Over the summer, actress Molly Ringwald tweeted that Eighth Grade was "the best film about adolescence I've seen in a long time. Maybe ever."
Last month, we invited the 80s icon to meet Elsie Fisher, the film's 15-year-old star for a conversation about the highs and lows of being a young actor, Elsie’s audition for Eighth Grade, Bo Burnham’s Vine career (RIP), why social media should have stopped at Myspace, the impossibility of not saying “Um” and “Like,” Dungeons & Dragons, the Golden State Killer, coming-of-age on screen, and why we never stop craving connection—regardless of age.
Speaker: Hey it’s A24 and you’re listening to Episode 7 of The A24 Podcast. Our guests today are Elsie Fisher, the 15-year-old breakout star of our summer film Eighth Grade, and actress Molly Ringwald, the 80s icon who starred in the generation-defining movies Sixteen Candles, The Breakfast Club, and Pretty In Pink. Elsie and Molly had never met before this conversation, and, to no one’s surprise, they had a lot to talk about.
Elsie Fisher: Hi, I'm Elsie Fisher and...
Molly Ringwald: I'm Molly Ringwald.
Elsie: And we're doin’ the A24 Podcast.
Molly: Yea-woo! Well, it's so great to meet you.
Elsie: Oh, yeah, this is amazing. I actually binged quite a few of your movies last night and today.
Molly: Oh my goodness.
Elsie: You're amazing.
Molly: Thank you.
Elsie: Like, I can't believe I've lived so many years in the dark, not knowing about, you know, your, just, amazingness.
Molly: Well, thank you very much. Um, I wish my daughter were here to actually hear you say that, that would be awesome. So, had you seen the movies before or, I guess you'd heard about them?
Elsie: I think I've seen The Breakfast Club like forever ago, but last night actually was my first time watching Pretty in Pink and Sixteen Candles. You and John Hughes are just power team, man.
Molly: Thank you. Well, I feel like, one of the reasons why I was really interested to do this conversation is because everybody has asked me for years about why people still watch the movies that I did. The movies that I made with John Hughes when I was a teenager. And I always said, well, because nobody else has managed to make a film that really speaks to teenagers, that really speaks to the experience of being a teenager.
Molly: And how sort of agonizing it is.
Elsie: Oh, yeah.
Molly: And then I saw Eighth Grade and it was really the first time that I sort of had that shock of recognition where I said, “Okay, I mean I'm no longer a teenager, but I have a teenage daughter who just graduated from eighth grade.”
Elsie: Oh, that's so cool.
Molly: She's, it's her first year of ninth grade. And so I feel like I just recognize so much of that experience.
Elsie: That was definitely something I really enjoyed about the films I watched last night.
Molly: Yeah. So, you've been acting, I guess sort of like me, like since you were a kid, right?
Elsie: Yeah, yeah. I started when I was about five years old.
Molly: And how did that happen?
Elsie: So I was living in Idyllwild, California. So, in like the mountains above Palm Springs. And
yeah, my dad was a waiter at this jazz café and one of our friends was like a bassist so he would
play live music. One day I just started dancing on stage and it was really funny and my dad got like approached by these people.
Molly: Oh, wow. You were scouted!
Elsie: Yeah, I mean kinda, yeah. I mean, it's kind of fuzzy in my memory being very long ago for me, but yeah, I mean we sat on it kind of for a while and then we eventually kind of rediscovered, like, oh yeah, these people like us. And I just kind of started acting.
Molly: And it's something you still have decided that you want to continue doing?
Elsie: Oh, yeah. Absolutely. Especially after Eighth Grade. There were points definitely in my career, like multiple times, where I was considering stopping. Just 'cause I mean, like, I wasn't getting jobs and it's like, when you're younger, I mean, you've got to kind of think about what you want to do for your life. And I would be like missing so much school for auditions and then not getting jobs.
Molly: Yeah. I, that was definitely my experience was that in sixth grade it was really hard. Then in seventh grade, I did my first movie when I was 13 years old. It was called Tempest and I went to Greece and Rome and-
Elsie: Oh, how cool.
Molly: Yeah, it was really an amazing shoot. But my parents didn't know whether or not we were ever going to go Europe again because we had never been out of California.
Elsie: Right. Yeah, yeah.
Molly: You know, and we didn't know that I was going to have this career that just suddenly exploded.
