Hulu’s ‘Suncoast’ is a coming-of-age drama that follows the story of a young girl named Doris whose whole life revolves around caring for her brother. Her mother, too, is so invested in him that she doesn’t pay any attention to Doris, and the teenager, who doesn’t have any friends or any social life outside of her home, becomes frustrated. The film focuses on the conflicting mind of Doris, as she loves and grieves her brother but also wants to live her life and receive some attention from her mother. It does so with a sensitivity that makes us feel for the characters in a raw, relatable manner. The reason why Doris might feel so real is because she is based on a real person.
Doris is Loosely Based on the Director of Suncoast
‘Suncoast’ is written and directed by Laura Chinn, who loosely based the film on her own experiences as a teenager. Chinn gave a lot of her own life to Doris. For example, the director and the character are biracial, with a Caucasian mother and an African-American father. Both girls had a brother named Max, who had brain cancer, which rendered him unable to take care of himself. For six years, Chinn, like Doris, took care of her brother (who was eventually moved into a hospice called Suncoast) with her single mother. Unlike Doris’ father, who died of a heart attack when she was a kid, Chinn’s father was alive but lived in another state and hence out of the picture.
The fact that Doris’ brother is in the same place where Terri Schiavo is being taken care of is pulled right from Chinn’s life. The director revealed that Terri Schiavo really was in the hospice as her brother, due to which she would always see protestors outside. While she interacted with them sometimes, none of them was like Paul, Woody Harrelson’s character in the movie.
While Chinn shared a lot of her background with her protagonist, she revealed that Doris’s character is, at the end of the day, still fictional. She called Doris a “Cinderella character” that she created to tell the story on a broader scale to allow the experiences of other characters to receive the same exposure as Doris’. She revealed that, like Doris, she too felt as if her mother paid more attention to her brother and none to her, but her mother in real life was nothing like Kristine in the movie. But whatever wavelength of emotions she’d had for six years was to be boxed into a two-hour movie, which is why she had to make a lot of changes in the way the characters behaved and responded to each other.
In writing Doris and her story, Chinn looked towards films like ‘Ladybird,’ ‘Little Miss Sunshine,’ ‘Juno’ and ‘Napoleon Dynamite,’ and noted that while these films focus on a lot of bad stuff going on in people’s lives, they do so with humor, which is how things are in real life as well. That helped her decide the tone for the story which balances both humor and grief with sensitivity.
Where is Laura Chinn Today?
Laura Chinn lives in Los Angeles with her husband, Jared Miller, whom she married in 2019.
The writer-director-actor started thinking about a career in TV and movies at an early age, revealing that she’d talked about writing and performing when she was still three years old. Chinn had many ups and downs in her life, especially during the time she and her mother were taking care of her brother. When she was sixteen, she dropped out of school and spent a lot of time unsupervised.
She moved between Burbank, where she lived with her father, and Clearwater, where she lived with her mother, and was briefly in touch with the Church of Scientology. She talks about all this and more of her childhood in her memoir, ‘Acne.’ After taking classes at Upright Citizens Brigade, she discovered her love for comedy and, since then, has worked on a lot of TV shows. She created, executive produced, and acted in ‘Florida Girls,’ which is also inspired by her life. She was also a writer and producer on ‘The Mick,’ and has worked on ‘Grandfathered,’ ‘Animal Practice,’ and ‘Growing Up Fisher,’ among others.
About ‘Suncoast,’ Chinn revealed that it was all about presenting different sides of grief. It wasn’t just about how Doris was processing it, but also how her mother was or wasn’t, and what grief meant for other people. Unlike Doris, who is not there when her brother passes away, Chinn was right by her brother’s side but revealed that even as he was about to take his last breath, she wished that he survived. The director wanted to show the audience that there will always be things left unsaid and there is no wrong way to grieve and hopes that the audience leaves with that understanding and more after watching the film.