True friendship

Sarah Kambe Holland on platonic love and Egghead & Twinkie

by Jennie Kermode

Twinkie (Sabrina Jie-A-Fa) and Egghead (Louis Tomeo) chow down on some fries during the long journey from Florida to Texas.
Twinkie (Sabrina Jie-A-Fa) and Egghead (Louis Tomeo) chow down on some fries during the long journey from Florida to Texas. Photo: Olivia Wilson

The story of two best friends who embark on an illicit cross-country adventure in a borrowed car to meet the person one of them has a crush on, Egghead & Twinkie is one of the delights of this year’s LGBTQ+ festival circuit. It stars Louis Tomeo and Sabrina Jie-A-Fa in the title roles and is helmed by début feature director Sarah Kambe Holland, adapted from her 2019 short of the same name. Ahead of its screening at Outfest Los Angeles, she agreed to answer some questions about it.

Jennie Kermode: One of the first things that stood out to me about this film is how refreshing it is to see a friendship moving forward in a positive way after romantic love turns out to be unrequited. We never seem to see those stories. What led you to explore this?

Egghead (Louis Tomeo) shows off his 'snacket' – a genius new way to sneak candy and Cheetos into the movie theatre.
Egghead (Louis Tomeo) shows off his 'snacket' – a genius new way to sneak candy and Cheetos into the movie theatre. Photo: Olivia Wilson

Sarah Kambe Holland: I think I was drawn to it for that very reason. Stories about platonic friendship in the face of unrequited romantic love aren’t often explored in media. There’s this strange misconception that romantic love is somehow more important or interesting than platonic love. I find that platonic love can be just as deep as a whirlwind romance. When you love someone platonically, you care about them fundamentally as a person. You just want them to be happy. This is the journey that Egghead goes on when he learns that Twinkie will never love him back in a romantic sense.

JK: There's still very little representation for Asian Americans generally, let alone gay Asian Americans. Having two such characters in one film feels like a bold move and an opportunity to remind people that they're people, not just archetypes of some sort. Was that part of the idea, for you?

SKH: Yes, absolutely. The characters of Jess and Twinkie are so important to me. Even though they are both queer and Asian American, their personalities, their experiences, and the intricacies of their identities are very different. We aren’t a monolith. I hoped to show a little bit of that in the interactions between Jess and Twinkie.

JK: You were very young when you began making this film. We don't see many films about young people by young people, and this one feels very fresh and real. Do you think that proximity to your characters made it easier to develop them authentically?

Twinkie (Sabrina Jie-A-Fa) leans forward to do Jess’ makeup.
Twinkie (Sabrina Jie-A-Fa) leans forward to do Jess’ makeup. Photo: Olivia Wilson

SKH: Honestly, yes. I first came up with the characters of Egghead and Twinkie when I was 19, so I was only a couple of years out of high school. In a sense, I grew up while making the movie, and I think that shows in the script.

JK: The animation style in the film also seems closely related to who Twinkie is at this point in her life. Can you tell me a little more about that?

SKH: The animation in the film is meant to be a visual representation for how Twinkie sees the world. She’s a creative, messy, vibrant soul, so we wanted the animation style to reflect those qualities. It’s very colorful and rough around the edges. I had a lot of zoom calls with our Lead Animator, Jill Cefalo-Sanders, where we would pull inspiration from Japanese anime and Western cartoons, because that is what Twinkie would have watched growing up and incorporated into her art style.

JK: Twinkie is quite a selfish character at times. When representing minority groups (even one's own) there is often pressure to create flawless heroes, but do you think that when characters make mistakes or are a little bit unpleasant it actually makes it easier for viewers to feel connected to them?

SKH: Oh yeah, Twinkie is totally selfish sometimes! While I understand the need for positive representation amongst minority groups, flawless characters are pretty boring. Even worse, they’re unrealistic, because humans are imperfect creatures. We all make mistakes, especially when we’re teenagers and still figuring things out. I think it’s more important to create multi-faceted characters with depth. Over the course of the movie, both Egghead and Twinkie make some regrettable decisions, but they also have moments where they shine.

Jess (Asahi Hirano) and Twinkie (Sabrina Jie-A-Fa) share earbuds and listen to some 'sick beats' together.
Jess (Asahi Hirano) and Twinkie (Sabrina Jie-A-Fa) share earbuds and listen to some 'sick beats' together. Photo: Olivia Wilson

JK: It's great to see positive coming out stories, especially in the current climate when a lot of people in the community are nervous.; Do you think that they can help to give young people the confidence to do it themselves?

SKH: Yes, I really do. Growing up, the only media representations I saw of coming out were negative. While it’s important to tell those stories, I think it’s just as important to show young people that things can get better and that there are people out there who will love them for exactly who they are.

JK: What have reactions to the film been like and how do you feel about it being screened at Outfest?

SKH: The response from audiences has been incredible. It’s so special to sit in the theatre full of people laughing together and sharing that energy. Outfest has been on my bucket list for many years now, so we could not be more excited to have our LA première here. It’s truly an honour to be a part of this year’s programme.

JK: What's next for you as a filmmaker?

SKH: I’m mostly directing commercial content these days, but on the narrative side, I’m in the early stages of development on another feature screenplay. I’d also love to direct a short again. Really, my goal is to stay creative and to keep creating, no matter what that looks like.

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