Molly: So my parents decided that it was an incredible opportunity and as long as we were in Europe we should go to London and Paris. So, they made this decision and then I ended up missing the first month and a half of eighth grade.
Elsie: Oh, wow.
Molly: Which, if you've survived eighth grade, you know that that is not what you do.
Elsie: Yeah. Oh, yeah, you can't do that.
Molly: No, you can't because everybody just forms their cliques and-
Elsie: Yeah and it's like that, I mean, middle school is hell. But that year especially is like, I feel like so many kids change during the summer of seventh to eighth.
Molly: Oh, yeah.
Elsie: Like, it's so weird.
Molly: Yeah. And what's your experience from eighth to ninth? Do you think that there's as big of a difference between eighth and ninth?
Elsie: I think in my experience, I've definitely seen kids mature a lot more and I mean that comes with every grade, I think, for the most part. But yeah, I don't know, and cliques actually kind of stopped happening. I mean, like everyone just kind of knew each other. There are definitely friend groups, but I feel like everyone's a little more accepting of each other. I guess.
Molly: Well, that's encouraging.
Elsie: Yeah. I mean, I feel very lucky. Especially watching stuff like Pretty In Pink, like thinking of my experience, I feel very fortunate. 'Cause I mean, I've never really had to deal with like mean rich kids or anyone of that sort, I guess.
Molly: Oh, that's good.
Molly: That's good. What was I going to ask you? Oh, I know. Sort of switching topics a little bit, but what was your, I'm just sort of curious what your audition process was like for Eighth Grade?
Elsie: It was actually pretty standard. So, well, fun back story. So, this was like the third point in my career where I was really considering quitting acting. 'Cause I hadn't worked like in a while before this.
Molly: I have to say, just, I'm sorry to interrupt, but-
Elsie: No, no, yeah.
Molly: -it really, I just love that you're talking about points in your career when you're 15 years old. When you get to be my age, it seems like there are so many points in your career.
Elsie: Oh, yeah, yeah.
Molly: And I think that, I mean personally, I think that you're going to have a very long career.
Elsie: Thank you.
Molly: And this is just only the very, very, very beginning.
Elsie: I mean, it's really interesting now to like, kind of think about it as a career 'cause it's always, like, it's never been a hobby, quite. But, you know, it wasn't the main focus of my life. But now more so it is.
Elsie: So this was kind of another low point in my career for me, at least just personally. And I was trying to just focus on school and I really like illustrations. So, I was thinking about doing like an art career and all this stuff. And I was actually a really, really big fan of Bo's Comedy.
Elsie: So, yeah, I got this audition and my dad emailed it to me and I saw it was a director session with Bo Burnham.
Molly: Did that make you nervous?
Elsie: Oh, I mean, everything makes me nervous. Auditions in general are just so scary.
Molly: Yeah, they're awful.
Elsie: Yeah, they're the worst. But, yeah, I was very nervous. 'Cause I mean, you know, I don't get, at least at that point, I'm much more fortunate now, especially right now. But I don't get to meet a lot of people I respect. Or at least I didn't. But, yeah, so I mean I was really excited and I was really intrigued by the script because Kayla, I mean, she talks very similarly to how I do, as you can tell by listening. But, I was really, really intrigued because, I don't know, I've been on so many auditions for teens and you know, even older children because I look like a baby.
Molly: You do.
Elsie: A little bit, a baby with acne.
Molly: In the nicest way.
Elsie: Thank you.
Molly: A beautiful baby.
Elsie: Oh, thank you. But, yeah, I mean, like, they're all so articulate and that's just not realistic in my eyes. So it's a little harder for me to get into it and get into the scene. But also, like I have struggles speaking sometimes. I have a little bit of a stutter, and, you know, just some vocal things that like, you know, when you're supposed to have this insanely articulate person in an audition and you have like a vocal whatever, it's like so embarrassing when it happens. You know?
Elsie: Yeah, but I mean I went into the audition and I felt really good about it because Kayla did speak the way I kind of do. Yeah, and I mean I walked into the room and Bo was just so nice. I was so worried he was going to be like this asshole. 'Cause I mean some casting directors are and yeah, I mean I walked in and it was just such a good energy.
Elsie: And I remember really distinctly, I was sitting down at the audition and I knocked the script off my lap and I got so embarrassed.
Molly: I've done that.
