Director Bob Dolman gave Hicks further guidance. “Bob would always tell me that bullies play it cool. They don't care if this kid or that kid doesn't like ‘em. Bob has helped me so much and I couldn't have done the part nearly as well without him.”
Throughout the story, Joe uses the myth of his ‘death ring’ to keep fear in the hearts of the whole 5th grade. “It ends up that it's a ring that you could buy at Wal-Mart,” laughs Hicks.
Joe’s posse includes a half dozen fifth graders all trying to figure out how to fit in. Alexander Gould plays the high-strung boy nicknamed Twitch. “He is a little nutty, a little cuckoo,” says Gould. “Twitch’s parents expose him to a lot of art and music. He doesn't want to really show that he likes it, but he secretly really likes it.”
The bigger Joe Guire bullies Twitch and the others throughout the story. “I think that bullies are really afraid of something that they think is not so good about themselves, so they beat up on other kids who are smaller and weaker than them to make them feel better about themselves. It's really not a good thing,” observes Gould.
Houston-native Andrew Gillingham makes his feature film debut as Twitch’s best friend Techno Mouth, aptly nicknamed due to the elaborate braces on his teeth.
“Techno Mouth is a really fun kid, but kind of a crazy kid,” explains Gillingham. “He does stuff like climb up walls and hang from ceilings. Twitch and I have always been friends and we stick together in the story.”
“Andrew got his braces in May and I thought there goes any opportunity for him to get acting parts,” remembers his mother Carol Gillingham, a first-grade teacher. “Then the very next month, he auditioned for this piece and he got the part of Techno Mouth partly because of his braces. So, what I thought was a bad thing, turned out to be in his favor.”
Despite being told not to, both Twitch and Techno Mouth instinctively want to make friends with Billy, and eventually learn the importance of standing up to Joe and letting their natural joy shine through.