Mean Girls 2024 Jaquel Spivey interview
(Photo Credit: Paramount)

Mean Girls Interview: Jaquel Spivey Talks Damian, Filming ‘Revenge Party’

ComingSoon Editor-in-Chief Tyler Treese spoke with Mean Girls star Jaquel Spivey about the musical movie adaptation. The actor discussed his role as Damian, Broadway, and more. 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: You get to kick off this movie with “A Cautionary Tale,” and it really sets the tone. How exciting was it that you get to introduce the movie and be like, “Hey, you know, this is Mean Girls. It’s gonna be a bit different from what people expect, and you’re gonna go on for this ride”?

Jaquel Spivey: I loved it. That was one of my favorite things about the musical – using Janis and Damian as the vehicle to tell the story. Because they’re some of the few people who know the ins and outs of North Shore. The things Katie doesn’t know about these people, they already know.

I think it’s even perfect for those who haven’t seen the musical to be like, “this is not the Mean Girls you thought it was going to be.” We’re not taking the exact same material and just throwing it back in your face.

This is a very different look. It’s a very different sound, and it’s a musical. So you get a song in the first two minutes. If you wanna leave, this is your time, but you’re gonna enjoy it, I’m telling you.

You and Auliʻi, you just have such a great interplay with each other. Was that like an instant connection?

I think so. I think so. I think especially her being what I consider somewhat of a vet — I think she’s done this for a while, and especially since a young age — a lot of the things that come with making a movie? She knows. She’s been through it.

To me, I’m coming in with these wide eyes, like, “Oh my God.” It’s like, “Oh, there’s just a table full of food. We can grab it whenever. Okay, we get to be here. So one in the morning? Oh! This is cool.”

And I’m sure some of that probably annoyed her, but it’s fine. I was very happy to be there. I was excited. But I think that playfulness of Janis having a plan and having an idea, and then Damian just going along for the ride was somewhat the dynamic of us. You know, she knew where Janis was going. I knew where Damian was going, but having a little fun on the side. So I think it made for a nice little relationship.

I was curious since this is your first big feature film role. Did any part of it surprise you? How was that experience being on the big set for the first time?

It was scary. I’ve never done anything on the camera besides some interviews and televised performances. So it was scary to jump into.

What surprised me the most was, you always hear how much work goes on behind the scenes, but you never get a chance to see it. The credits roll and you see like a thousand names, and usually that’s when people get up. Because who are those people? You didn’t see them in the movie.

But for me, the joy was seeing what all those names mean. What those people do. And I have a newfound respect for it, because everyone was working hard. We were on set till two in the morning. They were on set till three o’clock in the morning, you know what I mean? They were there before we got there and after we left, and still came in with just such positive energy and lifted us.

So to me, the biggest surprise was just seeing how many people are involved, and even what could look like a simple shot.

Damian’s such a beloved character already. So how was it, putting your own spin on it? You don’t want to go off what was before, but fans bring their expectations. How did it feel to navigate that as an actor?

It was a fun challenge. I wanted Damian to feel like that cousin that you used to really be good friends with. But when y’all grew up, y’all kind of separated, but when y’all saw each other again, it was like, oh, hey, we did like each other. I wanted him to have that energy.

But also I think there are just a lot of things, a part of my identity that make him a different character. I think it’s very obvious that I’m black, and Damian was not black before. So that’s gonna change things. Be it how he speaks, how he moves through the world, you know? And also the world is very different now than it was to 2004. Nobody was talking about body positivity in 2004. Queerness wasn’t as as accepted in 2004.

So I think there is there is a difference in how he walks down the hallway. There’s a difference in how he communicates with the girls. He already had confidence, but I think there’s a little extra boost in this Damian. Because there’s nobody throwing a shoe while he’s singing at the talent show. They’re listening the whole time.

One of my biggest laughs for the entire movie in my theater was when you did the iCarly theme song — was that always in the script? What was your reaction when you learned of that?

Yeah, it was in the script, and reading it was like, “Oh, this is hilarious.” But now it’s up to me to like, sell it, you know? It’s hilarious on the page, but how do I go for it?

Art and Sam, our directors, had a vision. They told me the vision. They sent me a reference video that they were referencing the performance off of. And they were like, “We want you to be sweaty, and we want you to be dramatic, and we want every word to hit, and then we’re gonna go from black and white to the talent show, and we’re gonna interrupt your song and all.”

And I just went along for the ride. But it was a fun little element. It was nice to sing French, even if it was badly. It was nice to try something. And I love the response from it.

One of my favorite songs is “Revenge Party” — I love the visuals as well. It has this very dreamlike quality. Yeah. How was it filming that scene? Because it’s so much fun to watch.

I think it was one of the most fun scenes songs to film, but also the most difficult because the song goes for so long. I think it was over 14 pages in the script. We were on set a long time with that one, and each week there was a chunk of “Revenge Party” that we had to do.

But for me, it was one of the songs that incorporated us as principal actors. The background, the dancers, everybody was there. It was all hands on deck. And to me, coming from the world of musical theater where you’re sharing the stage with these people, you’re sharing it with an ensemble, that is where I felt most at home. When I get to play off of all these people and watch them make the song come to life. All the makeup artists putting crazy looks on us and costume throwing a cape on me. It’s the most “musical theatre” of all the songs.”

One of the really cool elements about this film is that it was originally set for streaming. Paramount really believed in it. They gave it the theatrical release, and then it did so well. How exciting was it to see them really push the film, and it take number one for a few weeks and just really resonate with people all over again?

It was extremely exciting. I told myself I was prepared for whatever the response is. Because I’m just that proud of the work I’ve done, and that everybody a part of this project has done. But to see us actually be celebrated and people actually take something away from it, I think it’s the biggest joy.

As a Broadway baby, it’s nice to see those who didn’t know that it was even a musical be introduced to the original Broadway cast and how talented they are. The history of this show was just really, really exciting, and I’m happy people like it.

You do have a great theatrical background. You did A Strange Loop on Broadway. So what’s next for you? Are you trying to do more musicals, more plays? Are you trying to go more in a film? How are you gonna try to navigate these different interests you have?

I love musical theater. I’ve always loved musical theater, and I promised myself that I would not be one of those actors that as soon as they get a job on a screen, I’m done. No more eight shows a week. I’m onto something else.

But I also learned through this process how much access comes with movies. And unfortunately, Broadway doesn’t afford a lot of people that access. There are a lot of people that can’t get to New York, and if they can get to New York, they can’t afford a Broadway ticket. And to me, I signed up to do this because somebody inspired me. And I really love being an artist, and I want to inspire other people. I wish the reach and the accessibility of Broadway and musical theater was much better. I would love to go back with the right show and the right material.

But I think my next project, I can’t speak too much on it, but it’ll be on the screen again. I’m just excited to show someone who may not be able to make it to New York — the possibilities that art can create.

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