Elsie: My face was very red, as it gets. And like, he was just like, "It's perfect, it's in character, you're all good." And I just felt a wave of relief. I had-
Molly: I'm sure that that's probably what got you the job. I mean, from what I read, he said that you were the only one that came in that he believed.
Molly: That everybody came in and they seemed so confident and he also said something that really resonated with me, which was that shy people try to act confident.
Molly: And very often they end up talking too much. And I, and Kayla definitely does that in the movie.
Elsie: Yeah. Yeah.
Molly: And I definitely still do that in life.
Elsie: Oh, me right now.
Molly: Where, well, we're supposed to talk.
Elsie: For sure.
Molly: That was something that just really, really spoke to me and just that she just can't stop talking and I really, I mean not only did I recognize that in my young self, but I recognize that in myself now.
Molly: Do you feel that you guys sort of developed like a special connection? Do you feel like he was-
Elsie: Oh, absolutely.
Molly: I mean, he seemed like an amazing director because he got such great performances.
Elsie: Yeah, I mean, he really is an amazing standalone director. I've never had the pleasure of working with someone so talented. Personally, like friendship wise, we're very similar people. And that was really special to meet someone like that and get to work with them so closely. And especially someone who's like not in my demographic.
Elsie: That was so special to me and I feel very lucky.
Molly: Was there some Vine that he did because my daughter, Mathilda, told me, "If you ever meet him, you have to tell him that I really loved blah, blah, blah Vine," and I can't remember what it was and I didn't see it.
Elsie: Yeah. I mean, he has so many. I'm trying to think of an appropriate one. 'Cause like his most famous is like, I won't get into it-
Molly: All right, all right.
Elsie: Yeah. But he has quite the Vine career.
Molly: But, does he have any teenagers, like, what made him want to do a movie about teenagers? Because, I'm sort of curious about that because I don't really remember that much what it was like to be a teenager. I mean, it's kind of a little bit of a blur. I remember that things, like really sucked. You know, there were some great things I remember like a lot of highs and a lot of lows. But, you know, the sort of details have become a little bit blurry. But they weren't so for John, they were very specific. Like, he still remembered his locker combination.
Molly: And I thought it was interesting because he didn't have any teenage kids and he wasn't a teenager himself. And yet he was able to channel that and I was just curious about Bo, like how was he able to write something that was so, that was so true to the teenage experience?
Elsie: Yeah, I mean, I think a lot of it, well, first of it all, it comes from him right now. I mean, he said multiple times like Eighth Grade is a very, deeply personal movie for him because it's not about him when he was a kid. It's about him right now, or like, you know, just someone-
Molly: Oh, that's interesting.
Elsie: Yeah, just someone who is feeling the same things. And I mean, I think that's really amazing because, I mean, it just addresses kids in such a mature sense, which I don't think we see a lot.
Elsie: Because, I mean, I'm kind of an older kid, but we're feeling like actual emotions that we can relate to adults. You know? Or adults can relate to us, either way.
Molly: Yeah. And those feelings never really go away.
Elsie: Oh, yeah, no. I mean-
Molly: I mean people get better, I think, about covering them up.
Elsie: Oh, of course.
Molly: You know? But I feel like they always feel the same way. I mean, everybody wants to be liked, everyone is worried about not being confident or not saying the right thing.
Elsie: Yeah, yeah. I think, I just specifically for like Kayla's inspiration, 'cause I know he wanted to write about anxiety and that's kind of what based the movie. But part of it was also like realizing that, you asked if he had any teenagers in his life, and while he doesn't have like actual kids, I mean he had a comedy career and a lot of his most devoted fans were young teenage girls who were relating to his songs. Yeah, I think that's part of also like what inspired him because people, you know, even if they don't match up demographically, they can really relate to each other.
Elsie: Yeah, I don't know.
Molly: I wanted to ask you about anxiety. Because I feel like anxiety is something that we talk about so much more than when I was a kid or a teenager.
Elsie: Oh, yeah, yeah.
Molly: I mean, I feel like the only time I ever even heard that word was this Mel Brooks movie called High Anxiety and I was sort of like, "What does that mean?" But it's something that we talk about a lot now and it's also something that I feel like teenagers deal with a lot more. I mean -
Elsie: Yeah, no, no, no. Absolutely. I mean, I personally feel like a lot of that is with growing up with social media.
Elsie: Because I mean, like, I could go into a long, long speech about this. But, like, all of your mistakes are now permanent and that is terrifying.
