Fifteen-year-old Elsie Fisher has been nominated for a Golden Globe for her breakout performance in the Bo Burnham film, "Eighth Grade."
In the movie, she plays Kayla, a lonely school kid whose outlets include scrolling through social media and posting inspirational videos onto her YouTube page — which rarely garner more than one or two views. The film captures all of Kayla's missteps, going unflinchingly in-depth into the awkwardness of one's preteen years, as the audience sees the beauty Kayla will become.
"It highlights how everyone faces these issues, whether it be stuttering in your speech like I am now, or having acne," Fisher (@ElsieKFisher) tells Here & Now's Robin Young. "We should have some honest stories, and I think that's what Kayla gives us."
And for Fisher, who is only a year out of middle school, it's the movie she always wanted as a kid and would have wanted to see in eighth grade.
"It felt very true to my own life," Fisher says. "Kayla isn't necessarily alone, but she feels that way even around other people, and that's something I've definitely dealt with.
"I feel like everyone deals with kids that suck."
On accurately portraying an awkward preteen, and the inaccurate images of teenagers presented in many movies and television shows
“Being a teenage actor is very rough, because there is such a vision of them in media that's usually portrayed by adults. ...
"I feel like teen stories don't need to be aspirational. You shouldn't want to be like whoever the main character is. They should be honest."Elsie Fisher
“There are so many teen stories, quote unquote, that again are played by adults or these perfect teenage actresses. But I feel like teen stories don't need to be aspirational. You shouldn't want to be like whoever the main character is. They should be honest.”
On whether she ever felt like she wanted to erase the preteen in her
“Yeah, but I think everyone does probably. But it is a lot more intense, that feeling, especially when you're in a career such as acting, just because social media is already bad enough in terms of having to look at yourself all the time and constantly evaluate your personal image. But with acting, that's what you're kind of paid to do. So yeah, those were things I was already self-conscious about, and being an actress didn't help.
"It really shows how important it is to portray people like Kayla onscreen defending themselves, because she's not only a teenager ... but she's also someone who struggles with anxiety and is a quiet kid."Elsie Fisher
“The biggest struggle for a lot of kids is definitely being ignored, because attention is kind of like a currency now. I mean, that's what we use social media for.”
On the scene in the film when Kayla is being pressured by a predatory older boy to take off her shirt and she refuses
“I think it's really important that she says ‘no’ here, and she kind of shouts out like that, and then she goes back and she apologizes, because it shows how traumatic that is even though nothing happened her — quote, unquote nothing, because she was being harassed by this guy, but on paper, 'Oh, nothing happened to her.' I think it really shows how important it is to portray people like Kayla onscreen defending themselves, because she's not only a teenager, which is considered weaker than an adult perhaps, but she's also someone who struggles with anxiety and is a quiet kid, and I feel like the scene shows that you don't necessarily need to be outspoken to be brave.”
On working with Burnham and helping him make the movie as accurate as possible
“Bo is such an incredible writer-director/person. It was such a pleasure to work with him.
“I definitely was there to kind of help him along the way of filming, but he did an incredible job for a 28-year-old man, who grew up in a different generation.
“I did actually have kind of a part in Kayla's wardrobe and figuring out her costume design, because that's another thing that kind of gets on my nerves about movies about teens is you can tell like, 'Oh, these were dressed by a wardrobe designer.' With Kayla, we wanted it to feel as awkward as middle-school outfits look.”
On looking back on the animated movie "Despicable Me," in which she played a 5-year-old girl named Agnes
“It's a snapshot of my life. I feel like both characters I very much related to as a kid — eighth grade much more recent obviously. But, yeah, it's very cool that I have these little moments of my life during different points.”
Emiko Tamagawa produced and edited this interview for broadcast. Jackson Cote adapted it for the web.
This segment aired on December 17, 2018.
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