When Pico Alexander was asked to audition for a role opposite Reese Witherspoon in Home Again — Hallie Meyers-Shyer’s debut film — he didn’t take it too seriously. The 26-year-old actor was spending time in Poland visiting family and taking care of his grandfather after reprioritizing and deciding that acting wasn’t the most important thing in his life. He also wasn't confident that he’d be able to win the part, thinking he looked too young to play Harry, one of three twentysomething guys trying to make it in Hollywood who end up living in Alice Kinney's (Witherspoon) guesthouse.
In Alexander's eyes, it was a long shot. But he sent in a tape that a friend helped him record, then left for a road trip through Spain. Not long after, he received a call saying Meyers-Shyer wanted to run through the scene with him on Skype.
“It just so happened that when we Skyped, I was on some sort of abandoned road by the Mediterranean Sea on a cliff next to a castle,” Alexander told BuzzFeed News. “It was all very cinematic. Hallie was like, ‘Who the hell is this guy?’”
After a chemistry read with Witherspoon over Skype while he was in a café that had an awful internet connection, an in-person meeting with Witherspoon in Los Angeles, and a couple of rehearsals with Meyers-Shyer and her mother — Home Again producer and famed rom-com director Nancy Meyers (The Parent Trap, Something’s Gotta Give, and The Holiday) — Alexander won the part.
“Sometimes I feel like if I were in New York or LA just auditioning, there’s no way that I would’ve gotten the part,” Alexander said. “But I was in such a positive headspace because I was taking care of family and broadening my horizons.”
Alexander grew up in the film industry. He'd visit movie sets with his father, who was a cinematographer, and it wasn't long before he decided he wanted to join the entertainment industry himself.
“I grew up in a house where there was always a camera lying around,” he said. “My dad reinforced the notion that film is a story told through picture.”
Family legacy is a theme that comes up in Home Again. Alice's late father, John Kinney, was an Oscar-winning filmmaker, and her mom, Lillian Stewart (Candice Bergen) appeared in his movies before the two divorced. And of course, there's the obvious connection to the mother-daughter writer-director duo of Meyers and Meyers-Shyer. “Hallie’s learning from her mother how to be a writer-director,” Alexander said. “She has such an in-depth knowledge of film because she’s just been studying it her entire life.”
Alexander, of course, has been doing the same. After his early years on set, he went on to study acting at LaGuardia High School in New York City and then Mason Gross School of the Arts at Rutgers University. After college, his first real gig was in a production of Much Ado About Nothing in Washington, DC. “The intensity that I used to go through those auditions with totally matches the intensity of which I go through auditions now, even though I’m contending in a totally different league,” Alexander said. “At the time, I thought that it was meant to be and was exactly what I needed in my career.”
That league he's referring to has not only put him in the company of Oscar-winner Witherspoon, but also Brad Pitt (in the 2017 Netflix movie War Machine), Oscar Isaac, and Jessica Chastain (both in the 2014 critically acclaimed film A Most Violent Year).
But Home Again is Alexander's first romantic lead role, and the fact that it's opposite a veteran isn't lost on him. “She’s such a savvy actor and she’s got such a handle on the craft,” Alexander said of Witherspoon. “Working opposite Reese was just such an honor.”
When Alice meets Harry and his friends, aspiring filmmakers Teddy (Nat Wolff) and George (Jon Rudnitsky), she’s out with a couple of her friends celebrating her 40th birthday. After Harry and Alice hit it off, they all party the night away, and Harry, Teddy, and George end up sleeping off the night at Alice’s house. When they wake up the next morning, George discovers Alice is the daughter of John Kinney, an idol of theirs. And when Lillian stops by her daughter's house, she winds up convincing Alice to let Harry, Teddy, and George live in her guesthouse until they figure out their next move. That’s when Alice and Harry agree to just be friends, for the sake of their new unconventional living arrangement.
But, unsurprisingly, they eventually take things beyond friendship. “I think it’s high time that we started to redefine these social norms,” Alexander said. “There’s a different exchange of values in a relationship like that. A 27-year-old guy has different things to give than the 40-year-old guy, and the 40-year-old woman has different things to give than the 27-year-old girl.”
One night, Harry joins Alice in her kitchen after everyone else is asleep and offers to help empty the dishwasher and fix a broken cabinet. Soon, their flirtation leads to dimmed lights and kisses snuck in between whispers.
“The whole thing was sexy as hell,” Alexander said about filming the scene. “It was one of the sexiest scenes of my life, that’s for sure.”
The movie was shot over the course of a few weeks, but a scene like that took some time to work up to. “They did a really good job timing out the intimate scenes between Reese and I throughout the course of the shoot so that we got to actually get a little bit more comfortable with one another,” Alexander explained. “You want to feel safe and comfortable enough with the person so that you can express yourself. Everybody has their specific way in which they relate to one another physically.”
After spending time in LA filming Home Again and living with Wolff and Rudnitsky, Alexander is back in New York preparing to return to theater. Looking back on what led to him playing Harry in Home Again, he's learned that some things are just meant to be.
“The moment that you let go, things just seem to fall into your lap,” Alexander said. “Such is life.”
Krystie Yandoli is an entertainment editor for BuzzFeed News and is based in New York.
Contact Krystie Lee Yandoli at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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