Elsie: Number one, you're posting pictures of yourself and pictures are like, they have to be perfect now because you can retake them so many times.
Elsie: You know, you can delete your picture, but it could still be on there somewhere.
Molly: Do you have social media?
Elsie: I do, tragically.
Molly: When did your parents let you get social media?
Elsie: Um, maybe 12. My dad's shaking his head over there.
Molly: Oh, he's putting up his finger like you were older.
Elsie: Yeah. I mean, it was in that range though.
Molly: I feel like that was the age that we let our, we have three kids, and two of them are nine years old, so they are not on social media at all. But Matilda is. And our decision was, or my thinking was, because I think I was wrong, I'm going to say this and I'm going to take credit for it, because I think I was wrong. I felt like, you know, this was something that she's going to have in her life and she needs to learn how to use it responsibly.
Elsie: Right, right.
Molly: But I don't believe that you can really do that when you're that young.
Elsie: Yeah, I mean, I don't think you can use social media responsibly, period.
Elsie: I mean it's such a messed up thing if you really think about it. I mean, marketing social relationships? Which is so insane.
Elsie: And I mean, yeah.
Molly: So, why are we on it? Why do we ... this is a conversation that I'm having with myself-
Elsie: Yeah, yeah.
Molly: -actually, every day.
Elsie: I mean, if I had the answer to that, I probably wouldn't be on it myself. I don't know, I think a lot of it is we really crave friendship because -
Molly: And connection, right?
Elsie: Yeah, and connection. I mean, the internet brings some amazing people together and it gives voices to people who don't have them and it does so many good things for people, but it's become kind of demonized in a way. I mean, I think, I think we should have stopped at Myspace. That was good enough.
Molly: Do you remember Myspace?
Elsie: I never actually had one, I just hear the legends of Myspace.
Molly: I remember Myspace. Yeah, it's weird. It's weird to me to think that I remember when Facebook started. I remember when there was My ... I remember Friendster. You know, I actually remember not even having the Internet, which just seems crazy to me now.
Elsie: Oh, yeah. I mean, that's kind of insane for me to think about. For so many reasons, because I mean, I'm someone who's grown up with it. Thinking about being my age and seeing, like, movies of kids my age going out alone without, like, a phone is insane to me.
Elsie: I mean, I can leave the house, but I rarely do, because anxiety, but like the thought of being outside and not having a direct help line in your hand is crazy.
Elsie: Like, yeah.
Molly: I moved to Paris when I was in my 20's and I remember going to Paris and not having a computer and not having a phone and not having GPS.
Elsie: Wow! Yeah, yeah.
Molly: I mean, you would just, you would go out and if you couldn't learn how to read a map, then you just got lost. And you had to figure out how to ask somebody, you know, how to get home in a foreign language. I mean, it was just, but I think that it was really good for me. And I sometimes worry that teenagers now just aren't developing those skills.
Elsie: Absolutely. I mean, part of why I'm afraid to leave the house without my phone is because, like, I've never been exposed to a world where I do leave the house without my phone. I mean, when I was a kid I would walk to school and that was about, like, it. And I mean, like this happened like once a month. It's so weird to think how reliant we are on it for, not even just social reasons, but I mean like safety reasons too.
Molly: Yeah, yeah. But I was wondering if you feel like political as a teenager. I mean, I'll just start by saying I didn't feel particularly political as a teenager.
Elsie: Sure, yeah, yeah.
Molly: I feel very political now and I define myself as a feminist. You know, I get a lot of pushback from my daughter, who feels that I make, you know, I politicize everything and she feels really kind of, I guess, a little oppressed by that. And so she's sort of a little bit more conservative, I would say.
Molly: I feel like there's no way not to be political-
Elsie: Oh, yeah.
Molly: Like it seems crazy to me not to be able to-
Elsie: And again, I mean-
Molly: -be that political now.
Elsie: With the Internet, seeing everyone's opinions. I mean, it's a lot. I-
Molly: I mean, do you and your friends talk about that kind of stuff?
Elsie: Sometimes. I try not to involve myself too much. I mean, I have my opinions on certain matters, of course. But I'll educate myself on stuff, but I don't want to have these discussions right now. Yeah, I mean, I feel like there are more educated intelligent people who can speak for me. And it's not like I can do anything with my opinions, I can't vote, I can't do anything, really.
Molly: Very soon.
Elsie: Yet, of course. We'll see.
