Grapefruit: Interview with Chase Joliet and Steph Barkley

October 28, 202359 min
Chase Joliet writes directs and stars in Grapefruit which follows Joliet as Travis a newly divorced man who moves in with his newly sober mother. The film which premiered at the Austin Film Festival also stars Steph Barkley as Billie. Brian Taylor of The Cine-Men caught up with them to talk about their new film.
Brian: Thank y’all for sitting with me. I watched the movie a couple of days ago and I
really felt a kind of personal feel to it. So, I would really like to know where the idea of
the story came from?
Chase Joliet: It’s definitely a personal movie. It started with a play I wrote called “To
Love Is To Die” and then we were reading that together and she said [Steph Barkley]
“this is so contained, why don’t we just shoot this and make a feature?” So we sat down
and tried to broaden that into a screenplay and I realized that it wasn’t working, it wasn’t
meant to be this thing. But then, this other idea sparked using some of the same
themes. I’ve dealt with a lot of addiction and in my life, with people I’m close to, and I
thought of this really interesting idea. What it would have been like if I had moved back
in with my mom, she was getting sober, my mom is celebrating ten years, and what
would have happened if you turned that into the antagonist where like you have these
three broken people with Stephanie and myself and then my mother where we’re really
just trying to save each other, like how can I make three broken people all save one
another in an interesting way. Stephanie’s actually been through a divorce and I’ve
actually had issues with substance abuse in the past and we kind of just flipped our own
roles there and then started to write the script from that place where we play each other
and that’s kind of how it blossomed.
Steph Barkley: Yeah.
Chase: And then, it’s interesting when you’re writing to make an antagonist out of a
mother character who’s really just loving and kind and wants the best for somebody. But
then, like, how do you do that? So that really started the spark. And my mom is nothing
like the woman in the movie, my mom is compassionate and sweet.
Steph: There’s flavor of her there, there’s flavor of my mom in there; I think we just took
a lot from our personal experience. And the experience that I had going through my
separation was awful and just like how dark it can get.
Chase: And just never wanting to love again.
Steph: Yeah, that, and there’s moments where there’s a little bit of your mom in there
and there’s a little bit of my mother in there.
Chase: There’s definitely me in every character, you know. I really wanted it to be
inside versus outside and drop Travis right in the middle. Like conservative versus wild
and alive and drop Travis right in the middle. And it was really like a rebirth coming out
into the world, coming through the tunnel in the beginning and it’s like, what is this life
now, which way do you go? And that was kind of the experiment I wanted to play with
when I wrote it and see what happens when you put a character between these two
polar opposites but kind of similar minds and what sparks from that.
Brian: I’m curious, the title is interesting. And I know you do mention in the movie about

the title but I would like to know what the title means to you.

Chase: It’s about letting go and just accepting you have to let go, you have to know life
is a free fall, it really is. Control is humanity’s greatest illusion. So, if you just let go and
accept human beings for who they are and their imperfections, each other, ourselves.
One of the main points of him being in prison in the beginning is, I know it’s an actual
physical attribute to the film, but for me it’s like how imprisoning guilt and shame and
those things can feel for a character so I was like, “oh, I’ll just put him in prison.” Like
letting go of that is kind of the way and it just kind of fumbled when I wrote it but it’s one
of those moments where I was writing-
Steph: It kind of fell into place. I think everything just kind of fell into place.
Chase: Like, you know when you’re writing and you lose track of time and your
subconscious is taking over. I always thought as a child that limes, lemons, oranges and
grapefruits, literally that’s how they grew. So I thought, “wow, that would be such an
interesting thing for her character to say” and then it means so much more.
Steph: Who do you want to suffer with in this life?
Brian: That’s actually a great question to look for in life. Everybody wants to think of
happy endings and everything’s always great but really it’s just getting through life
Steph: Yeah.
Chase: Yeah and being compassionate with people.
Steph: And I know it can sound dark to say who you want to suffer with but if you can
get through hard times, life is hard, so if you can be with someone you want to be with
then do that together.
Brian: I know you say you wrote this as originally a play. When you sat down to write
the screenplay, did you always write it with you two playing the leads?
Chase: Yeah. I was more hesitant about acting and directing, which I don’t think I want
to do again in the same movie.
Steph: You said that last time, “I’m never doing this again, there’s too many things, I
can’t do all these things!”
Chase: (Both laugh) So many people were asking me so many questions and I have to
act in this scene now. I always knew I wanted her to play Billie because she has such a
comedic background, if you’ve seen some of the things she does, she’s hilarious. And I
was like, “Steph, you’re so much more than a comedian, there’s so much range here.”
So I really wanted to bring the comedy to it but then let’s flip it on its ass. I always knew
she was going to be Billie and I always knew that she would kill it.
Brian: Y’all have a great dance scene together, y’all have that working for y’all. What
was the toughest scene for both of y’all to shoot?
Steph: The scene where I’m overdosing.
Chase: Overdosing for you, yeah. Toughest scene for me to shoot… for me it’s getting
the ring stuck on my finger with Rosanna [Arquette]. That was the toughest scene for
me to shoot in a way because I had this idea of what I wanted it to be and we

