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Interview: Mean Girls Directors on Modernizing the Iconic Movie, Working With Tina Fey

ComingSoon Editor-in-Chief Tyler Treese spoke with Mean Girls directors Samantha Jayne and Arturo Perez Jr. about the musical movie adaptation. The duo discussed working with Tina Fey and how they approach creative disagreements as a directing couple. The movie is now available to own digitally and is coming to 4K, Blu-ray, and DVD on April 30.

“New student Cady Heron is welcomed into the top of the social food chain by the elite group of popular girls called ‘The Plastics,’ ruled by the conniving queen bee Regina George and her minions Gretchen and Karen,” reads the film’s synopsis. “However, when Cady makes the major misstep of falling for Regina’s ex-boyfriend Aaron Samuels, she finds herself prey in Regina’s crosshairs. As Cady sets to take down the group’s apex predator with the help of her outcast friends Janis and Damian, she must learn how to stay true to herself while navigating the most cutthroat jungle of all: high school.”

Tyler Treese: One thing I loved about this musical is that you updated the setting and included social media, which was really the elephant in the room when compared to 20 years ago. How was it balancing that new inclusion and making it add to the story rather than detracting from the core element, which is the Burn Book and all the drama that goes on?

Samantha Jayne: Yeah, it’s true. We didn’t want social media to be this gimmicky thing that we hit everyone over the head with, where it’s like, “Okay, we get it — phones,” you know? [Laughs]. But we wanted to incorporate it in a realistic way. I mean, the first step we did was we actually went to Arturo’s Old high school, and we spoke to the kids about how they actually use their phones and social media every day.

Arturo Perez Jr.: We don’t have kids that age. We’re about to have a kid right now. [Laughs]. But you can’t just read an article about what kids’ life is really like. We wanted to talk to them at the source and be like, “All right, what’s it really like?” One of the things that struck us so much is how nice people are to your face now but how vicious they are to you online. That was the main takeaway. It’s like back in the day, if somebody had a problem with you, they would just eventually just tell you, or it would have to happen with verbal words

Jayne: Or a fight outside of Wawa, which is where I grew up. ^Laughsç.

Perez: They still fight, and they love to film it, but yeah.

Jayne: There’s always the filmers. We learned that [when] there’s a fight, then there’s the kids who film, which is the most important thing. And that is so crazy.

Perez: It’s a whole thing.

Jayne: We had to learn about that. It was important for Tina [Fey] and I to keep the Burn Book this physical, tactile thing, because it is so iconic and so representative of Mean Girls. I remember we all had conversations where it’s some kind of social media thing or whatnot. But I think coming back to it being a physical book and then disseminating the information through social media is the —

Perez: It’s the photocopier.

Jayne: Yeah, the update of the photocopier and how kids would do it today while still retaining that iconic piece of the original and the story

You both brought up Tina Fey earlier, and she obviously wrote the screenplay and reprises her role. When you’re doing a twist on something that’s as beloved as Mean Girls, how much did it mean to have her full support and have that co-sign throughout filming? I imagine there’s some pressure with doing something as sacred as Mean Girls and putting your own twist on it.

Perez: It’s everything. I feel so humbled to have also worked with Paul McCartney, and those are two legends. Two absolute … there’s something so special about both of them that I think … it’s not just knowledge — it’s instinct and it’s heart that you learn from these icons and and to have.

Jayne: I think you also always say your their willingness to collaborate.

Perez: Yeah, their ability to listen. They both listen so well. I think that that’s something that you learn true from from those types of people who are … the loveliness, it’s just wonderful.

One of my favorite songs is “Sexy.” It’s just so fun and we get to see all the costumes, which were all great. What was the highlight of filming that song? It seemed like everybody was having a blast.

Jayne: It was a lot of fun. I mean, our pitch for “Sexy” was … in the Broadway show, the biggest laugh of the show is that she walks on stage, she says her first bit, she messes up, and she’s like, “Wait, let me start over.” And then she walks off for a while and it’s so funny and it works so well for the stage. So we’re like, “How do we make that something that would work for this movie? What would she do?”

And we’re like, “If Karen’s really good at anything, she would just crush a ‘Get Ready With Me’ video.” It was our dream to do it that way from the beginning. So just seeing it come to life and building … I think it was fun. One of the editors would call it Mount Sexy. [Laughs]. Because we had dozens of boxes of these dancers and these social media personalities doing this dance and cutting it all together in like a fun dynamic way. That was a lot of fun.

Perez: If you look closely, there’s Busy Philipps in there and it’s hilarious.

Jayne: Yeah, Mrs. George is trying to follow along. She has her wine. She can’t figure it out. [Laughs]. So that was really fun.

Perez: There’s a lot of stuff in there.

Jayne: The one take was super fun too.

Arturo, it’s fun to see a couple directing together. Creative disagreements have to pop up occasionally. How do you settle those?

Perez: Just try to listen as to the other person as much as you can. We call it the “Yes Bus.” We had to make a map basically. [Laughs]. Because we work together and live together and are together most of the time. So we had to create this map and we call it the “Yes Bus.” And it basically just says, “When you have an idea or the other person has an idea, just listen to that other person’s idea all the way until the end. Listen as hard and as intently and as violently as you can.”

Then, from there, if there’s something that bumps you along the way, keep listening all the way to the end. Once they’ve told you the entire idea, then you could be like, “Oh, I don’t know about that thing, but what did you say about — that’s an amazing little piece of nugget that I’d never even considered.”

That’s what usually happens, you know? Then the listener gets to also go off on that idea or say the idea that you had, and you just Yes Bus around town and you do it and do it and do it and do it and do it and do it and do it. Do it as much as you can. When you got the idea, you’re like, “I think this is it.” And then you both did it together, you know? More minds are truly better. We’re better together than individuals.

Jayne: The “Yes Bus” is definitely something that we use to collaborate. But if we fully disagree with each other, then we definitely make sure to go off on our own and talk about it. [Laughs]. We were like, “Oh, for sure.” It’s like, mommy and daddy need to go talk. [Laughs].

Perez: In production, we’ve got to go because it’s like writing.

Jayne: Yeah, yeah. We just go off and we figure it out. There has to be a quick solution, you know? Then we come back and, and move forward with it.

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