Molly: You'll be able to vote. But do you feel like, if you could vote, you would?
Elsie: Oh, yeah. I think so. I mean, it's hard to pick sides on things because you'll always find something wrong with either side on any issue, I think. But you know, you've got to weigh out the good and the bad.
Molly: And so how do you feel like you do educate yourself? Because I love that you want to do that and I feel like I really tried to do that when I was a teenager where I would listen to people.
Molly: I tried to do a lot of listening, because, like you, I felt that there were people that were more educated, more, you know, intelligent, or more life experience than I had. So, I really tried to educate myself as much as I could. So how do you do that? Because I think kids today really educate themselves in a different way because of the Internet.
Elsie: Yeah. I mean a lot of it is literally Twitter, I think is how a lot of teenagers educate themselves politically. I'm very fortunate to be a position where I get to be around a lot of adults. We're not starting political conversations all the time, but I can still listen when an issue arises and they have a comment. And you know, when it's someone I respect, I generally tend to agree with their opinions. But I try to listen to both sides of the story. I mean, like, I sometimes watch like people who have awful opinions I completely disagree with on YouTube or whatever, just to maybe see their line of thinking and you know, and for myself on how I would argue their opinion or if there are some points I agree with to, like, different opinions.
Molly: So what do you and your friends usually talk about?
Elsie: When we do have rare chats, a lot of them are in the LGBTQ communities, so we talk about rights.
Molly: So, that's political.
Elsie: Yeah, no, yeah, of course. I think especially they're maybe a little uncomfortable talking about it 'cause I'm a few years younger than them. Most of my friends from high school are seniors right now and I'm a sophomore. Not that they don't respect me, but still it can be weird and I understand it.
Elsie: But yeah, I mean, like again, it's not too much stuff, but when we do it's mostly just our comments on things. This is how we believe it should be done and someone prove us wrong so we can get a better line of thinking.
Molly: That's great.
Molly: That's encouraging.
Elsie: Thank you.
Molly: I feel like I'm sort of doing all of the question-
Elsie: Here, I'll pull out my notes.
Molly: Oh, you have, you made notes!
Elsie: Well, A24 sent them to me, but same thing. So, yeah, both of our characters have like a relatability. They're very relatable, I guess is what I'm saying.
Elsie: And I'm interested to think why you might think that your characters that you play are very relatable. I mean, especially in like Sixteen Candles and Pretty In Pink. I definitely related to those characters a lot and I'm just interested to hear why you think they might stand out.
Molly: Well, I mean, I think that for me the reason why people have connected to the characters that I've played is, I mean, pretty similar I think to you too, is that I didn't look, I mean, you sort of touched on this earlier, but I didn't look like an actress.
Elsie: Yeah, yeah.
Molly: I think I looked like a person. And, you know, I was sort of a little bit gawky, and I think it was sort of non-threatening to people.
Elsie: Oh, I've never considered that point of view, actually.
Molly: Yeah, I mean, the character that I played in The Breakfast Club was the character that was least like me. I think I was really, I mean of all three of those characters, I was probably the most like Samantha. And the character from Pretty In Pink, actually. That movie was actually written for me, so it was the only one that was actually written after-
Elsie: Was it directed by John Hughes?
Molly: No, that was the one that was not directed by him, but it was produced and it was written. It was written after we did The Breakfast Club, so he already knew me pretty well. So, he knew that I could play that character and I think he drew a lot of that character on who I was.
Elsie: That's so cool.
Molly: And it was sort of, the character of Andy and Ducky, you know Andy was my character and Ducky was my best friend that was played Jon Cryer. But that character of Ducky was based on my best friend, who's still my best friend. Which is one of the reasons why I always say that Ducky's gay, much to the consternation of, you know, people who want to believe in, like, that Andy and Ducky should have been together in life. And I'm like, no, they shouldn't have been because he's gay.
Elsie: No, I mean, cause like there should also just be representation of female/male friendships in media because I feel like in so much, especially with young kids, they are the obvious lovers and they are going to get together. But it's like, no, I mean sometimes people of different genders can just be friends.
Elsie: And they might misunderstand their feelings for one another because I mean, it can be confusing when you're a kid and you have all these hormones.
Elsie: But he so genuinely cares for Andy and it's like, it's so beautiful to watch, I think.
Molly: Yeah, I think so too. And I also believe that the connection that we had in the movie, which really did seem very real and genuine, it didn't seem romantic to me.
