDSA). This year’s event will take place on October 22 at the Avalon in Hollywood and will be honoring Jason Ritter and the entire Ritter family for their support in the fight against HD.
Ritter is among the many members of the host committee, which also includes Melanie Lynskey, Noel Fisher, Scott Porter, Humphrey Ker, Kate Miner, Marianna Palka, Briana Lane, Kelly Thiebaud, Meredith Patterson, Dustin Brayley, and more.
It’s nice to talk to you again.
Jason Ritter: You, too. Nice to talk to you again, too. How’s everything going?
It’s going well. I’m in that final weekend before Toronto, trying to make sure I’ve got everything ready before laundry and packing.
Jason Ritter: Oh, gosh. Yeah, I know that feeling. That’s so exciting that you’re going. I mean, I know you go every year but I don’t remember the last time I’ve been to a film festival, definitely since before the pandemic.
If you don’t count the two screenings in Chicago during the Chicago International Film Festival in October, this is my first time since Sundance 2020.
Jason Ritter: That’s amazing. That’s so exciting.
If it weren’t for how the Jewish holidays fell on top of that recent Delta surge at the time, I would have gone last year.
Jason Ritter: Oh, that’s right. I remember things were starting to look better and then a downward turn. Oh, man. Well, thank you so much for doing this. I really appreciate helping getting the word out.
No problem. The Freeze HD event is returning in person for the first time in a few years. What does it mean to be able to gather again in person after two years of virtual programming?
Jason Ritter: It’s exciting. Our last in-person one was, I think, the best year we’ve had and it was just an incredible night. Scott and Kelsey Porter just did this incredible night of entertainment and it was just so much fun. There was an energy in the room, just a really great feeling that we had assembled this group of people who were going to help us in the fight to rid the world of this disease. We had great times virtually as well. It’s a different feeling when things are on Zoom. We still got the job done. We still raised a lot of money but I’m excited to have that feeling of we’re all in this together. That’s been the messaging of Freeze HD for the last couple of years. Huntington’s Disease affects families who have the gene in their in their family somewhere and it gets passed down. The whole idea is expanding the family to those of us who aren’t directly affected and so the night always feels lovely when we’re all in the same room, like a big family. I’m excited for it to be in person with music and it’ll just be great to see people’s faces.
I imagine not just the top half of their faces.
Jason Ritter: Or at least the top half faces. Exactly.
How did you first become involved with Freeze HD?
Jason Ritter: It basically started out of this feeling of hopelessness and frustration. We had no idea that it would ever become an annual thing. We had just finished filming the short documentary, The Lion’s Mouth Opens, which is all about Marianna Palka going through the process of testing and finding out whether or not she had the gene. We all felt kind of punched in the stomach by that and it just came out of a sense of wanting to do something. My sister-in-law, my brother Tyler’s incredible partner, Lelia, really spearheaded this. Basically, my sister, Carly, and my mom and my brother, Tyler, and Lelia just called in every favor we possibly could to just fight back for one night and raise as much money as we could and that was it. It felt like something to do in the face of this sort of impossible foe.
It was such a wonderful night and it was picked up a couple of years later, I think, for the second one and then it all of a sudden became an annual thing. It’s grown and the family has grown. It felt like such a small community when we all first got started. Like anything, the more you talk about things and the more you bring things out into the open and especially painful things like this, you start to realize that people in your community also know about it and have dealt with it and want to join the fight.
Scott was at that very first Freeze HD. I had known him for a while and I had no idea, I think, until that night that it was in his wife’s family as well. It’s been an incredible experience. We’ve all joined forces and everyone in this group that’s putting this on is dedicated to ending this and funding the research. Not only funding the research that goes to finding a cure, but also giving families with Huntington’s the funds to get the help they need. It’s exciting because we’ve made huge, huge advancements over the years. Even in the last 20 years, it’s been incredible in terms of even finding the gene, being able to stop the next generation from inheriting the gene with IVF and genetic testing and things like that. Now, we’re just in this fight to find the cure for people who are facing the illness down as we speak.
It’s amazing what science can do these days.
