James - "The Distances Between" Character Study
“I was drawn to the character of James for his inability to accept change” - Tim Pollack
Writing a couple is difficult but a believable couple is even more so. I tapped into everything I thought I knew about relationships, dug deep into all those memories, and when I was done I threw it out the window because “hey, I’m single so what do I know about functioning relationships?” But a couple on the rocks on the other hand presented a different challenge: how do I make them relatable?
For James, it would’ve been easy to write the asshole boyfriend character; too easy to fall into the trap of laying all the blame at his door. Sure, he is flawed but to totally paint him as the relationship’s villain just felt wrong because, to me, he was much more complex than just a stereotype and I was determined to write him so.
The casting the role of James was almost as difficult as writing it because many different actors brought different aspects of the character to life. When Tim came in to audition for the role I was immediately intrigued by his interpretation: a softly spoken yet firmly reserved performance that easily shifted from visibly restrained frustration to a silent (yet crushing) mix of guilt and regret in a heartbeat it just made James feel real. Tim slipped into the role like it was a second skin, he even almost made the character sympathetic as he struggles to process not only his girlfriend's simmering frustrations but also the sudden weight of their uncertain future on his shoulders.
When I asked Tim why he had been interested in the role, and his thoughts about his character, he told me: "James is an archetypal 'Everyman'. He is so afraid of being alone or having any type of change in his life, that he is willing to drag someone else down with him, just so he feels in control. He is a character that I feel everyone can relate to whether they want to admit it or not."
Take James’s initial obliviousness for example; it can be interpreted by the audience as either simple naivety, arrogance or deliberate ignorance but honestly, for me, it was something more. I wanted the long distance to chip away at his pragmatic, “let’s make the most of it because we have no other choice” attitude and gradually transform his acceptance into something worst – complacency. None of the clichéd infidelity or abusive troupes that usually define the boyfriend character but rather the sin of just assuming everything between them is “fine”. But it’s more than just the typical male “if it ain’t broke” mentality; he lost his will to fight for them and, in turn, grew blind to the growing cracks in their relationship.
So maybe James is not the cliché ass hole boyfriend at all. Perhaps he is just a person who’s unknowingly given up; allowed himself to be dragged down beneath the surface and swept away from their relationship by long distance. Maybe he is more than the boyfriend character - maybe, just maybe, he is human too.