The Adults: Michael Cera, Hannah Gross, and Sophia Lillis Discuss Film

Michael Cera, Hannah Gross, and Sophia Lillis sat down with Solzy at the Movies during the 2023 Tribeca Festival to discuss The Adults.

The Adults, which premiered at Berlin earlier this year, was written and directed by Dustin Guy Defa. The film follows Eric (Michael Cera) as he returns home for a brief visit. Going back him means reuniting with his sisters Maggie (Sophia Lillis) and Rachel (Hannah Gross). Eric’s façade of adulthood has been carefully constructed through the years. But lo and behold, childhood conflicts start coming to the forefront especially after Maggie attempts to recreate the intimacy that Eric and Rachel once knew.

I want to stress, again, that this interview with the cast of The Adults took place in June 2023 and prior to the start of the current SAG-AFTRA strike. I transcribed from audio as I conducted the interview in person during Tribeca. As such, I’m hoping that I matched the right voice to the right person.

Variance Films will release The Adults in theaters on August 18, 2023.

What was it about the script of The Adults that drew you to the role?

Sophia Lillis: I like the fact that it was shot in upstate New York. (Laughs)

Hannah Gross: That was number one for Sophia.

Sophia Lillis: That was number one on the list.

Michael Cera: I always love to know where’s it shooting. We’ll figure the rest out.

Sophia Lillis: Later, I guess. What else? No, I’m sorry.

Michael Cera: Anything else?

Sophia Lillis: I love Dustin. I love the director. I love Person to Person—that was really great. I sort of knew these people—not really, actually. I hadn’t met you before. You seemed nice. You seemed kind when we talked on the Zoom.

Hannah Gross: On the Zoom? Yeah, we did. It was a Zoom? No, I think the first time we met was in person.

Michael Cera: We emailed.

Hannah Gross: We emailed.

Michael Cera: But then we met in person.

Sophia Lillis: I guess some more—

Michael Cera: Just like, are you ready for this? Are you ready for what it’s gonna be like?

Hannah Gross: That’s why I wasn’t invited.

Sophia Lillis: No, I feel like someone else should start talking at some point.

Michael Cera: That’s fair.

Sophia Lillis: No, no, I think it’s—I really liked the script. I like Dustin and it seemed like a really, really nice thing to do. I got more excited, the more I worked with these people so saying nice things in front of you. (Laughs)

Michael Cera: Yeah. Well, as far as the script, I was aware of it as it was developing. Both Hannah and I have worked with Dustin before and are friends with him, previously. It was great. I mean, Dustin’s a very special writer. He writes really beautiful characters. I get excited as an actor about the things that you’ll get to do. This script kept getting richer and richer, particularly after the three of us got together one day and had some soup, and talked about it a lot. Dustin went off and really changed it fairly dramatically after that.

Hannah Gross: Yeah.

Michael Cera: We were sort of part of its development in a way, and it just kept getting better and more interesting.

How has The Adults filmmaker Dustin Guy Defa grown as a filmmaker since you first started working with him?

Michael Cera: I don’t know. I mean, maybe you can answer that?

Hannah Gross: Yeah. Yeah, I worked with him for the first time we did a short together 10 years ago, which is a long time.

Michael Cera: They’re so great—the short films that you’ve done together.

Hannah Gross: I really liked them. I love Dustin as a filmmaker and I love the shorts. Dustin is one of those filmmakers that really appreciates the medium of a short film, doesn’t just feel like a stepping stone to a feature. Has he changed? I think—I don’t know. I think his appreciation for actors, characters, and the specificity of the characters is something that’s always been a part of his scripts and his films. I think just, if anything, that’s just gotten deeper and more specific. I think that the thing that I appreciate the most about the script is that never, at any point, is there a physical attribute to any of these characters. All the characters are described through the dialogue and through their actions, which is very rare. I can’t remember if that was there before. I’m just going to ramble. Michael, take it away.

Michael Cera: Yeah, I think that’s very well said. It is very specific. He writes very specific, very well-drawn characters that feel very live. It brings you right into the world, the way he writes.

What do you all typically look for in a character when you’re reading a screenplay?

Michael Cera: I think I honestly kind of unconsciously—if it’s something I’m considering to do or being asked to consider, I kind of ask myself if I feel I can succeed, in a way, in doing it or have a handle on it. Or if the answer to that is no, I feel like I have enough faith in the person to take a chance without having faith or without fully knowing the approach or anything, which is what kind of happened this way on this a little bit. The way Dustin works with actors is it’s very alive. It’s really a discovery process and through rehearsing and playing off of each other. So, yeah. That— (Laughs) Hw do you conclude an answer?

