Interview: Reid Miller Talks Joe Bell, What Advice Mark Wahlberg Gave Him

Reid Miller stars alongside Mark Wahlberg in Joe Bell, which is out July 23 in theaters. Based on the tragic story behind the death of Jadin Bell, Miller puts on a movie-stealing performance as the late teenager that was bullied in school for being gay.

MORE: Joe Bell Trailer: Redemption is a Journey You Can’t Take Alone

Joe Bell tells the intimate and emotional true story of an Oregonian father who pays tribute to his gay teenage son Jadin, embarking on a self-reflective walk across America to speak his heart to heartland citizens about the real and terrifying costs of bullying.”

ComingSoon Editor-in-Chief Tyler Treese spoke with Joe Bell star Reid Miller about capturing Jadin Bell in his performance, his relationship with Mark Wahlberg, and the message of the film.

Tyler Treese: Reid, this is really just a phenomenal performance on your part. What type of prep did you do to bring this character to life on-screen? Did you speak to anybody that knew Jadin? How did you portray the character?

Reid Miller: For me, what was really important was speaking to the family. Talking to his mom, talking to his brothers, and that really, really helped me get a better grasp and understanding as to who he was and what was so incredible to me. What I learned about him was just how universally kind he was, even to the people who hated him, people who didn’t understand him. He was always still loving and kind, and that was such an influential thing for me, just even as a person. So it was talking to his family and, and to everyone that knew him and watching home videos of his, and listening to his voice and, and, and listening to the music that he listened to. It all gave me a really good grasp on specific things about him that helped me with my performance.

There are some really lovely scenes early on in the film where you’re walking with Mark’s character, Joe, and people that may not be familiar with the real story, they don’t really know that Jadin has passed. Can you talk about that experience of walking with Mark in those scenes and kind of like having this idolized version of this relationship that never really reached that part when they were both living sadly?

Yeah. You know, that was kind of the heartbreaking element of it was he’s having this wonderful dream-like relationship with his son, but it’s too late. I feel like the beautiful thing about those scenes is Mark is learning more about his son just through the memory of his son and the light that Jadin was and how kind he was. I mean, it’s even reflected in those scenes. I feel like that experience of just walking with Mark and talking and getting to know him and him getting to know me and us, having such good chemistry and being really close, really made those scenes even more hard hitting. And I think those scenes are so emotional and hard for me to watch after filming it, knowing what’s really happening.

You talk about that bond with Mark on set and walking with him. Did he give you any advice as a more veteran actor?

Oh yeah. A ton of advice. And mostly it was just, I think the best piece of advice he gave me was keep moving forward, which sounds so simple. But in the context he said that it was kind of a personal thing, but in the context he said that was very important for me. He’s always been there for me, always given me tons of great advice and just kind of been like a father figure in this industry.

What do you really hope that people take away from this film?

I hope that people go into this movie and walk out changed in some way. I hope people who are responsible for things like this who are bullies or people who just don’t want to understand, maybe are given a new desire to understand, or maybe people who aren’t even aware of their behavior are made aware of their behavior. But I think also importantly, on the other side, I hope people through this film learn to forgive and give people the opportunity to change because we can’t have change if they’re not even given the opportunity to. So I think it’s kind of a two-way street.