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Hypochondriac's Paget Brewster Explains Why She's An Actor And Not A Director - Exclusive

This article contains references to mental health struggles.

Directing may be a natural stepping stone for actors who want to get involved with the production side of Hollywood, but not every actor can see themselves getting behind the camera anytime soon. While acting and directing are related fields, they're not interchangeable. It takes a significant ability to visualize technical and artistic ends of a project when it comes to directing, and Paget Brewster would rather leave that job to the professionals. 

The "Criminal Minds" star took a leap of faith with her new LGBTQ+ horror/thriller film "Hypochondriac" after she read and loved the script. She couldn't begin to imagine what the final result would look like, but she knew she had to accept the role of Will's (Zach Villa) psychiatrist — and she couldn't be happier with the final result. 

During an exclusive interview with Looper, Paget Brewster discussed what makes "Hypochondriac" unique in its genre, how the film surprised and exceeded her expectations, and why she prefers acting over directing. 

She couldn't say no

On what drew her to the role and how she thinks "Hypochondriac" sets itself apart from other films in the genre, Brewster said, "I don't know if there are other films in the genre. Are there? Is there something you could compare it to?"

At the mention of the film's uniqueness, Brewster concurred. "That's why I loved it. I read it, and frankly, I didn't want to do it because it was right in the middle of the pandemic, and I was nervous about leaving the house because we didn't really know that much about COVID," she explained. "Bay Dariz, the producer, sent me the script that Addison Heimann had written. I thought, 'Oh no, it's an indie film and a first-time director. I hope this is terrible. I could say, 'No, it's not my thing.' I just want to lay on this couch.'" 

As much as Brewster wasn't keen on taking on a project during the early throes of COVID, she immediately vibed with the script. She said, "I read it, and I [said], 'God, this is brilliant. I have to do it.' I called back and [said], 'Yes, please let me play the doctor. I want to do it,' and it turned out even better than what I imagined."

Sticking to the acting lane

Brewster is fully willing to admit that directing isn't necessarily her forte, explaining, "This is why I'm not a director. I thought it was a great script, but I didn't know [how] it would turn out. It's an extraordinary film, and I'm really proud of it. To me, there is no other film in this genre. I've never seen anything like it. I've never seen a film follow a character so compellingly." Given that Heimann is both the writer and director, he got to helm the vision of his own authentic story.

"Part of the horror is his mental instability because he's suffering from childhood trauma that manifests itself by feeling pain. He doesn't know what it is, and is he hurting himself, or is he hurt? What is this wolf figure that's stalking him? Is it in his mind, or is it real in this descent into madness," Brewster mused. "Trying to figure out what's wrong with him by going to doctor after doctor and psychiatrist, I thought, was really beautifully done, and I've never seen anything written quite like that." Adding to the realism, the movie acknowledges the issue of doctors not taking mental health concerns seriously and offers the message to always ask for help. 

If you or someone you know needs help with mental health, please contact the Crisis Text Line by texting HOME to 741741, call the National Alliance on Mental Illness helpline at 1-800-950-NAMI (6264), or visit the National Institute of Mental Health website.

"Hypochondriac" is now playing in select theaters and will be available on demand and digital August 4.