Elsie: No, yeah. I feel like it would have kind of, I mean, been a little ruined by romance.
Elsie: I mean-
Molly: Did your dad just text you?
Elsie: My dad texted me to stop saying “um.” Thanks.
Molly: It's impossible to talk if you think about saying um. If you stop staying um, then I'll try to stop saying like. Okay?
Elsie: Oh, man.
Molly: Um, see I just said it now. Um, see I just said it again. Oh my God.
Elsie: It's impossible!
Molly: It's impossible.
Elsie: Leave us alone. We are nerds.
Molly: Here, turn this over.
Elsie: Yeah, thank you.
Molly: One of the things I was going to say about that relationship between Andy and Ducky is the fact that I believe, you know, everyone always says what happened to these people? You know, there's not, beyond a shadow of doubt, I know that Andy and Blane didn't stay together. I mean, that's what I believe. But I believe that Andy and Ducky are still friends, you know, all these years later.
Elsie: Yeah, it really just is so genuine, their friendship. I mean, like, he talks about marrying her, but when you care for someone that much, it's just so hard to describe what you're feeling, I think.
Molly: Yeah. Have you had anyone like that in your life? Do you have, I mean obviously you have friends, but do you have people that you've been friends with for a long time? And-
Elsie: I mean, honestly, I'll be quite frank, the closest thing I have to that is actually Bo. I mean, I really, really care for him. I feel so incredibly lucky to know him as a person. And I mean, I've always been kind of like a social outcast at school, that's another reason why this entire experience has been so amazing for me.
Molly: I heard that you have a, that you like Dungeons and Dragons.
Elsie: Yeah, I have my own podcast, actually. It was really exciting, we just had Patton Oswalt on it as like a guest star.
Molly: Oh, wow. Oh, he's really nice.
Elsie: He is the nicest.
Molly: It's pretty crazy, but his wife, Michelle, who died, you know the mother of his child.
Molly: I mean this is a weird little aside, but she wrote a book-
Elsie: The gold ... yeah, yeah.
Molly: About the Golden State Killer and the Golden State Killer was originally called the East Area Rapist and he was found like right where I grew up, in Citrus Heights.
Elsie: Oh, that's terrifying.
Molly: And we didn't even know, she named him the Golden State Killer and they didn't even realize until-
Elsie: That they were the same person.
Molly: That they were the same person.
Elsie: That is crazy.
Molly: I know, it's really, really frightening.
Elsie: The world is small, but sometimes not in good ways.
Molly: Yeah. I was going to ask you, though, about Dungeons and Dragons because my brother was a big D&D player-
Elsie: Oh, that's so cool.
Molly: And he tried to get me into it, or I tried to get into it when I was a teenager, but I was already acting quite a bit then and I couldn't do it because it felt like, it almost felt like work to me.
Elsie: Yeah, I mean, I think I see it as improv practice for me.
Molly: Oh, that's interesting.
Elsie: I love comedy, I'd love to do standup someday. I mean, just in general, having a good sense of humor is very important to me. You know, you have one of your friends write the story and you have to, you're playing a character of course, but I mean you can do whatever. So, it's really nice to create stories with people like that.
Molly: I never thought of it that way. When did you get into it?
Elsie: Oh, this year. Like very recently.
Molly: Oh, okay. So it's pretty recent.
Elsie: Oh, yeah, yeah. 'Cause it can look very complicated from the outside.
Molly: Yeah, I just could never figure out how to, I mean, it just seemed very complicated to me.
Elsie: Yeah, for sure. I mean, there's lots of math in it.
Molly: Are you good with math?
Elsie: Surprisingly, I don't know if I would consider myself good, but I really like math and I have to think about things very logically.
Molly: My, I was never really actually that good with math and the only way my parents could get me to learn math was to put it to music.
Elsie: Oh, yeah, I mean, there must be a connection between the two. I mean, there is, but ... So we've been talking about your daughter a little bit, do you think, or have you taken her to see Eighth Grade yet?
Molly: No, actually, she went to camp, it was the first time. She had only actually ever been to camp once before and she did not like it. And said that she was never, ever going to go to camp again. And, you know, I think, I'm not sure, but I think it might have had something to do with the fact that I went to camp and maybe, she was sort of intrigued by that. So, she-
Elsie: That sounds so cool.
