Honey Boy Director: Star Byron Bowers On The Character-Driven Film

Honey Boy is a film that has gone on to gain critical acclaim over the course of its run on at film festivals. The film is seen as sort of a retelling of actor Shia LaBeouf’s life, but he, of course, isn’t the only one in the film. The movie is filled with talented actors who bring their own experiences.

LRM Online had a chance to speak with Byron Bowers, and in our discussions, he talked about some of his own personal experiences that he brought to his part of the Honey Boy.

Honey Boy hits theaters tomorrow!

Below is the official synopsis for Honey Boy:

“From a screenplay by Shia LaBeouf, based on his own experiences, award-winning filmmaker Alma Har’el (Bombay Beach, LoveTrue) brings to life a young actor’s stormy childhood and early adult years as he struggles to reconcile with his father and deal with his mental health. Fictionalizing his ascent to stardom, and subsequent crash-landing into rehab and recovery, Har’el casts Noah Jupe (A Quiet Place) and Lucas Hedges (Boy Erased, Manchester by the Sea) as Otis Lort, navigating different stages in a frenetic career. LaBeouf takes on the therapeutic challenge of playing a version of his own father, an ex-rodeo clown and a felon. Dancer-singer FKA twigs makes her feature-film debut, playing neighbor and kindred spirit to the younger Otis in their garden-court motel home. Har’el’s feature narrative debut is a one-of-a-kind collaboration between filmmaker and subject, exploring art as medicine and imagination as hope through the life and times of a talented, traumatized performer who dares to go in search of himself.”

LRM Online: Okay. So let’s discuss your participation in Honey Boy for starters. How did you get involved?

Bowers: I was late in this process. I think they had picked almost everybody already, especially for my part. Offer was about to go out or they were doing chemistry reads or whatever. And I read the script late and I was like, this story has to be told. I know I was going against some major actors but I took a chance anyway and I landed it. I known Lucas for a while because he came to some of my standup shows and I understood that he got my sense of humor and my storytelling and I knew that I was there to help him tell a story. And that’s basically what I did.

LRM Online: Yeah, actually your character and brought a little bit of like a little comical, you know, part of your touch. I mean the hugs that was kind of-

Bowers: Oh yeah. Thank you, thank you, thank you. That wasn’t even planned, that just happened like-

LRM Online: Improvised by you?

Bowers: Improvised, yeah. Shia and Alma gave me the freedom to write my own scenes because the character was originally a musician with a different name and more religious. And I brought more of my life into it because as I was preparing for this, to play this character, I had to go through a therapeutic session myself and I just got into his mindset as he got into my mindset and the scenes became even more authentic that way.

LRM Online: Okay. So, okay. That’s actually interesting how it had a reflection.

Bowers: Yes, yes. Yeah. Because I was going through survivor’s remorse anyway, being in LA away from my family and I’m a son of an addict, my cousin’s the son of an addict and he ended up in prison and I ended up in Hollywood. And it’s a guilt with that as you know, you come from a certain place and you have to go back and your lifestyle is different and your thought process is different and it just leads to a guilt and it’s privilege to be in a rehab versus prison. And I would get pictures from what prison life was like and I’m still complaining about what it’s like to be in LA at the same time. Which LA is therapeutic to some because you go through a lot, you’re isolated from family and stuff and you know you have the desert and you have to find your way, you know. Because to me, yeah it kind of is the city of lost angels. Well we all angels. So it’s a journey in itself. So that’s how I was able to merge it and pretend or be in rehab, because LA is my version of rehab.

LRM Online: Okay. Yeah.

Bowers: If that makes sense, yeah.

LRM Online: It does. It does. LA definitely brings up a lot of challenges.

Bowers: Yeah. It comes with its set of challenges and if you could survive, because this is different than an East Coast challenge. Because the weather is warm here and you’re more alone even though you’re around people. You know this social media, before social media. So you have to learn how to navigate that and find your core group and find yourself and even be comfortable with being alone out here and that finding of self, or that finding of that that friend, is what my character did with Otis when he entered rehab.

