In A24’s latest drama C’mon C’mon, Johnny (Joaquin Phoenix) is tasked with watching his nine-year-old nephew, Jesse (Woody Norman), as his sister Viv (Gaby Hoffman) is off taking care of Jesse’s father as he experiences an intense bipolar episode.

It’s an incredibly emotional film, and one beautifully carried by the cast’s strong performances. We sat down with director Mike Mills and actors Gaby Hoffman and Woody Norman to discuss how these impactful performances came to be.

Mills revealed he felt keeping the script flexible and allowing input from his actors was key.

“I always want to keep learning. I don’t want to execute something I just did six months ago. Hopefully I’m figuring out new stuff and these souls are showing me things I didn’t know about my own material and the story. Hopefully they’re getting it under their skin and have a need to say things,” said Mills.

This adaptability and openness to new ideas extended to the process of honing the script, as well as some improvisation by the actors in the moment.

“I definitely invite and encourage change and surprise, and for them to follow their instincts and to be authors within the scene,” explained Mills.

Young Norman also chimed in, “I think every actor that worked on this film should get a credit as scriptwriter.”

Norman described his experience working with Hoffman and Phoenix, saying, “They all added so much to it. It was all so real. There was never a hard moment to act in this film, it was all so genuine.”

To hear more from Mills, Norman, and Hoffman about their work on C’mon C’mon, check out our full interview below.

C’mon C’mon premieres in theaters November 19.