Molly: She decided to go, but, you know, I'm a mother and I was just really nervous to send her to this foreign country. I thought, like what have we done, and how is she going to, you know, like she's not going to have phone service and she's going to get lost and what's going to happen and she's not going to like it and she's not going to be able to talk to people. You know, and I was just really, really stressed out. And there were a couple of days when I wasn't, oh my God, if she ever hears this she's going to kill me, but I was really, really just kind of missing her.
Molly: And then I, I do this show called Riverdale, and the actress who plays Betty, Lili Reinhart, was the one that told me about Eighth Grade, 'cause she said that she heard something about it and really wanted to see it, she was really looking forward to it. And so, on her recommendation I looked it up and then saw the trailer and then sobbed. And then I showed it to my husband and you know, sobbed again. And then I showed to everyone and I just missed her so much. And I mean, she's different than Kayla, she's not exactly like that character. Like, she's actually pretty careful about what she puts online and that's probably because-
Elsie: That's always good.
Molly: I've been talking to her about that and I've always, I think, drummed it into her head, you know, this is permanent. You know, even if you think it disappears, you know, it never really truly disappears.
Elsie: Yeah, of course.
Molly: So, I think she's been pretty careful and she hasn't, you know, she doesn't do what Kayla does, she doesn't make-
Molly: Videos or anything like that. So anyway, I ended up seeing the movie when she was in France and I don't know if she's seen it yet. I almost think that because she just went through eighth grade, it might be a little hard to watch right because it's still very close.
Elsie: I think, is she in high school right now?
Molly: Well, she's in ninth grade, yeah, that's high school now.
Elsie: It might be okay, I mean it's different for every person. But I think after you start the new school year, immediately the last one is like, I mean, you're kind of embarrassed of yourself but you don't sympathize as much. At least for me, you know, in seventh grade I was like, oh, sixth grade me, such a dork. And then as soon as I moved to eighth grade, I'm like, seventh grade me, she thought she was so cool, she's a dork. And I'm just mean to myself.
Elsie: Yeah, I think once you're actually out of it, it's better.
Elsie: Actually, kind of, some of the coolest responses we've gotten from people who have seen the movie have been freshmen.
Molly: Oh, really?
Elsie: Yeah, 'cause I mean they can relate to it the most without cringing as bad.
Elsie: I mean, it's a little easier.
Molly: Have you ever watched it with people that are your age?
Elsie: I haven't watched it in a while and I did it mostly while we were in like the film festival circuit and all that. I have definitely gotten to do Q&A's though. We had those free screenings across the country for eighth graders or you know, teenagers.
Molly: Mm-hmm (affirmative)
Elsie: And that was really cool to see the response.
Molly: What are some of the most interesting things that other eighth graders have said?
Elsie: I mean, if we're going to say interesting, the most interesting for me is when people don't relate to it. You know, everyone has their own experience, but I feel like no matter who you are, you can find something to relate to. I mean, whether it's the anxiety or, you know, even, "I went to a pool party once and it kind of sucked."
Elsie: I don't know, in terms of good things, it's really interesting to see them relate to like Josh Hamilton, for instance, who plays the dad, or I mean-
Molly: Who's fantastic in it.
Elsie: Oh, he's so great. And Gabe, who is played by, get this, Jake Ryan. It's his name.
Molly: I saw that.
Elsie: That's his real name.
Molly: On IMDb, yeah.
Elsie: It's kind of amazing.
Molly: One thing that I just remembered, as we were talking about it, I was thinking about the different scenes in the movie. There's a really incredible scene where, I mean, she's basically being sexually harassed by this boy. And she finds herself in this situation and trying to, I mean it kind of makes me tear up thinking about it, 'cause I imagine my daughter in a situation like that.
Elsie: Oh, man, yeah, yeah.
Molly: And how she negotiates herself out of that situation.
Elsie: Yeah, of course.
Molly: And, um, and I found it really upsetting and very, I mean, it's weird because it's funny at the same time because your character, but at the same time, it's, yeah, it makes you incredibly nervous when you're watching it. How did you feel shooting that scene? I mean, what was that like?
Elsie: I mean, I won't lie, I mean I tried to treat every scene in the movie the same and not give any scene more weight, I guess. Not that the car scene isn't incredibly important, especially in today's culture. But, I don't know, I can't think very mechanically about what I do, otherwise I will start freaking out.
