In EW's Around the Table, Timberlake and his young costar, Ryder Allen, look back on filming their new movie, and Timberlake recalls his own youth and being bullied.
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Eddie Palmer is a convicted felon who just got out of prison and moves back in with his grandma. Sam is a 7-year-old gender-nonconforming boy whose loving but drug-addicted mom has skipped out of town on a bender, leaving him with their landlord, Palmer's grandma.

They're an unlikely duo, but Palmer and Sam — played by Justin Timberlake and Ryder Allen, in his feature film debut — form an irresistible bond after Palmer is able to love and accept Sam as he is, realizing that's all he actually wants and needs in his own life.

Directed by Fisher Stevens and written by Cheryl Guerriero (her script earned a spot on The Black List, an annual survey of the hottest un-produced screenplays, in 2016), the Apple TV+ movie packs a ton of heart. Which is exactly what Allen says he loved about his character.

"I wanted that role more than anything 'cause I really felt attracted to it," Allen, 8, told Timberlake in EW's Around the Table, above. "I loved the message. ... He accepts lots of people for who they are because he knows it's the right thing to do and that's just what he does. That's Sam. That's me."

palmer
Credit: apple tv+

As Palmer takes on more of a paternal role, he grows increasingly protective of Sam, who gets bullied at school because of his love of Penelope the Princess and other things that break the norm. In those ways, Timberlake says he could relate.

"I was bullied when I was a kid for being into music and acting and stage and the arts. Where I grew up [in Tennessee] is very similar to where our movie is set, which is in the rural South where it's not typical for a young boy to be into playing the piano and dancing," the 10-time Grammy-winner, who turns 40 this weekend, explains. "My advice to anyone being bullied is that being different means you make the difference, and that is a beautiful thing. Anyone who's bullying you, it's only because they are afraid of who you are, and don't let them take your power away."

Allen also reveals his first impression of Timberlake, and Timberlake looks back on Allen's audition, saying the "fantastic" Allen "listened and reacted and said some very hilarious things." They also recall the movie's climactic scene, which Allen admits he was "nervous" about, and another that still makes Timberlake emotional, when Palmer is harassed by a local woman who thinks he — as a felon — isn't fit to care for a young boy but Sam assures Palmer he's doin' "real good." "The way you delivered that line, young man," Timberlake recalls, putting his hand to his chest, "aw, every time I watch it I get all up in my feelings."

Check out the full Around the Table video above for more, including one of Timberlake's favorite memories from working in entertainment as a kid (it involves the Hollywood Tower of Terror!). Palmer, which also stars June Squibb and Juno Temple, is now available to stream on Apple TV+.

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