I don’t know.

Sophia Lillis: Is there a gesture? A punctuation gesture? (Laughs)

Did you all do any sort of prep to get into character before going into production?

Hannah Gross: Yeah, I think the rehearsals really helped.

Sophia Lillis: Rehearsals really helped.

Hannah Gross: To find the characters. It’s feels so much better to find characters together than on your own. I also had to take singing lessons, which (Laughs) jury’s out. Results of those. (Laughs)

Michael Cera: But you paid the person?

Hannah Gross: I paid the person. Well, yeah. (Laughs) They were paid. (Laughs).

Sophia Lillis: I didn’t take singing lessons, actually. I really should have thought of that. (Laughs) I think, again, the rehearsals helped just getting to know each other and getting to work on these voices, which was so fun and something I haven’t done in forever, making up these characters, doing a valley girl impression and hearing everyone else do a Mitch impression and not having to do it was great. It was really fun playing this very musical family. It kind of made me want to start learning how to do it again.

Was there anything that you all brought to the characters that was not on the page?

Hannah Gross: Not really.

Michael Cera: We kind of developed it all together, as a team, as far as the choreography stuff we had to do. Yeah, the characters. I mean, the voices, we all had to sort of find these voices that we do in the movie and kind of figure out how not to have them sound similar and have them all be very distinct from each other. That was something we all worked on together—that had to be fleshed out with all of us working together. Yeah.

Sophia Lillis: I learned a lot about what my voice can actually do. (Laughs) What’s my limit? I didn’t know I could make that voice with my mouth. But there’s also something I think—this is not answering the question. I actually completely forgot the question. Should I ask, What was the question?

Was there anything that you all brought to the characters that was not on the page?

Sophia Lillis: Oh. I guess definitely a nervousness to doing the song and dance, mostly. I mean, that was the first time I really have worked on that—

Michael Cera: You really didn’t seem nervous to me, especially when you do your thing in the backyard.

Sophia Lillis: Yeah.

Michael Cera: It was kind of incredible.

Sophia Lillis: Yeah. (Laughs)

Michael Cera: It was all muddy.

Sophia Lillis: It was definitely an experience. You have to really sit there and watch multiple takes of it, too.

Michael Cera: Yeah, it was great.

How did the pandemic change up your typical process?

Michael Cera: It just makes everything—you have to be very careful. Especially a movie like this, I think it would have been it would have been very inconvenient and harmful to such a small production, if somebody got Covid or if we had to to shut down. It’s kind of like you’re very aware of it, being very careful but that’s it. Just the normal ways.

Hannah Gross: And appreciating it more, probably, we were able to do it.

Michael Cera: It was the first time I had worked after Covid.

Hannah Gross: Same.

How long was the principal photography for The Adults?

Michael Cera: It was about a month or something like that.

Hannah Gross: Five weeks?

(At this point, the publicist held up the waived her hand to signal five minutes left but there was some confusion in that I thought it was the wrap sign.)

Thank you.

Hannah Gross: Thank you.

Sophia Lillis: Thank you.

Michael Cera: Thank you.


Michael Cera: I meant the thank you though. Sometimes it’s nice to say thank you in the middle. (Laughs).

Hannah Gross: Yeah. We should start practicing that.

What do you hope people take away from watching The Adults?

Sophia Lillis: I hope they think about their family. Right. That’s something.

Hannah Gross: I have definitely had that feeling of thinking back, thinking about my brother and thinking about everything when watching it. I wasn’t actually expecting to. Usually, when I watch a movie, it’s like, oh, there’s me. There’s other people and that’s what we did and that was the experience and then it was done and you watch it. I always felt like I had this sort of that feeling that’s probably different from other people who have an experience like the viewers. I really did watch it. It’s like watching it for the first time. I really hope other people kind of take away something from that, like have them be reminded of their families.

Michael Cera: I would agree.

Variance Films will release The Adults in theaters on August 18, 2023.

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Danielle Solzman

Danielle Solzman is native of Louisville, KY, and holds a BA in Public Relations from Northern Kentucky University and a MA in Media Communications from Webster University. She roots for her beloved Kentucky Wildcats, St. Louis Cardinals, Indianapolis Colts, and Boston Celtics. Living less than a mile away from Wrigley Field in Chicago, she is an active reader (sports/entertainment/history/biographies/select fiction) and involved with the Chicago improv scene. She also sees many movies and reviews them. She has previously written for Redbird Rants, Wildcat Blue Nation, and Hidden Remote/Flicksided. From April 2016 through May 2017, her film reviews can be found on Creators.

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