'Love, Simon' star, on being bullied, fan reactions, and one horrible audition.
Actor Joey Pollari. Photo by Luke Fontana.

Joey Pollari says he was almost certain he didn't get the part in blockbuster teen film "Love, Simon."

During the audition, he embarrassingly mispronounced a word, stumbled nervously through his lines, and came dressed looking the part of the role he was auditioning for: a Waffle House employee. He was the only actor auditioning who did so.

It appears the waiter look didn't end up hurting his chances too much, though. The 23-year-old from Minnesota landed the role of "Lyle" in "Love, Simon" — Greg Berlanti's groundbreaking film based on Becky Albertalli's 2015 bestselling novel, "Simon vs. the Homo Sapiens Agenda."


Pollari as Lyle (the Waffle House worker) in "Love, Simon." GIF via "Love, Simon."

In the film, Lyle plays a potential love interest to Simon, and there's a real possibility he's also "Blue" — a pseudonym for the gay classmate Simon is corresponding with romantically online.

"Love, Simon" is Hollywood's first major studio-produced teen rom-com featuring a gay lead.

Its big budget and wide release meant most young LGBTQ people across the country could see "Simon" at their local theater. That's never been the case with an LGBTQ-themed movie for teens before.

While the film opened to modest box office results after its March 16 premiere, a top rating from Cinemascore, rave reviews, and successful word-of-mouth slowly turned "Love, Simon" into a success in more ways than one.

For Pollari — who came out as gay at age 18, and had experienced bullying because of his sexual orientation — the film's themes hit especially close to home.

Photo by Luke Fontana.

I sat down with Pollari to discuss the film's success, positive fan reactions, and the audition fail that totally wasn't.

On the moment it truly sunk in that "Simon" was a film like no other:

I probably learned it way too late. [laughs] I think it wasn’t until I saw the movie in a pre-screening that I thought, "Oh, this is weird, isn’t it? I’m watching a gay narrative on a major studio lot. 20th Century Fox made this. No one had to strong-arm them into getting it made, and it’s not fringe." That’s when it really hit me and dawned on me that a big step was being made.

On his personal similarities to — and differences with — Simon:  

Our stories are somewhat related, in that the environment was productive for coming out — and by that, I mean supportive. But Simon and I were pretty different, I would say. I was a pretty fabulous kid. [laughs] I don’t think many people were surprised [to learn I was gay]. So that experience was different. I got bullied here and there for people thinking that I was gay. I see myself in Simon, but I see myself in Ethan, too, [actor] Clark Moore’s character.

On "Love, Simon's" impressive word-of-mouth heating up the box office:

It’s really nice that people are responding to it and want to go see it again, and are telling someone else to go see it. It shows that the people really want this movie and they want their friends to see it.

If we’re looking at it in an industry sense and financial sense, it’s doing really well, and maybe will help support more [LGBTQ-themed] movies getting made.

Photo by Rodin Eckenroth/Getty Images.

On fans reacting to the historic nature of the film:

A couple people have reached out — more than a couple — saying they either came out [as LGBTQ] because of the movie, or expressing their gratitude. You know, feeling appreciative they can see themselves in any way, shape, or form on the big screen.

Or, older people reaching out and saying, "I wish I had this movie when I was a teenager, but I’m happy to have it now." People have been really generous with it. I think that’s been the coolest part of the whole experience — how people have been responding to it.

On thinking he totally botched his audition for "Love, Simon":

I thought the whole thing was a stumble through. [laughs] I was the only one dressed in something that resembled a Waffle House uniform. I was like, "I’m so stupid, wearing this stupid uniform." It was a hat and collared shirt, tucked into pants. And I was there and thought, "You are such a nerd." [laughs] "Why are you here?"

I went to the audition thinking I was just going to be me during it. And then I was really being me when I pronounced "Hanukkah" wrong. I was nervous. It was a whole thing. I called my manager afterward and was like, "Well, that’s one for the books, onto the next!"

