Suzanna Son interview: ‘Red Rocket’
Suzanna Son delivers one of the standout supporting performances of the year in “Red Rocket,” the newest film from writer-director Sean Baker. In what is remarkably her feature debut, Son plays Strawberry, a 17-year-old donut shop worker who falls in love with Mikey, a washed-up porn star who has returned home to Texas. The actress was immediately taken with the script, particularly its dark sense of humor. “I just loved how funny it was,” says Son in an exclusive new interview for Gold Derby. “I was laughing out loud.” Watch the full video chat above.
On the surface, a love story between a teenage girl and an aging porn star may be a turnoff to some viewers, but the film complicates the dynamic. While Mikey may be grooming Strawberry to get her into the adult film industry, she has agency and is more calculated than he thinks she is. What struck Son was how Strawberry is “not the naive one in the situation — Mikey is. I like that tightrope that she walks on.” As Son notes, Strawberry sees Mikey as a stepping stone for her way out of Texas, “to somewhere else where she can really chase her dreams.”
Son has a number of tricky scenes in the film, including multiple sex scenes and other intimate moments, like her acoustic performance of NSYNC’s “Bye Bye Bye.” Through it all, Son affirms that her costar Simon Rex, who plays Mikey, made her feel at ease. “He just made it so easy,” she recalls. Baker and the production team also made her feel comfortable for the film’s racier scenes. “I was nervous at first, but they would close the set, properly rehearse and block things so that you know exactly what you’re doing with your body, and it doesn’t feel very intimate at all,” she explains. “It feels kind of clinical and choreographed and safe.”
Now, Son is earning end-of-the-year recognition for her performance, with nominations at the Gotham Awards and Independent Spirit Awards. While such acclaim was not even on her radar beforehand, it has been “wild” for the young actress. “I wake up to a bunch of phone calls, it feels like a birthday or something,” she quips. Beyond the awards, though, Son found value in the experience of working on “Red Rocket” as she moves forward in her career, especially having worked with Rex. “Without Simon Rex, I would be lost,” she admits. “He taught me a lot about how to listen to people and how to share at the same time, to do that in an equal way. I carry that with me.”