Elsie: It's such an important situation because a lot of people, not just girls, I mean boys too, anyone really can be traumatized by these kinds of events when nothing really happens. But something did happen, it's just so hard to communicate how you are feeling and, yeah, I think one of the only ways to really get that through is to show it and I mean, you've been sympathizing with this character the whole time and you know, you see her in the car and it's just like, oh.
Elsie: I mean, you really, really feel it with her.
Molly: Yeah. How much of the movie was improvised?
Elsie: A lot of with like the teenagers, a lot of their banter in the mall was improvised and in some of the, like, kids in the background, they were doing improvised stuff. But the only improvised scene I had was the Rick and Morty exchange between me and Gabe. I had free rein to throw in an and an um in when I was talking, but for the most part it was all scripted.
Molly: Wow, that's amazing.
Elsie: It's insane to think about.
Molly: Yeah, to me that just says that he's a really great writer.
Elsie: Oh, yeah. Yeah, I mean it's really incredible. I feel like I just was given a perfect environment to be honest with this character and you know, I was really allowed to be vulnerable and mess up my words. And just treat it honestly, I think.
Elsie: I mean, I've been fortunate enough to, you know, what film sets I have worked on, they've been incredibly welcoming environments. So, I feel very lucky.
Molly: How long was the shoot?
Elsie: Two months? Actually, I think it was 28 days exactly. It felt like forever though.
Molly: Yeah, of course. Everything feels like forever when you haven't been alive for that long.
Elsie: Oh, yeah.
Molly: That your sense of time completely changes when you're older.
Elsie: I wanted to ask you, by the way, I didn't find a natural way to bring this up, but like, you were acting at such a young age, you started, how do you feel having that around, like, yourself from a different time?
Molly: Well, it's pretty strange. I mean I feel like there are moments in my life that were captured on film that everybody else has seen. Like, literally, my first kiss is on screen. It was with Sam Robards. I was 13 years old, it was in my first movie, Tempest. And we had to kiss. And, you know, I mean we weren't like making out or anything, but it like a real kiss.
Elsie: Right, yeah.
Molly: And I had never, ever kissed a boy in my life and I was incredibly nervous about it. And I had this line, "Well, um, I'm a virgin, so I guess that's all there is." And then he kisses me again. And I'm leading up to doing that scene, I was just so incredibly nervous about it. But I didn't want to actually tell, like I was trying to act a lot more confident than I felt.
Elsie: Right, right.
Molly: And everybody was sort of like teasing me about it and then you can see like the vein on my neck pulsing so, like ba boom, ba boom, ba boom, ba boom.
Elsie: Oh, yeah, I mean that's got to be terrifying.
Molly: It was terri ... I mean it's kind of terrifying in real life, but imagine doing it, you know, in front of other people and then, and then it's preserved for life.
Elsie: Yeah, I mean-
Molly: And it is strange to me to have this very personal experience shared with all of these people.
Molly: And like I said, there's just no way that you can really act that. You know, I've seen those movies a number of times and then they become, like that just becomes so much a part of my memory that you can sometimes forget other things that happened. Like the Criterion Collection just released The Breakfast Club. And then they did these interviews with us and then they included all these scenes that weren't in the, you know 'cause apparently the original cut was like two and half hours long, three hours long or something like that. So they included all of these scenes. And when I was watching them, like in these unreleased scenes there was a monologue that I had about why my character was in detention.
Molly: And I had completely forgotten about it.
Elsie: Oh, yeah.
Molly: So suddenly my memory completely changed. That's the thing that's really strange is that you, is that these movies really permanently affect how you remember things.
Molly: I mean that's been my experience.
Elsie: I mean, for actors, I feel like movies kind of were social media before social media, in a sense. Just like that permanence, especially of like having yourself, and I mean sharing it with other people too, that's insane. And I mean to think we do it on such a large scale now is crazy.
Elsie: Yeah, cause I mean-
Molly: Well, that becomes your memory.
Elsie: Oh, yeah. And it's, yeah, it's so weird.
Molly: Are we out of time? Yeah? Okay.
Elsie: Yeah. Okay.
Molly: Should we, uh?
Elsie: Should we wrap it up?
Elsie: Such a pleasure to talk to you.
Molly: It's great to talk to you too.
Elsie: Yeah. Thank you very much, I mean, yeah, this has been great.
Molly: Thank you. Thanks for coming in and I wish you the best of luck with your career and-
Molly: And the rest of high school too.
Elsie: Thank you very much.
Molly: All right.