Hypochondriac: Zach Villa on Mental Health, Pottery in Horror Thriller

Zach Villa has such a diverse range of roles as a rising star in Hollywood, including FX's Archer and American Horror Story, CBS' NCIS: Los Angeles, Fox's Bordertown, Showtime's Shameless, ABC's Station 19, and Netflix's Archive 81. In what is perhaps the most challenging role is the psychological LGBTQ horror thriller Hypochondriac, playing Will, a Hispanic gay potter trying to maintain his life with the support of his loving partner (Devon Graye), but is on a cusp of a breakdown as he tries to keep his past buried. Villa spoke with Bleeding Cool about working with writer-director Addison Heimann, Graye, and commentary on the human experience.

Hypochondriac Star Zach Villa on Mental Health & Pottery in Thriller
Zach Villa in Hypochondriac (2022). Image courtesy of XYZ Films

Bleeding Cool: What drew you to 'Hypochondriac'?
Zach Villa:: I got it the old-fashioned way. Auditions come my way, and some of them are amazing projects you just can't wait to do. Others are more run-of-the-mill, and that's how your life goes as an actor. When you get the chance to actually work on something out of left field and spectacular, you relish the moment [laughs]. When I read [the script], I was like, "What a gift. This is going to be a really incredible project."

Hypochondriac Star Zach Villa on Mental Health & Pottery in Thriller
Devon Graye and Zach Villa in Hypochondriac (2022). Image courtesy of XYZ Films

BC: What was it like poking Addison's brain?
Villa: Addison is a very unique individual: an amazing and inclusive everyman of the experience with mental health in America. I see a lot of myself in him, both in our shared past experiences that run parallel but also in our choices, aesthetically, artistically, what we'd like to see in the frame, and choices we're interested in. It's always an interesting blend of comedy and drama in performance. There was just camaraderie there immediately that you can't really teach, create, or develop. This was a love-at-first-sight situation, and that's fairly rare with actors and directors or any workplace. He made my job easy and was an open book that allowed me to trust him to the point I felt comfortable doing the same. We rocked and rolled right away.

Zach Villa
Zach Villa in Hypochondriac (2022). Image courtesy of XYZ Films

BC: Given the film's dark nature, was there a particular portion of the film or sequence that was difficult?
Villa: There are a few scenes, about two-thirds of the way through…I don't want to ruin the thing for the viewers that are an Easter egg. I will say that day was emotionally taxing but worth it. My partner, Devon Graye, and I chose to sustain this intense and powerful state of mind most of the day. Dropping it in between takes made the job all the more exhausting, but the end result is each take was ramping up the energy, each time going deeper and darker.

On a lighter note, one of the more challenging scenes in the film is the pottery sequence. I'm not a ceramicist, but I had to become one for this film. Any time you see any pottery on screen, that's me. At one point, I did two back-to-back 20-minute takes that we didn't cut away where I just sat there in a room full of 40 people watching me off-camera and made a pot [laughs]. Both had to look about 98 percent similar because they would use both pieces interchangeably in different coverages and camera angles. That was a really interesting and fun challenge. Shout out to Bitter Root [Pottery] in Hollywood; I really appreciate them.

Hypochondriac: Paget Brewster on How Film Exceeded Her Expectations
XYZ Films

BC: What made yours and Devon's chemistry work so well?
Villa: Good casting is always so important in the film, and that's a testament to Addison and the team. There's a certain element of character inherent within the actor. As actors, we're these highfalutin transformational machines, and for the most part, that's true. If you're working with modern text, you often need someone who tends to mimic or shadow elements of their character already in their daily lives.

Devon had some aspects of his character in his own being, and I had some for Will. Between the two of us, we really were a yin and yang. I am fairly outgoing and adventurous, and so is Devon in his own way. He's incredibly smart and intellectual. He walks into a room and draws people in instead of pushing them out with his energy. That chemistry was already happening off-screen. What else can I say? Devon's an incredible actor. He's just so generous and would always say "Yes." You can't ask for anything more than that in an acting partner.

Hypochondriac, which also stars Paget Brewster, Marlene Forte, Madeline Zima, Yumarie Morales, and Chris Doubek, is currently in theaters. It's available on digital and on-demand on August 4th.

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About Tom Chang

I'm a follower of pop culture from gaming, comics, sci-fi, fantasy, film, and TV for over 30 years. I grew up reading magazines like Starlog, Mad, and Fangoria. As a writer for over 10 years, Star Wars was the first sci-fi franchise I fell in love with. I'm a nerd-of-all-trades.
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