Growing up sucks. It's hard. It's confusing. It's weird. And that doesn't even begin to explain it. Thus, when it came to making the film, it became important to finding a cast and crew that would be able to empathize with that completely, in whatever way, shape, or form they could.
Ponsoldt: "I don’t meet very many people who say, 'Oh yeah, middle school and high school were completely easy and free.' It wasn’t for me. It was a lot of trauma. People accumulate scar tissue. I think most people were loved too little by their parents or too much, or they had their heart broken, or they were a heartbreaker And now they seek to numb the pain through what? Through working too much, through taking pills. I think people create elaborate systems of coping to deal with everyday life, and I love that. I relish in that. I think it makes us more alive and more human that we have a basic survival mechanism."
"Life can be painful, but there’s also real joy in life, and I guess I like hopeful films about damaged people. I think we’re all damaged through growing up. It doesn’t come from a place of judgement for me. It's just so curious to me the different ways people can be damaged but try to make themselves better."
"I was definitely a bit of class clown, like Sutter, but then I was also in all the honors and AP classes. I graduated above a 4.0. I played drums in a band for a while. I also played saxophone in jazz band. I was president of Drama Club. I played baseball. Me and my friends threw the parties. I was homecoming king. And I just always had a bunch of different groups of friends. My friends in class weren't the same ones i did theater with and they weren't the same ones I played sports with. I’m still best friends with all my guys from high school."
"My parents were always supportive of me. My mom actually set up my auditions for Julliard and NYU. I went to NYU. I didn't even have any realistic dreams about that. I just wanted to go to FSU and be with my buddies and hang out. I didn't think theater school was a possibility until my mom made it one."
Okeniyi: "I went to school in Nigeria. It was a boarding school so we wore uniforms. Then, you'd watch American TV and think, "Oh my gosh, they got to wear whatever they want to schoo!" And we couldn’t leave class until we were dismissed, right? But in American movies, as soon as the bell went off people would just jet out. In retrospect, that was so disrespectful, but I wanted to be one of them."
"The thing I never got was the cliques. I’d watch American movies and they'd separate the jocks, the art people, and the goths. I did plays and I played basketball. I was all over the place. From my perception as a student in Nigeria, I liked that about my school."
"But when I actually came to school in the States, it wasn’t that bad, but expectations were filled, for the most part. The only thing that kind of shocked me was how much kids in America take for granted how much awesome stuff they have. Just take for example the food. I go into the cafteria and they have hot dogs, burgers, and pizza for lunch in school! And kids are like 'I friggin' hate school food.' Dude, this is a feast! Are you kidding me?"
"I’m not the coolest guy ever, but I never had any trouble fitting in. Maybe it is because I watched a lot of television growing up, like The Fresh Prince of Bel Air and The Wonder Years. A lot of fitting in is just social references, so I wasn’t out of the loop on references. It's funny because when I first moved here, people would crack a joke and feel like they needed to explain to me what it was about."