SPOILER QUESTION AND ANSWER BELOW.

On fans hoping Lyle was really Blue at the end of the film:

I did have some people who were rooting for Lyle to be up there on the Ferris wheel. Mostly my family, to be completely honest. [laughs]  

Check out Joey Pollari — in all of his Waffle House uniform glory — in a trailer for "Love, Simon," below:

This interview has been condensed and edited for clarity.

Images courtesy of John Scully, Walden University, Ingrid Scully
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Since March of 2020, over 29 million Americans have been diagnosed with COVID-19, according to the CDC. Over 540,000 have died in the United States as this unprecedented pandemic has swept the globe. And yet, by the end of 2020, it looked like science was winning: vaccines had been developed.

In celebration of the power of science we spoke to three people: an individual, a medical provider, and a vaccine scientist about how vaccines have impacted them throughout their lives. Here are their answers:

John Scully, 79, resident of Florida

Photo courtesy of John Scully

When John Scully was born, America was in the midst of an epidemic: tens of thousands of children in the United States were falling ill with paralytic poliomyelitis — otherwise known as polio, a disease that attacks the central nervous system and often leaves its victims partially or fully paralyzed.

"As kids, we were all afraid of getting polio," he says, "because if you got polio, you could end up in the dreaded iron lung and we were all terrified of those." Iron lungs were respirators that enclosed most of a person's body; people with severe cases often would end up in these respirators as they fought for their lives.

John remembers going to see matinee showings of cowboy movies on Saturdays and, before the movie, shorts would run. "Usually they showed the news," he says, "but I just remember seeing this one clip warning us about polio and it just showed all these kids in iron lungs." If kids survived the iron lung, they'd often come back to school on crutches, in leg braces, or in wheelchairs.

"We all tried to be really careful in the summer — or, as we called it back then, 'polio season,''" John says. This was because every year around Memorial Day, major outbreaks would begin to emerge and they'd spike sometime around August. People weren't really sure how the disease spread at the time, but many believed it traveled through the water. There was no cure — and every child was susceptible to getting sick with it.

"We couldn't swim in hot weather," he remembers, "and the municipal outdoor pool would close down in August."

Then, in 1954 clinical trials began for Dr. Jonas Salk's vaccine against polio and within a year, his vaccine was announced safe. "I got that vaccine at school," John says. Within two years, U.S. polio cases had dropped 85-95 percent — even before a second vaccine was developed by Dr. Albert Sabin in the 1960s. "I remember how much better things got after the vaccines came out. They changed everything," John says.

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via Wikimedia Commons and Goalsetter

America's ethnic wealth gap is a multi-faceted problem that would take dramatic action, on multiple fronts, to overcome. One of the ways to help communities improve their economic well-being is through financial literacy.

Investopedia says there are five primary sources of financial education—families, high school, college, employers, and the military — and that education and household income are two of the biggest factors in predicting whether someone has a high level of financial literacy.

New Orleans Saints safety, two-time Super Bowl Champion, and social justice activist Malcolm Jenkins and The Malcolm Jenkins Foundation hope to help bridge the wealth gap by teaching students about investing at a young age.

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2020 was difficult (to say the least). The year was full of life changes, losses, and lessons as we learned to navigate the "new normal." You may have questions about what the changes and challenges of 2020 mean for your taxes. That's where TurboTax Live comes in, making it easy to connect with real tax experts to help with your taxes – or even do them for you, start to finish.

Not only has TurboTax Live helped millions of people get their taxes done right, but this year they've also celebrated people who uplifted their communities during a difficult time by surprising them with "little lifts" to help out even more.

Here are a few of their stories:


Julz, hairdresser and salon owner

"As a hairdresser and salon owner, 2020 was extremely challenging," says Julz. "Being a hairdresser has historically been a recession-proof industry, but we've never faced global shut down due to health risk, or pandemic, not in my lifetime. And for the first time, hairdressers didn't have job security."

