Did you have a chance to talk with Nathaniel?:
I got a chance to go down to [Skid Row] and watch Nathaniel Anthony Ayers from a distance without meeting him, because a lot of times, when people meet us they’ll be on their best behavior. I just wanted to see him in his element, how he ordered his food, how he talked to people, and within five minutes you would have seen four different sides of this guy; he was happy, he was angry, he was jubilant. He was all these different things.
Did you ever meet him?:
I got to meet him and I filmed him on my phone while he was talking, just to capture some of those little nuggets. It was a little scary to play someone schizophrenic. We’re all artists and we all go different places in our minds, and if I were to lose my mind I would lose everything. So, there was a little bit of fear going into this project.
Were you passionate about shooting the movie downtown on Skid Row?:
At first I was like, ‘I don’t know if I want to be this close to these people.’ Then, to see those people and to feel some of their stories, it made you become more passionate about it. It made you look at it completely differently. We’re in Hollywood, behind our gates, doing whatever we’re doing, and you never think you’d have those type of feelings or revelations any more. But it was really a revelation and it was great being down there shooting.
Did you and Nathaniel ever play music together?:
I played the piano and Nathaniel played the cello. I talked to him like I was his friend, and I would just listen to grab everything I could as far as his mannerisms.
What does music mean to Nathaniel?:
I believe that music is what calms Nathaniel. That’s what soothes him because music takes you completely somewhere else. He felt as if everything was cool. I had to play the guy who went to Juilliard, who happened to play very well, who happened to have schizophrenia, who happened to end up in LA homeless, and who happened to run into a beautiful friend, Steve Lopez.