Jason Ritter: It really is. In the Huntington’s community, these trials are all very exciting and there’ll be something that goes wrong but even the trials where we learn something doesn’t work, it’s still a step forward to finding that cure. I feel like we’re right at the door and every year, there’s a part of me that feels like, when I’m trying to raise money for the auction or I’m talking to people at the event about donating a little bit more, it really feels like every dollar that people put into it means that they’re a part of potentially ending the disease this year and that’s exciting. I also am an optimist but also, I kind of have to be. That’s the thing with everybody here—we all just want this cure so badly and the fact that we’re right there is very hopeful but we’re just not quite there yet but it’s still an exciting time.
How does it feel to be honored along with your family?
Jason Ritter: It’s really nice. Our arms kind of had to be twisted to be a part of it because it really feels like we’re so focused on the research and all of that stuff, but it is incredibly nice. I’m super honored to be part of this community. I’m a little bit shy about the whole thing but I also am very appreciative. It’s very kind of them to do this. I just see how hard so many of the people work on putting this event up that I feel like it really should be everyone’s but it’s so nice, I will say.
How do you balance your involvement with your work commitments and family life?
Jason Ritter: That’s one of the beautiful things is, as it’s grown—early on, about six months before the event, we start to have a monthly call, where we’re setting up the dominoes and trying to figure it out and delegating to other people and to each other what we can do what we can’t do. This year, we have two new incredible event coordinators, Amy and Barbara, and they’re incredible. We just try to balance it all out. If I miss the monthly meeting, usually I can get on a call with them at some point in that week and catch up. Everyone is really lovely. We’re all in the same boat, we all have the same goal. If someone can’t be there, or if someone can come for only a little bit of it, there’re no hard feelings or frustration. Everyone knows that everyone’s dedicated but yeah, it’s definitely a balance.
I’ve also had to get over my huge and awful fear of ever asking anybody for any—the auction items, I just feel like—it’s funny because when I think about if someone were to ask me for a favor like this, especially for a charity, I would do it in a heartbeat and then for some reason, I’m just so scared to call up even some of my best friends and say, Hey, can you help me with this thing? It means a lot to me. As if anyone will say no, and I can’t believe you asked me, our friendship is over. It’s definitely out of my comfort zone so on some of these days, I just gotta take a couple deep breaths and write a text and get ready to accept whatever comes and usually it’s much nicer than my nightmare version. (Laughs) In fact, I’ve never gotten my nightmare response. I should remember that next time.
Jason Ritter: Yeah.
The last time we saw each other was in March at the Critics Choice Awards and prior to the premiere of Candy on Hulu. What was it like to be able to act in the same series as Melanie?
Jason Ritter: It was so fun. It was really exciting. Unfortunately, I couldn’t do any scenes with Melanie because she had been murdered by the time my character shows up. There were a couple of days on set where she was finishing and I was starting or the opposite and it was nice to waive or go grab a little coffee on set before we before we went our separate ways again. I just also thought that that was such a beautifully done project. Jessica and Justin were so lovely and nice to work with. I just had a great time. It was definitely a surprise. I was just in Atlanta with Melanie and our daughter and our babysitter just hanging out. They threw me in there. It was like getting called off the bench in a baseball game. I was like, Oh, really? Okay, great. Just gotta try to steal that base. Alright, perfect.
I remember watching the screeners and all of a sudden, I see you and Justin Timberlake pop up and I’m like, well, that’s a cool way to get them both involved.
Jason Ritter: (Laughs) It was a total last minute decision as far as I understand. I had been there for a couple weeks before—actually, I think what happened was Melanie—I had shaved a mustache just because I was I was bored and I often shave my beard in stages for funsies and she sent a picture around. Everyone was like, Oh, he looks like he’d fit right in in our 80s thing. Justin was already doing his part and I guess somehow my mustache inspired them but then I had to lose it by the time. There were too many mustaches all around. Mine got cut.
Thank you again and have a good weekend.
Jason Ritter: Yes, absolutely. Again, again I really appreciate you doing this and I am sorry I just blab, blab, blab, talk, talk, talk. I’ve got a lot of feelings about the whole thing so I appreciate your patience.