Charlie Rowe, Marcia Gay Harden: 'Gigi & Nate' shows good, bad risks

Charlie Rowe and Allie the monkey star in "Gigi &amp Nate." File Photo by Jim Ruymen/UPI
1 of 5 | Charlie Rowe and Allie the monkey star in "Gigi & Nate." File Photo by Jim Ruymen/UPI | License Photo

LOS ANGELES, Sept. 2 (UPI) -- The stars of Gigi & Nate, in theaters Friday, said the film shows the benefits and dangers of taking risks.

In the movie, Charlie Rowe, 26, plays Nate, a quadriplegic fighting to keep his service monkey, Gigi.


"The character of Nate is a risk-taker who shows unbelievable resilience," Rowe told UPI in a recent Zoom interview. "[The] character actually encouraged me to take more risks and to push for what I believe in."

Based on the true story of Ned Rogers, whose mother, Ellen, wrote the book, Kasey to the Rescue, the film tells a fictionalized version in which Nate contracts meningitis from a lake when he is 18. After Nate receives Gigi, animal rights activists claim capuchin monkeys need to be released into the wild.

While Nate's jump into the lake shows the dangers of one kind of risk, Rowe said Nate's battle to keep Gigi shows a positive one. Nate speaks at a government hearing that will decide whether he gets to keep Gigi.


"I would be hesitant to jump off a 50-foot cliff," Rowe said. "But, I think even the way he behaves in the courtroom, even the way he and his family carry themselves, there is risk-taking."

Marcia Gay Harden, 63, plays Nate's mother, Claire, in the film, and said she related to Claire's struggle between allowing Nate freedom and trying to protect him.

Harden said she didn't believe Claire could prevent an 18-year-old from jumping into a lake. However, Harden said, she hopes to instill basic safety precautions in her children before they are on their own.

"No texting and driving," Harden said as one example. "Don't leave a lit candle in your space, even to walk away to the bathroom, even to go upstairs to take a shower. Just blow it out."

Ned was paralyzed in an automobile accident. Harden said she felt the film's adaptation of contracting meningitis also illustrated how quickly and unexpectedly one's life can drastically change.

The film also showed what people are capable of in emergencies when Claire springs into action, Harden said. Claire demands a helicopter take Nate from their local hospital to a major city hospital for diagnosis.

"I'm always fascinated by those tales of people lifting cars and what happens in the body when your child is in crisis," Harden said. "I think it's a fascinating thing that takes over, and that's what happens to her."


Rowe spoke to Ned on Zoom, but Harden did not meet Ellen. Harden read Ellen's book and said it gave her a sense of what a mother goes through when her child is critically injured.

"The biggest loss is watching her son go through what he went through,," Harden said. "She was always commenting on the kindness of strangers around her."

Harden recalled one anecdote from Rogers' book in which an airport controller put her plane at the front of the line so she could get home to Ned. Harden said Gigi also represents that kind of kindness.

"I had people who'd just been there for me 24/7 when things have been down for me," Harden said. "It's truly, truly a gift to have a great friend or a great service animal."

A capuchin monkey named Allie played Gigi in the film. Rowe said it took time for Allie to trust him.However, Allie performed on cue, even in a scene in which Nate brings Gigi to a party.

"She's playing beer pong," Rowe said. "She's chucking ping-pong balls into cups."

Rowe said Allie could pick up cues from director Nick Hamm, too. A scene before the party shows Gigi helping Nate get ready.


"Nick would just say, 'OK, now Allie, brush Charlie's teeth,' and she'd grab the toothbrush and she just would somehow know what to do," Rowe said. "I'm sure the trainers worked with her on it at some point."

Harden said that watching Allie's trainers acclimate her to a film production illustrated the way service animals can become part of someone's life.

"She was such a lesson in the relationship of human beings and animals," Harden said. "She learned about the camera and being on set. You can see her learn to navigate this world, and that was astonishing."

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