accomplished it. Rosanna was absolutely incredible but when you throw in literally five scenes a day at somebody, because we were shooting on such a small budget and we were moving so fast, we had to keep the tempo up.

Steph: It’s everything, it’s the choreography, when you think about it, you have to deal
with the DP [director of photography], the actors and this object that’s supposed to be
telling a part of the story.
Chase: Can I say it was all hard? Sorry to interrupt you. It was all hard.
Steph: (Both laugh) Yeah, it was all hard, I know.
Chase: But I loved every minute of it.
Steph: Yeah, good.
Brian: You should’ve done what Kevin Smith did which is just make a role where you
don’t speak and sit in the corner and then you can direct and all this stuff. (They all
laugh) You could’ve just done that, you know. When you were writing the screenplay,
what was the toughest scene on the page to write?
Chase: Man, this is tough.
Steph: I’d say some of those scenes with your mother.
Chase: There were scenes where I found later in revising the script. The scene with me
and Rosanna in the bedroom, she’s absolutely phenomenal in that scene where I say to
her, “I just want you to be happy, mom” and she says, “I’m working on it.” That scene
was a hard one for me. It came later in the revisions and I love it so much and it needed
to be there.
Brian: What did you do, Steph, to prepare for this role? Did you do anything differently?
Steph: I just read that script over and over again. I use music a lot to kind of help like
what do I think this character would listen to, just because I love music so much and I
think without music we’re kind of lost. I put together some songs, lots of songs that I
think Billie would love and I would just think about her struggle and her want to be better
but ultimately the pain and the embarrassment of actually making the first step to being
this new person she hasn’t been, this sober person. Someone that relies on substance
to function and her comfortable personality that’s what she’s been doing. So, when your in that, and
do that all the time, it’s so hard to really get grounded and honest with yourself and with
others, yeah, mostly with others. And admit that I have some work to do. Yeah, it was
Brian: Well, it’s a really great performance.
Steph: Thank you.
Chase: So good.
Brian: She is really good. This is actually your first feature, but you have shot and
directed some short films. What, from those short films, what events or what knowledge
did you take from those short films that helped you in this film?
Chase: Rhythm. There’s a rhythm on screen that you have to accomplish and that’s
what the hardest part of acting and directing are on the film, because I wanted to make
sure we had the rhythm. So I surrounded myself with an incredible crew, my DP, Justin


Steph: You’ve done that consistently with every project. And I think both of us are
producers, I guess, just out of habit but you have always had a good fam around you.
Chase: Everybody’s there for the same mission, we’re all focused on that.
Steph: I think, maybe you already said it, but having a good attitude is necessary and
everyone has a good attitude around you.
Chase: And making a movie, no matter what size; short, feature, you have to have ‘yes’
people around you. Because the ‘no’s’ will really just take the energy and go down. So,
knowing that and creating an environment where people can feel comfortable and safe,
it was really important. And yeah, from a technique standpoint, rhythm was really
important to me. Because you can edit rhythm but there’s still this rhythm in everything
Brian: So you said it was a tough chore for the acting, writing, directing; so if you had to
choose one to keep on going, what’s the one you want to do the most? Obviously
writing and directing can usually go hand in hand. So would you choose writing and
directing films for the future or continue to want to act or all three?
Chase: I would love to do all three but I definitely don’t want to act in the next one, I
want to be behind the camera and be a control freak. (They all laugh) But, yeah, I would
love to be behind the camera, I think it would benefit my DP, who was constantly just
like, “do you like this? What are we thinking” and I’m like, “hold on, we don’t have time
for me to come around and look” so we had to talk and I had to trust him and he was so
good at that.
Brian: Thank y’all for your time and good luck with the film.

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