Julz had to shut down her salon and go on unemployment benefits for the first time. She also had to figure out how she was going to support herself, her staff and her business during this difficult time. But many other beauty industry professionals didn't have access to the resources they needed, so Julz decided to help.

"My business partner and I began teaching basic financial literacy to other beauty industry professionals," she says. "Transitioning our business from behind the chair to an online academy was a challenge we tackled head-on so that we could move hairdressers into this new space of education, and create a more accessible curriculum to better serve our industry.

Julz connected with a TurboTax Live expert who helped her understand how unemployment affected her taxes and gave her guidance on filing quarterly estimated taxes for her small business. "I was terrified to sit at a computer and tackle this mess of receipts," Julz says, so "it was great to have some virtual handholding to walk me through each question."

In addition to giving Julz the personalized tax advice she needed, TurboTax Live surprised her with a "little lift" that empowered her to help even more beauty professionals. "When my tax expert Diana surprised me with a little lift, I was moved to tears," says Julz. "With that little lift, I was able to establish a scholarship fund to help get other hairdressers the education they deserve."


Alana, new mom

Alana welcomed her first child in 2020. "I think my biggest challenge was figuring out how to be a mom, with no guidance," she says. "My original plan was to have my mom by my side, teaching me the ropes, but because of COVID, she wasn't able to come out here."

She was also without a job for most of 2020 and struggled to find something new.

So, Alana took it as a sign: she decided to launch her own business so she could support her new baby, and that's exactly what she did. She started a feel-good company that specializes in creating affirmation card decks — and she's currently in the process of starting a second, video-editing business.

TurboTax Live answered Alana's questions about her taxes and gave her some much-needed advice as she prepared to launch her businesses. Thanks to their "little lift," they provided her with a little emotional support too.

"I got my mom a plane ticket to finally [have her] meet [my daughter] for her first birthday," Alana says. "I was also able to get a new computer," which helped her invest in her new business and work on her video editing skills. "It's helped my family and me so much," she says.


Michael, science teacher

When schools shut down across the country last year, Michael had to learn how to adapt to a virtual classroom.

"As a teacher, I had to completely revamp everything," he says, so that he could keep his students engaged while teaching online. "At the beginning, it was a nightmare because I had no idea. I had to go from A-Z within a couple of weeks."

Michael's TurboTax Live expert answered his questions about how working from home affected his taxes and helped him uncover surprising tax deductions. To top it all off, his expert surprised him with brand new science equipment and supplies, which allowed him to create an entire line of classes on YouTube, TikTok, Instagram, and Facebook. "Now I can truly potentially reach millions of children with my lessons," he says. "I would never have taken that leap if not for the little lift from TurboTax Live."



Ricky, motivational youth speaker

As a motivational speaker, Ricky was used to doing his job in person, but, he says, "when COVID-19 hit, it altered my ability to travel and visit schools in person [because] schools moved to fully virtual or hybrid models."

He knew he had to pivot — so he began offering small virtual group workshops for student leadership groups at middle and high schools.

"This allowed me to work with student leaders to plan how they would continue making a positive impact on their school community," he says. He wasn't sure how being remote would affect his taxes, but TurboTax Live Self-Employed gave him the advice and answers that he needed to keep more money in his pocket at tax time — and the little lift he received from them has helped him serve even more students.

"[It] has been a major blessing," he says "There will be multiple schools and student groups from across the country that I can hold leadership workshops with to empower them with the tools to be inspirational leaders in their school, community, and world."

Plus, he says, it was great knowing he had an expert to help him figure out how being remote affected his taxes. "I felt confident and assured in the process of filing my taxes knowing I had an expert working with me, says Ricky. "There were things my expert knew that I would not have considered when filing on my own."

Filing your taxes doesn't have to be intimidating, especially after a year like 2020. TurboTax Live experts can give you the "little lift" you need to get your taxes done. File with the help of an expert or let an expert file for you! Go to TurboTax Live to get started.