LRM Online: You know, it’s really like… Thank you for sharing that. I mean in this case, whoever you know gets to read this column. I mean they’re going to have… Many of us can relate.

Bowers: Yeah.

LRM Online: I mean and the fact that you’re opening up, it’s definitely appreciated. And what do you hope that people can get from knowing a little bit of background of yours and how you were able to apply it in the film?

Bowers: Well all of us I think has a story, right? I think society gears us to be in this one thing, but we all have individual things within us that make us unique, whether it’s trauma, whether it’s talent and all these other things. So I think we should celebrate our uniqueness. And even if we’re from troubled backgrounds and stuff, we could celebrate that we’re still here and we’re still free and we take certain things for granted, you know? So I think everybody will get something from this, whether they went through this or not.

Insight always into somebody else struggles or upbringing allows you to have empathy. And I don’t care who it is, they could be like the most racist person on earth, but if they tell you their story, there’s parts of you that relate to them and you’re going to see the humanity in them at that moment. And to me that’s a beautiful thing. You know, that’s true peace right there and true connection. And it took me a while to even learn that and accept that within ourselves. Because we don’t have peace. A lot of us don’t have peace within ourselves. So I would want people to even think about that and get that from a film like this, you know?

LRM Online: Yeah. Wow, that’s deep.

Bowers: Thank you. I apologize.

LRM Online: No, no, it’s good. It’s good. People don’t tend to, you know, really say how they feel in this case. But on a more happier note, is there a scene you can share that you really enjoyed in the film?

Bowers: At one point I felt like I was getting paid to sleep. Like I wasn’t even sleeping right, and they was like, “Could you do it again?” And I almost got offended by that. They was like, “Yeah, we can you snore louder?” And all the times I’ve been caught snoring on-camera flashback to me like that real ugly, embarrassing snore that I had to do. So I had to get in that mindset of being tired and over it. And so that scene I will remember and it was interesting like welcome to acting, you know? And it was cool. It was cool. And I had to take knitting for two weeks.

LRM Online: Yeah-

Bowers: I had to-

LRM Online: You did learn? Did you make a scarf?

Bowers: Learn how to knit. I didn’t finish it, but it’s still there. It’s just this long thing, this long olive green thing with the needles attached. So.

LRM Online: I think that’s an awesome souvenir though.

Bowers: For the film. Yeah, it is. It’s on my shelf now. So, it is.

LRM Online: So you’re like maybe the excuse for not finishing is because I want to leave it intact.

Bowers: Yeah, I think it will finish one day in a very therapeutic way. But it’s a weird skill to learn. Because the other film I did, I had to learn horseback riding. And some people learn technical gun shooting, tactical skills, and I had to learn something that I know my grandmother did years ago. So that was a weird thing. But it allows me to talk to certain people of a certain age now. It’s like, “Oh, you want me to come over and knit? I can do that.”

LRM Online: I can do that.

Bowers: So yeah, that was fun, that was fun.

LRM Online: So in this case for your character, obviously you didn’t know what Otis was really struggling with, but in this case, had you known, what would Percy had said as a piece of advice with his struggles?

Bowers: If I would’ve known before Otis got there?

LRM Online: Mm-hmm.

Bowers: Or when he arrived?

LRM Online: When he was there while there.

Bowers: I think I kind of knew, that’s what made us friends. Like I equate it to going to high school or school for the first time. You don’t want to be there. You left your old school, you don’t like it. It’s a whole different life. You walk in the cafeteria and you slip and then you look up and it’s that one person that see you and like “I slipped in that same spot too my first day.” And it just alleviates all the anxiety and fear. So I think that my character, Percy saw that in Otis. He saw himself in Otis. That’s what made him befriend him. The only sad part to Percy was that he was never allowed to finish rehab, but Otis might have a chance to finish. So it’s like take it serious. Like what are you complaining about? You get this second chance. Like, I’ve been here four times. Like this is almost my home. So I think that he knows because he’s been there, you know?

LRM Online: So let’s talk a little bit about you so I’m not mistaken. You’re an actor.

