By Tim Stack
March 15, 2018 at 06:37 PM EDT
Matthew Murphy; Ben Rothstein/Twentieth Century Fox

This weekend’s groundbreaking romantic comedy Love, Simon is the moving, funny story of the titular teenager (Nick Robinson), who’s blackmailed into manipulating his friends in order to protect a big secret: He’s gay. Geeky bully Martin (Logan Miller) knows Simon’s secret and makes him try to get Martin’s crush — and Simon’s good friend— Abby (Alexandra Shipp) to go out with him.

In order to help Robinson play this challenging, emotional role, director Greg Berlanti (Riverdale) sent the young star to Broadway for inspiration. “One of the first things Greg had me do is, he got me two tickets to Dear Evan Hansen,” Robinson tells EW. “That started making me think about this guy in terms of just being an average guy. I kinda wanted to play Simon as close to baseline as possible, just to try and normalize the story and not fall into any stereotypes, and show the different spectrums of sexuality people have.”

Berlanti saw similarities in Simon and in Ben Platt’s duplicitous but lovable Evan Hansen. Explains the director, “Part of it was to say, ‘Look at all these things this film has in common.’ Simon is also centered on a star-making central performance of someone doing something not so good, in this case him trying to get these people together. But we’re so endeared to him.”

Love, Simon hits theaters March 16.

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