The new film Mean Girls is not your average Hollywood teen film. Written by Tina Fey of Saturday Night Live fame, this is one subversive look at female adolescence, as the new girl at school [Lindsay Lohan] being befriended and manipulated by three mean girls, led by the cool Rachel McAdams. Paul Fischer sat down with all three ‘mean girls’ for this wide ranging discussion.
Question: You grew up near London, Stratford by any chance?
Rachel: It’s close to Stratford, I went to Stratford to watch theatre, but I’m closer to Windsor, more southwest. St. Thomas. I still live in Toronto.
Question: And you came to L.A. for The Hot Chick?
Rachel: I lived in El Segundo. Let’s put the little Canadian girl in El Segundo, she’ll never know the difference. And I didn’t until I’d been there for four months.
Question: When you play a character like this, do you try to play the role off screen to a degree, so that you can get into the part?
Lacey: No, I think we tried not to play the roles off screen, they weren’t the nicest roles.
Amanda: I was a little spacey back in the early days of high school. My friends treated me like everybody treats Karen to a certain degree, which is kind of strange. I’m not playing myself.
Question: We know you’re smarter than the character
Amanda: Oh, I hope so. I think so.
Question: Were the three of you ever the object of meanness when you were in high school?
Lacey: I didn’t go to high school, I was tutored on the set, but amongst my friends I was kind of somewhat like Gretchen, kind of insecure and trying to figure out who I was, and feeling a little isolated especially because I was just kind of different than other teenagers because of what I do. There were a lot of things in the script where I was like, ‘Wow, I can’t believe that happened.’ I’m so thankful I wasn’t in high school.
Question: What about the rest of you, were you victims – no one wants to admits that they were mean to anybody/
Amanda: I was mean in 6th grade; I did three way calls. I brought my friends over, or I drove to somebody else’s house, we did do three way calling this is also a form of it – we all huddled together and called one person we hadn’t invited, if we were made at them or something, it was really evil.
Rachel: I gossiped when I was given a chance because I wasn’t popular so the few times someone would invite you into the group to have a conversation it was usually about someone else and you just joined in because it was great to be a part of something, and that I feel bad for. But it came out of this place of wanting to belong, and I think that’s so much of what’s gossiping is, unless you’re the instigator, if you’re the follower, usually you just want some sort of approval.
Question: Do you think a high school in St. Thomas, Ontario, is as bad as the school depicted here?
Rachel: Maybe not dealing with the same things, I don’t think I ever saw anyone wear these clothes, even in the entire town, let alone high school. Maybe at the Catholic girls’ high school, which is really funny, that they were the most risqué; those Catholic girls. But I mean, I joined the student’s council in my last year of school, just so I had a place to go at lunch, which is sort of pathetic. But there was an office that I had the key to, because I hated the cafeteria experience, and I didn’t have time to go home at lunch, and I felt sort of young and silly walking home just to eat lunch. It wasn’t the only reason, but it wound up being quite a crutch to pull away for the lunch hour while everyone else – because the cafeteria I think was a lot like the cafeteria in the film, where everyone stuck to their own table and if you didn’t belong at that table you would never sit down, you’d never sit down at a table where you didn’t belong. It was just unheard of. So that dreaded walk was like the death march through the cafeteria. So I just stopped doing it altogether.
Question: You’re the oldest one of the group, aren’t you? Was it easier for you to relate to your high school experiences?
Rachel: I felt like I’d been out long enough that I had sort of let go of any grudges, so that I could have a fresh perspective. I don’t remember people’s names that were mean to me anymore, so I have that distance, which helps me to have a fresh start. But, at the same time, I needed to be refreshed on what was hip and cool now, because I’m not so much. And I wasn’t the popular girl, so I definitely needed to do some research in terms of talking to girls that are going it through now, because it’s different.
Question: Did you discuss your characters with Tina Fey?
Lacey: It was right in the script; you could just tell who the characters were.
Amanda: I thought her voice was so strong in the script, she wrote characters that were already so well defined and different from each other that the lines were never really blurred, I’m going to be too much like this person, what’s my job in this script? It was really cool, with Mark directing it, focusing on being real but being as funny as possible, which is such a great combination.
Question: Lacey, you’d never been a mean girl before?
Lacey: No, but it was really fun though. Yeah, Gretchen wasn’t like evil, but she was like – she struck me as very gossipy and I always wanted to get people in trouble. I couldn’t relate to that part. I hope that I couldn’t relate to that part. But I guess the biggest was just feeling insecure, a victim at 15 or 16, you’re trying to find our identity, and trying to be your own leader and not having the ability to do that, and searching for those qualities in other people. That was really Gretchen, she idolized Regina and was terrified of her at the same time.
Question: Is it easy to feel sympathy for these characters?
