Hero Fiennes Tiffin will tell you straight away that he was “reluctant” to do another romance movie in the midst of wrapping up the final After movie. However, the 24-year-old actor decided to give First Love a chance, and he’s glad he did. Hero spoke EXCLUSIVELY with HollywoodLife and said it felt “freeing and liberating” to play a character who was “worlds apart” from Hardin Scott.
Hero plays Jim in First Lovea high school senior who experiences the highs and lows of his first love Ann, played by Sydney Park. As Jim and Ann fall in love and embrace many changes after high school, Jim’s parents deal with the fallout of the financial crisis of 2008. First Love is a poignant and intimate film about how love endures despite struggles. Read our Q&A below:
First Love was such a gorgeous, intimate film. What first intrigued you about the movie?
Hero Fiennes Tiffin: Thank you so much. First of all, I was definitely reluctant to do another romance movie, when I hadn’t even finished all of the After franchises And then another one in the middle just felt a little bit like, I don’t know, maybe I should diversify my portfolio and learn a bit about myself by doing other genres. But I always feel like it’s important to give every project the time of day and a proper read. I read it and thought this is such a beautiful script and such a lovely character who I’d love to play, can we just somehow find a way to come back to it or something. That wasn’t possible. Agents said, “Just get on the call with the director and see how you feel.” And I was quite ready to have a polite conversation and say, “I’m not ready to do another romance right now.” within one minute, AJ [Edwards]’s intelligence and his confidence in me and my ability and having watched Afters and his confidence in my ability to play Jim and bring Jim to life is what sold me on it. I just felt like it was the other side of the romance coin. I feel like it’s so different tonally from After even though it’s the same genre. It almost diversifies my portfolio even more by doing another romance, but in such a different light.
Jim and Hardin are very different characters in very different circumstances. What did you enjoy exploring with a character like Jim that you don’t get to with Hardin?
Hero Fiennes Tiffin: It’s funny. When I was playing Hardin, I was like, I’d love for him to be a bit more composed at times. When I’m playing Jim, I just want to throw a lamp at a wall like Hardin would, but the pros and cons are nice. They’re so different. It’s such different ends of the social spectrum. And just as people, they’re so different. I feel like it was freeing and liberating to play such a different character in a similar genre because, as you say, they really are worlds apart as people. So it’s really nice as an actor to be able to jump between such different characters.
What was your approach to getting into the character of Jim? He’s so subtle but says so much with his eyes.
Hero Fiennes Tiffin: I think it’s good writing to allow putting an actor or a character in a position where the world informs the audience how we feel. So I don’t have to turn to the camera and say “I’m sad.” Putting everything into words feels like sometimes not the smartest way to do it. I think the writing that AJ put in front of us allowed Jim to say so much without actually opening his mouth. But in terms of preparation, I think listening and learning is so much of Jim’s nature. I felt like I was kind of doing the same thing, working with the likes of Diane Kruger, Jeffrey Donovan, and Sydney Park. I took a similar approach to Jim and the approach I did with the acting was just really take a backseat, listen, learn, and realize there’s so much more that you don’t know than you do know. I think Jim has such a great approach to life. He’s wise well beyond his years. I think that shows from his upbringing. He had a relatively smooth sailing upbringing. It is completely different to Hardin in After. I think that shows that a massive, massive reason as to why we are who we are as human beings is created in those formative years when you’re growing up as a kid.
Speaking of Sydney, you both have incredible chemistry with each other. What was your first impression of Sydney?
Hero Fiennes Tiffin: I think we might have even met for the first time when we were shooting or during a rehearsal. All I know is we did not have much time at all to get to know each other before we started filming, but we just got so lucky we got on so well. Sydney is just such a fun, confident person who’s always singing or making jokes. She doesn’t take life too seriously, and then we call action on a really intense scene and she’s just straight into it. I think working with someone who was so positive and fun and happy to be around, but then delivered beyond belief every time the cameras were on, was just so ideal. I feel like she did a lot of the work for me in a way.