Bowers: More comedian by trade, stand up comedian for like 16 years and then transitioning into like, you know, acting and everything else.

LRM Online: Well, let’s start from the beginning. As a comedian, how did that start? Where did you start?

Bowers: I started in Atlanta for three years and I moved to LA. And I think it starts, like everything with me, somebody telling me that you could do this, you probably should try this thing. And that’s how acting is. You know, like after this, people are like, “Oh man, you should do this thing.” Or after I did the shot, they like, “Man, you kind of good, you should continue to do this thing.” And I’m like, well, okay. You know, and I started comedy that way, you know, and comedy was a tough road because, I mean I’m getting booed for like years or like six months and stuff like that. And I quit. I came back, you know, so it was that road of like following your instincts. Because my instinct was like this will take you to the promise land and I didn’t even know what that was, but I just stayed with it and it like changed my life.

And I try to do that with other people I know who I think are more skillful than me or something, who are not doing what they want to do, whose heart is telling them to do something else, you know? I believe everybody has some type of skill or talent that they can use to like, you know… It’s just the sacrifices that have to be made. So, yeah, that was my start and I got better over time and I found myself through this journey of just going to different places and like performing for different… Comedy is segregated, but I went everywhere, you know. I’ve done the black rooms, I’ve done the mainstream rooms, the Latin rooms, the Mediterranean rooms. Done comedy in Mexico-

LRM Online: Really?

Bowers: Lebanon, Israel, Bahrain, Japan, London, Canada-

LRM Online: That’s awesome.

Bowers: Yeah. Taking it to these places and you find yourself and it’s like, oh, it’s not even about jokes at this point. Like the stuff I’m doing now is like more truthful and it’s in the tone of this film. So it really affects people more.

LRM Online: Who can relate.

Bowers: They can relate, which I didn’t think… They thought I was funny, but I don’t think they can relate. And you know, I’m out dealing with other troubles that I have and they like, “Normal people don’t act this way or normal people don’t think this way.” And I’m like, man, I can’t think that way. I can’t be relatable. So I’m just going to talk about this stuff that I know or that I went through. And then people started hitting me. I did Colbert and these other shows and people was riding me like, “My parent’s mentally heal also,” or “I went through that and this,” and I’m like, oh I’m on to something. As well as me doing dramas because I wasn’t booking any comedies. So I feel like now, it’s time to really give them even more of that stuff no matter how. I learned that comedy is a natural response, but also you can trigger people with other emotions just by telling them a story, just like this film did. And I want to continue to tell those stories and take people on those journeys.

LRM Online: Well it sounds like that genuine touch is really helping for you in your success.

Bowers: For me, but it’s not about me no more. That’s the thing. It’s not about me. So it’s about the people that I want to talk to who are out there and like maybe going through this stuff. So now the things are happening because you’re becoming a service in some weird way.

LRM Online: Okay. But you’re setting a good example in this case.

Bowers: So far. So far, hopefully… I’ll be as honest as I can, even when I get my slaps on the wrist, what I can say and what I can’t say. Then it’s like, you know, okay, y’all know what that’s like out there to get the slap on the wrist. But don’t let them stop you from doing your thing. Yeah.

LRM Online: Does it have another minute? Okay, so to finalize, what was it like to… Did you get a chance to work directly with Shia at all?

Bowers: I didn’t get a chance to work directly with him or across from him, but I got a chance to watch him work. But I worked directly across from Lucas Hedges most of the time, who’s a great actor and very talented, and it allowed for our chemistry just to work well together. And he brought some fun to it, you know, which was cool.

Honey Boy hits theaters tomorrow!

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Nancy Tapia

Nancy Tapia has been an interviewer for LRM and Latino-Review Media since 2011. Currently a member of the Hollywood Critics Association. Former UCLA Bruin specializes in Management. Covering entertainment has been an unexpected lively journey. Always open to the next, new experience. From solo traveling to adding a new peak to her personal 100 Hike Challenge. Follow her on Instagram and Twitter @inancytapia

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