Meet the Florida writer and actress whose directing debut is coming to Hulu

“Suncoast” (2024) is a Sundance Film Festival award-winning movie starring Woody Harrelson, Laura Linney, and Nico Parker that begins streaming Feb. 9 on Hulu. It is the directorial debut of Laura Chinn, a writer, producer and actress from Clearwater, FL.

Chinn has starred in shows including “Grey’s Anatomy” and “Young and Hungry.” She is the creator of and series regular in the comedy “Florida Girls.” 

Aventura’s AMC Theaters hosted the film’s premiere screening on Feb. 2, which included a panel discussion with two producers and an actor from the movie.

Chinn wrote and directed “Suncoast” as a semi-autobiographical work. The story draws tension from emotional hardships and balances it with comedy, underscoring the highs and lows often showcased in the coming-of-age genre.

“Laughter is my coping mechanism,’’ said Chinn in her director’s statement for the film’s release. “It helps me deal with the unpredictable tragedies of life.”

“With ‘Suncoast,’ I wanted to add lightness to some of the hardest moments of human existence.” 

“Suncoast” follows the perspective of a reserved teenager named Doris, played by Parker. Her brother is terminally ill with brain cancer and has been transferred to Suncoast Hospice. 

The film takes place in 2005, with the events of the Terri Schiavo case serving as a secondary backdrop for the scenes at the hospice and throughout the movie. 

Schiavo was 26 years old when she suffered a cardiac arrest in 1990 that left her in a vegetative state. She spent the remainder of her life tied to a feeding tube while an intense legal battle ensued between her husband, who wanted the feeding tube removed, and the rest of her family, which did not. The dispute garnered media attention and sparked protests from multiple activist groups.

In the film, Doris struggles to find her own sense of identity outside of the caretaker role she has assumed for her brother. She juggles dealing with his impending death and their frantic, hardworking mother.

Nico Parker, Ella Anderson, Ariel Martin, and Daniella Taylor on the set of Suncoast. (Courtesy of the “Suncoast” production team)

Parker won the Breakthrough Performance Award at the 2024 Sundance Film Festival. Chinn said she had Parker in mind to play Doris since she began writing the script and recalls first meeting with Parker over Zoom and thinking she was perfect for the role. 

Veteran producers Francesca Silvestri and Kevin Chinoy worked on the film alongside Chinn. Silvestri said the script was strong enough to lure actors Harrelson and Linney even in its earliest stages.

Chinoy and Silvestri attended the Aventura screening along with Ariel Martin, a fellow “Suncoast” actress and Florida native. They answered audience questions following the screening.

“It’s rare to come across a script that has so much depth and actually talks about something meaningful that I can connect to,” said Martin during the panel discussion. “To be part of a story that means so much and is so real for Laura [Chinn] means so much to me.”

Hennessy Sepulveda is an FIU student who is currently pursuing a bachelor’s degree
in Digital Journalism. She obtained an associates in arts in Mass Communications/Journalism
from Miami Dade College. She has also worked as a contributing writer for PantherNow.