What did you love about Jim and Ann’s relationship after working on After for so long?
Hero Fiennes Tiffin: There are such different people, and I love how he tries to be a little bit more like her at the start of the relationship. I think it’s kind of out of character in terms of how he initially tries to start off with her. I think, hopefully, you can see that he’s out of his comfort zone trying to not be someone else but kind of play into her world a little bit by doing that. There’s a scene where her friends are kind of doubting Jim, and you can see that she really is starting to feel that maybe she shouldn’t be drawn to what her friends think she should be drawn to. They really grow into each other in such a kind of natural, gentle way.
There’s a moment in the film when Jim’s mom breaks down in front of him and tells him about his dad’s struggle with finding a job. The scene is so devastating in his vulnerability. Talk to me about approaching that scene with Diane.
Hero Fiennes Tiffin: I forgot I was acting a lot of the time. I’m watching Diane, and my jaw starts to drop. I feel like she’s so compelling. I could speak for ages about it. It really felt like on this project, a lot of people were doing the work for me because they’re just such good performances. Working across people like that just does wonders for your own kind of ability or how you feel that you can work. Interestingly enough, thank you for your kind words about that scene, but I feel like it’s more for Diane. We had a dog barking, planes going overhead, and we were losing light. She’s going from zero to 100 every time on the scene. She does such a good thing of politely informing people that the quality is going to deteriorate, we’re losing light, and we’re not going to be able to do this. You could see how rich she was in experience by still delivering every time, dealing with the adversity and the circumstances, being so patient and understanding of everyone else, but still being maternal and pulling strings for the whole crew and making sure everything works. I don’t know how she did it. I feel like she did more than just act in that film.
How did Jim’s journey throughout the film with love and his family’s financial issues challenge you as an actor?
Hero Fiennes Tiffin: It’s quite different and unique for a romance movie to kind of touch on that. Obviously, as the son of Kay and Greg, being their son informs how you would act knowing what’s going on with their life. But as an audience member, the juxtaposition and the contrast and reflection between watching how entertaining and high stakes and dramatic your first love is, but then also maintaining relationships you’ve had for years when you face things like getting fired from your job and financial Issues can really be just as challenging as making a relationship start from the beginning. I think as an audience member that juxtaposition and the way you put those two and intercut between them makes you see each relationship in a completely different light when you know how it could be done at the end. You kind of think maybe Kay and Greg will act Jim and Ann or maybe Jim and Ann will become a bit like Kay and Greg. You’re just kind of watching the relationship from the start and the far later down the line. It’s really interesting to jump between the two.
The film is left open-ended when it comes to Jim and Ann, but I feel like the movie alludes to the fact that they stay together.
Hero Fiennes Tiffin: I think they definitely do. The question isn’t like, can you? Can’t you? I think Jeffrey Donovan delivered it beautifully in the toast at the end, and it kind of it leaves it open-ended. But I think the message is just about trying, trying hard, and enjoying the moments as they come. Nothing lasts forever. You’ll get through the bad ones. Enjoy the good ones as they come. I think you’re so right. It’s only since you’ve said this to me that I’ve realized it almost ends by kind of putting the film on a loop. It’s like they’re passing the torch, and then we imagine Jim and Ann will pass the torch as well.
First Love was a different approach to the romance genre for you. Now that you are done filming the After movies, what are you looking forward to exploring as an actor in this next chapter?
Hero Fiennes Tiffin: Listen, if a great romance comes along and the director persuades me again, then I’ll do it. But I do think my head and my heart are pointed more towards just exploring other genres. I’d love to do some nice, big, action drama or a crime thriller with high stakes, something to really, really keep you on the edge of your seat scenes with complex storylines and great character development. I think, to be honest, something high stakes and gritty. Maybe with a car chase somewhere.