Dominic Sessa On Working With Paul Giamatti For His Film Debut


  • Dominic Sessa stars in The Holdovers, his cinematic debut, alongside Paul Giamatti and Da’Vine Joy Randolph.
  • Sessa talks about the pressure of making his debut and the importance of trusting in his training and the people who hired him.
  • Sessa had a special experience on set, watching Alexander Payne make a movie and building a rapport with Paul Giamatti.

Dominic Sessa stars in The Holdovers, the latest film from director Alexander Payne. If you haven’t heard of Sessa before, you’re not alone: The Holdovers marks his cinematic debut. He plays Angus, a student at a prestigious boarding school who is forced to spend his holiday vacation on campus since his mother will be spending Christmas of 1970 on honeymoon with her new husband.

While stuck at school, Angus is cared for by Professor Paul Hunham, played by Paul Giamatti. Uptight and grievously serious about his work as an educator, Hunham isn’t eager to spend the vacation with a child; he’d rather spend it alone, reading and drinking. Nevertheless, the two form an unexpected bond and embark on several tragicomic misadventures alongside Mary Lamb (Da’Vine Joy Randolph), the head chef at the boarding school, who carries with her the weight of a deeply personal tragedy: her son, a former student of the boarding school, was recently killed-in-action in Vietnam.

Related: 10 Movies That Defined ’70s Cinema

Screen Rant interviewed Dominic Sessa the pressures of making his cinematic debut in a film by legendary auteur Alexander Payne and sharing the screen with the great Paul Giamatti. He spoke about trusting in his training, admiring the directorial style of Payne, and hanging out with Paul Giamatti to build a rapport between their characters.

Dominic Sessa Talks The Holdovers

Dominic Sessa and Paul Giamatti in The Holdovers
Dominic Sessa and Paul Giamatti in The Holdovers

Screen Rant: As much as there’s an all-star cast and crew, on camera and behind the scenes, the movie wouldn’t work if it wasn’t for you.

Dominic Sessa: Thank you!

Screen Rant: Is that a tremendous amount of pressure, or are you just like, I’ve gotta trust in my training, I’ve gotta trust the people who hired me, and let’s just go.

Dominic Sessa: Yeah, it’s… (Laughs) You hope that the people who cast you didn’t make a wrong choice, and that you can actually do the thing right. Yeah, I think it was certainly stressful at first, but like you said, it’s a matter of trust. Once I got to a place where I could trust myself in the process, in that responsibility of bringing forth such an important character in the story, I just hit the ground running there.

Screen Rant: So, this was your first time on a movie set, I mean, I know everything was on location, but a film shoot?

Dominic Sessa: Yeah, this is my first film of any type, ever. I hadn’t done any student film work or anything like that, so I was really brand new to all this stuff.

Screen Rant: Did you play it cool, or were you like, “Oh wow, what’s that?” Or were you just like, you’ve gotta hit the ground running and get your shots done?

Dominic Sessa: (Laughs) I definitely did not play it cool at certain points. In the scenes, for sure, I’m in it and doing the work there. But I can remember a lot of days, just going to set even when I wasn’t called, you know? I mean, I was called a lot of the days, but the days that I wasn’t, I would just go in and watch. How often do you get the chance to watch Alexander Payne make a movie three feet away from you? That was super special and my favorite memories.

Screen Rant: Did you get to have any kind of mentorship with with Paul, or was he like, “I’ll be in my trailer until the next scene?”

Dominic Sessa: Even before we started shooting, before we had a couple of read-throughs, I would go over to his house, and we would have dinner. Just get to know each other, you know? And for him to be this guy… In my eyes, he’s a giant! For him to make that time for me, to invite me over to his house to get to know me, I’m so grateful for that, and it made it so much easier for me to get into that.

About The Holdovers

The Holdovers Cast Dinner

From acclaimed director Alexander Payne, THE HOLDOVERS follows a curmudgeonly instructor (Paul Giamatti) at a New England prep school who is forced to remain on campus during Christmas break to babysit the handful of students with nowhere to go. Eventually he forms an unlikely bond with one of them — a damaged, brainy troublemaker (newcomer Dominic Sessa) — and with the school’s head cook, who has just lost a son in Vietnam (Da’Vine Joy Randolph).

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The Holdovers is in theaters now.

Source: Screen Rant Plus

  • The Holdovers Poster

    The Holdovers

    Release Date:

    Alexander Payne

    Paul Giamatti, Da’Vine Joy Randolph, Dominic Sessa, Carrie Preston


    133 Minutes

    Comedy, Drama, Holiday

    David Hemingson

    MiraMax, Gran Via

    Focus Features


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