“Giant Little Ones” Star Josh Wiggins on Playing a Queer Teen Stuck in Identity Limbo

“I think the beautiful thing about this movie is the absence of labels”

Sexual fluidity leads to a whole lot of drama for Franky Winter, the teen protagonist of writer/director Keith Behrman’s Giant Little Ones.

Played by Josh Wiggins, high school student Franky has a drunken bout of sexual experimentation with his best bud and swim team cohort Ballas Kohl (Darren Mann) on the night of his birthday. Soon after, Ballas freaks out and spreads an untrue rumor around school that Franky molested him, which leaves Franky the target of homophobic bullying, struggling with the unresolved fact his father Ray (Kyle MacLachlan) came out as gay and left his mother for a man, and grappling with an attraction to Ballas’ sympathetic sister, Natasha (Taylor Hickson).

Wiggins previously co-starred as Matt Bomer’s son in 2017 survival drama, Walking Out, and made his breakout on-screen debut opposite Breaking Bad’s Aaron Paul in 2014’s Hellion.

Speaking with NewNowNext, Wiggins discussed playing Franky, working with MacLachlan, and modern day teen sexuality.

What sort of direction did Keith give you as far as Franky’s identity? Did he allow you to make that decision, or did he have a firm idea of where his sexuality falls?

Like any other role, it was more of a collaborative process. He has his own idea of the role, and I have mine, and we can merge those into what became Franky. Keith was great about giving me freedom with the character, and I tried to incorporate his notes into the process.

Did you draw inspiration from any LGBTQ-identified friends or people you know?

I think anybody who has known or been around someone who had more of an abstract sexuality or identified as gay or bisexual can see how others view that person. There’s unfortunately certain people who view that person being an “other” and that’s a shame. So anyone who’s seen something like that can identify with this character and this story.

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How do you feel about what Ballas does to Franky, which is essentially accusing him of rape during the #MeToo era?

Well, it’s certainly a tricky subject. I think it shows the stigma in society that Ballas would falsely accuse Franky of something so serious simply to avoid harassment from his peers and arguably from himself. I think it speaks volumes about the subject matter at hand.

Some of the characters you’ve played have faced life and death challenges and threats. How do you feel Franky’s situation compares?

I think it compares in the sense that Franky experiences both physical and emotional punishment from the event. His life essentially is thrown into a tailspin, and he doesn’t have much to hold on to for stability.

You’ve worked with some amazing actors over the years, including Matt Bomer, J.K. Simmons, Josh Duhamel, and Bill Paxton! Were you a fan of Kyle MacLachlan before this film? Did he share any particularly amusing anecdotes?

I’ve definitely been blessed working with some amazing actors/actresses, and Kyle was no exception. He was a lot of fun to play off of and he would have me cracking up in between takes. Not from anything specific, he just has a self-aware goofy-ness that’s really endearing.

Where do you feel modern teenagers exist these days as far as sexuality and labels? We have non-binary as a broad term, and people are freer with how they identify—such as Giant Little Ones’ character, Mouse, who may be transgender.

I think the beautiful thing about this movie is the absence of labels. It suggests that maybe we don’t worry about what to call how we feel and we just feel it. I think that’s what’s beautiful about this movie and sets it apart from other films that cover the same topic.

Giant Little Ones opens March 1.

Lawrence is a New York-based travel and entertainment writer whose work has appeared in National Geographic Traveler, Time Out New York and The New York Post.