Benjo Arwas

While filming Hulu’s pride film Wildhood, which tells the story of two indigenous lovers, Phillip Forest Lewitski was able to immerse himself when it came to playing his character, Link.

“I think what drew me the most to the role of Link was the humanness behind his eyes. All credit to director Bretten Hannam, of course, for their ability to be so vulnerable in their writing and storytelling that in turn made things a lot easier for me when it came to falling into the character’s arms,” the actor exclusively tells GRAZIA USA.

He continues, “I relate to Link in the ways that I went about doing things when I was a teen and lost and confused and angry at the world. I guess that’s normal though, and we’ve all sort of been through something like that I’m sure at one point or another. The best part, of course, is looking back at those dark times and then looking at yourself now and how much growth and experience has shaped you into the person you are today.”

The film, which was released in June, focuses on Link and his half-brother as they flee their abusive father and begin their own journey to find his Mi’kmaw mother after he finds out she is still alive. Lewitski, who is of French, Ukrainian and Mohawk ancestry, admits that it wasn’t easy to prep for this role.

“After lots of conversations with our director Brett, we decided that Link would be self-inflicting, self-punishing and that came with losing weight. I spent four months on an aggressive diet to get him down to a low enough weight. I also had these rituals and ceremonies I would do with myself before putting his wardrobe on and after taking it off,” he shares.

Though playing Link wasn’t always a walk in the park, the Hollywood star says “the best moments came from the people who were a part of telling this story.”

“From the laughs to the tears to the heartbreak, we all went on this journey together,” he gushes of the cast. “There were many best parts of the experience but probably the most freeing moment would be when me, Josh [Odjick] and Avery [Winters-Anthony] were shooting the scenes in the truck, jamming out to music, wind in our hair, not worrying about anything in the past or future — just completely lost in that moment.”

Benjo Arwas

All of Lewitski’s hard work paid off, as he received the TIFF Rising Stars award, as well as Best Lead Actor in a Feature Film at the Canadian Screen Awards. “It’s weird how things like this show up at the most peculiar time. I was alone in a hotel room kind of having a hard moment when I got the news. It was a beautiful beat with myself,” he says. 

“I had no idea how people would react to this,” he notes of the flick. “I was just focussed on telling Brett’s story in the best way I possibly could. It felt like a lot of pressure to tell something so personal to them but that was quickly relieved once we started working. Brett is a special kind of person that always knows how to keep people grounded. It’s a rare thing, and I’m grateful for it.”

Lewitski also enjoyed meeting people who resonated with the film’s message. “I had this one guy come up to me after a screening with tears in his eyes. He told me he wished he had a movie like this to watch when he was a kid, it would have made him feel less alone,” he says.

Benjo Arwas

As for what’s next, Lewitski is in production in the Steven Spielberg and Tom Hanks executive produced Apple TV+ series Masters of the Air in which he portrays Lt. Francis Harper. “It was so immersive. The sets and wardrobe and attention to the minute detail made it impossible to not feel like I was truly there, experiencing that thing with those people. It was also the first time I have played a real person. Lt. Francis Harper’s family was kind enough to send over a biography and pictures of what he was like. He was brave, fearless and fought for what he believed in, and I felt like he was right there watching over me,” he states of the miniseries, which is based on the actions of the United States Army Air Forces and Eighth Air Force during World War II.

Ultimately, Lewitski has one goal in mind: “All I ever want to do is tell impactful stories with people who inspire me,” he declares.