Rachel: I think it’s interesting, because it was almost a trap to be too sympathetic, because I think it’s easy to tell why mean girls do the things they do, it’s because they’re insecure and because they want people to feel less than. But for Regina, the interesting challenge for me was to go further with – she’s sort of like a machine, she hurts people because she can, and for some reason it feels good and she has an obsession with it, and I really wanted to go to that extreme. And she’s almost animal-like, lacking that little trigger that says, ‘Wait a second, this is wrong.’ You meet these people that actually care, that don’t actually feel bad about hurting people, and it’s so interesting to me. But ultimately again it does come from a sense of insecurity, but if there are kids out there now that just hurt because they can, and I think they are in a league of their own.
Question: You’re character is also obsessive.
Rachel: Right, and I’m a bit of a control freak, so I understand that.
Question: How does that manifest itself with you?
Rachel: In terms of my life? I’m a perfectionist. I’m very hard on myself, and that’s not helpful when it comes to acting.
Question: Were you a perfectionist when it came to your figure skating?
Rachel: Yes, and eventually it came to a point where I couldn’t mentally handle the nerves anymore, it wasn’t fun, because my personality would start to change, three weeks before competition my mother would say, ‘What is wrong with you?’ And I had no idea that I was putting too much pressure on myself.
Question: Are you the same at University?
Rachel: Yes. Have I learned anything in life?
Question: What did you study in University?
Rachel: I studied theatre.
Question: Do you want to have an academic career or is acting …
Rachel: I wanted to be a secretary, I love paper clips and staplers.
Question: You can’t be a secretary, not after Perfect Pie and this
Rachel: Did you see Perfect Pie?
Question: I saw it on stage first and then I saw the movie
Rachel: I saw it on stage as well. It was wonderful. I was very lucky to be a part of that project.
Question: Amanda, you’re going to college – right?
Amanda: It says it, but no. I was enrolled at Fordham and then a week I got Mean Girls.
Question: Do you want to rewrite the bio to say you’d like to go to college?
Amanda: In the future I will be enrolled. It looks like I’ll be busy this next year too.
Question: Doing what?
Amanda: I’m working on an HBO pilot called Big Love. It’s about Mormons. It’s the story about a Mormon who ??? Bill Paxton is my father, and he has three wives, and I’m his first daughter, and I’m about four years younger than his last wife, and it’s the controversy between the wives.
Question: What about your college expectations?
Lacey: I started taking classes about two years ago. I go at night and on the weekends.
Question: Do you plan to finish before you’re forty or fifty?
Lacey: Yes, it’s a long journey. Like one semester I was able to take ten units, then another semester I took 9, and last semester I took three. It’s a real slow process, but it’s just really interesting because I’ve been out of school for so long, and tutored for so long, that I really like the school experience. I just want an education. I’ve worked really hard in my correspondence ??? Right now I’m just doing general education, kind of fun classes and basic classes, but I take a lot of psychology and writing, because those are the two that interests me most.
Question: Are you working?
Lacey: Yes, I just did a movie called Dirty Deeds. It takes place at a high school, it’s a homecoming and I play the character of a girl who’s really bored and over it all and just wants to graduate. It’s different from all the characters I’ve played.
Question: How old are you now?
Question: What would you say to a teenager who might be going through this in school now?
Amanda: They should know first of all that it’s not worth fighting, it’s not worth trying to be their friend, the mean girls. No matter where it puts you at, no matter how far up on the scale you’ll end up being ???
Rachel: Mean girls are always going to exist, and you can’t fight them, like you said. Don’t lose yourself in going along with them just to hide, because you won’t feel good about that either. But if you can find people, and it might be outside of high school, but there are people like you out there, trust me that when I was in school I felt like I was the only one and I got to university and a whole new world opened up for me, and I’ve never ever felt that way again. I did theatre outside of school, and I think that was my salvation as well. I found people that had the same interests that respected each other. It exists, and keep trying to find it, because it’s worth it to not succumb.
Lacey: I just think girls become so wrapped up in superficial issues that don’t really matter, such as hair and make up and clothes and cars, all the things that are represented in the movie, and while those things can be fun and interesting, it’s just I think girls need to be taught and encouraged that other creative qualities are more important and finding who you are creatively as a person, and what your interests are, are definitely more important.
Question: Can you tell me about The Notebook?
Rachel: Yeah, The Notebook is a love story that I did with Nick Cassavettes, James Garner, Gena Rowlands, Ryan Gosling and they’re releasing in June. And I play a southern debutante in the 1940’s who’s been a wild (?) child falling in love for the first time, the world is her oyster, and then she becomes separated from her love and they reunite. It’s really the story of their love.
Question: Is the separation through war?
Rachel: It is, it’s not directly because of war, but the years of war are between us. Gena Rowlands plays me as an adult – it’s really her story, I’m in flashback.
Question: What was it like being directed by Nick?
Rachel: He’s great. He’s so fired up all the time, and so passionate. He kicked my butt and I’m so glad he did, because I had an amazing experience, him and Ryan are quite an intellectual team together and I love the way they attack this love story without being too precious about it, two very manly-men being excited about a love story is a great thing to be around.
Question: Is you career on a roll?
Rachel: On a roll? Down a small hill.