Meet the Plastics – the real Mean Girls!

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Meet the Plastics- the real Mean Girls

In 2004, a light hearted high school comedy transformed adolescent angst into a once-in-a-generation cultural phenomenon, inspiring countless internet memes, an official Mean Girls Day (October 3rd), wearing pink on Wednesdays, and a Tony-nominated Broadway musical. Twenty years later, Tina Fey, the writer and one of the stars of the original film, brings wide-eyed brainiac Cady Heron, who gets to meet the plastics, scheming “it” girl Regina George, and her devoted minions Gretchen and Karen back to the big screen, along with perennial misfits Janis and Damian and the entire student body of North Shore High.

As a producer and the writer of the upcoming film, Fey has reimagined Mean Girls for a new generation, complete with smartphones, TikTok videos, and even more adolescent intrigue, as Cady and Regina battle for social supremacy and the heart of hapless Aaron Samuels. The epithet “mean girl” has spread from high school hallways to the floor of Congress since Fey wrote the cautionary tale of female empowerment. This new version, she says, uses the strengths of both the original film and the hit Broadway show as a springboard for an extravagant and contemporary movie.

The original film is still a reference point for young women and girls, as well as their parents and male counterparts, says producer Lorne Michaels, who has been on board for each version. “What was so interesting to see at the Broadway show was that we got a lot of fathers with their daughters ¾ mothers and daughters as well,” says the “Saturday Night Live” creator. “The parents were in their teens when it first happened and they’re in their 30s now. I have a daughter and she has said to me, ‘Dad, know what today is? It’s October 3rd.’ Mean Girls Day is a big deal for several generations. It just has a different meaning for each of them.”

So when we meet the plastics Regina, Gretchen and Karen are still the beloved and feared royalty of North Shore High. Regina reigns supreme as the ultimate alpha girl, Gretchen is her loyal sidekick and Karen … well, Karen is still predicting rain with her breasts. Fashion icons, teenage trendsetters, and ultimate arbiters of who’s in and who’s out, the girls’ casual cruelty made the Plastics appealing villains in the 2004 movie.

Meet the Plastics- the real Mean Girls

Reneé Rapp, who plays Regina, first met Fey and Michaels about playing the role on Broadway, which almost never happened. At the time she was just 19 and on the verge of launching her career as a pop music artist. “She actually said she wasn’t sure she wanted to do Broadway,” Fey remembers. “Lorne and I convinced her she’d be wasting her talent if she didn’t take a run at this.”

Born and raised in Huntersville, North Carolina, the actress is already a fan favourite due to her work on the HBO Max series “The Sex Lives of College Girls.”

Directors Samantha Jayne notes that she and co-director Arturo Perez encouraged the actress to find a new side of the character. “In our first conversations, we talked about unlearning what she’d already done and finding a take we hadn’t seen before. When she performs her own music, it’s so raw and personal. She is able to bring more of that this time.”

Regina is what Rapp calls the HBIC ¾ “head bitch in charge.” “She is a white, blonde, affluent young woman,” the actress says. “She’s really sexy and powerful, but is also really endearing when you get to know her. She is a villain but you’re forced to empathize with her at times.” Her closest friends are the other Plastics, but her relationships with newcomer Cady and outcast Janis reveal far more about her, says Rapp. “She sees Cady as a threat but also as an equal, which is new for her. Janis kind of is Regina in so many ways, especially the ‘I’ll end you’ part.”

Working with Jayne and Perez reminds the actress-singer of making music videos, of which she has done many. “That’s part of the genius behind having them direct this movie. It needs someone who knows how to shoot musical elements, which is a specialized skill. They came with a new eye and a fresh take that make it interesting and fun and lively, not only to watch, but also to be a part of.”

Meet the Plastics- the real Mean Girls

When we meet the plastics Bebe Wood’s initial audition tape for the role of Gretchen Wieners jumped off the screen, in Fey’s words. “Lorne and I immediately said, that’s our Gretchen. Gretchen has to be very intelligent, but also have this core of fragility that is still comic. Bebe understood that from the jump and has a gorgeous voice. What I didn’t realize was that we already had a history together.” Wood began her professional career when she was just 10 years old, and her first job was on “30 Rock.” “Tina was my very first scene partner,” she recalls. “It was amazing. That was such a positive experience it propelled me into doing this long-term.”

Like so many of the other cast members, Wood is a longtime fan of everything Mean Girls. “Growing up with social media makes it even more stressful. Take the ‘Burn Book’ from 2004 and then multiply it by a thousand because everyone is going to see it online. “Gretchen, who serves as Regina’s invaluable right-hand girl, knows everything that’s going on, not just with Regina, but with the whole school,” says Wood. “But she’s just so vulnerable because all she wants is to be liked. Right now she’s found her place ¾ right next to Regina.” Everybody has a little Gretchen in them, says Perez. “She overthinks things at times. Bebe brought such a gentleness to an amazing performance.”

After learning that Wood was of Cuban descent, Perez added a small change that means a great deal to the actress. “I’ve never played a Latina character before,” she says. “Art wanted to incorporate that in a small way, so instead of mentioning my grandfather, I say ‘my abuelito.’”

Meet the Plastics- the real Mean Girls

 

And finally when we meet the plastics it’s Avantika who plays the beautiful, dimwitted, and eternally optimistic Karen Shetty. The actress and dancer also starred in and executive produced the upcoming “A Crown of Wishes” series for Disney+ and won a spot on Variety’s 2021 Power of Young Hollywood “Up Next” list. An elite scholar as well as performer, she has been admitted to Columbia University. As Fey points out, it has often been said that it takes a very smart actor to play dumb.

On the surface, the Plastics are everything a high school girl wants to be and everything she can’t be, in Avantika’s opinion. “Regina is the hottest blonde in the school,” she says. “She’s intimidating and enigmatic and scary. Gretchen Wieners is so funny and vulnerable; I think I relate to her the most. There’s some part of all of us that’s just as insecure as she is.”

Karen, however, has always been her favourite character. “She’s undeniably the nicest of the mean girls. She’s a bundle of oblivious joy who struggles to maintain a sense of individuality. And she’s maybe a bit of a bimbo, which makes it all the more amazing because it goes against the stereotypical image of a South Asian. I was excited to bring my own spin to her.”

There’s a character for everyone in Mean Girls, says Avantika, who notes that the film speaks to finding the good in everyone — and maybe a little bit of the bad. “I was bullied in middle school and high school. Here we are watching a girl who’s been bullied become the bully. But it still manages to embody the hopes and dreams of high school girls to become someone special. And who doesn’t love pink?”

…and that’s how we got to meet the plastics!

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