“The Edge of Seventeen” isn’t your classic coming-of-age tale.
Sure, it has its fair share of heartbreak, confusion, angst, rebellion, rivalry, premature partying and enough snark and awkwardness to be folded up neatly and placed effortlessly into the “teen dramedy” drawer. But, much like it’s hapless heroine, Nadine (Hailee Steinfeld), the film is flippant, poignant and just plain real.
The cast is a merry-go-round of quirky characters, though it develops each one at an unhurried pace, pausing long enough to make sure the audience doesn’t get dizzy.
The film features Nadine’s aloof mother (Kyra Sedgwick), golden child brother (Blake Jenner), irreverent history teacher-cum-confidante (Woody Harrelson), elusive bad-boy crush (Alexander Calvert), shy, besotted classmate and unexpected love interest (Hayden Szeto) and long-time best friend (Haley Lu Richardson), who ultimately betrays her in the arduous struggle of adolescence.
Somehow, Nadine makes it out alive, and it’s just as much of a peek into her psyche as it is into everyone’s subjective experience of being a teen with the world on their shoulders. Audiences will laugh, cry and find their own mothers, brothers, teachers, classmates and best friends, those who were along for the ride in their own saga of self-discovery.
The Entertainer! caught up with Richardson, a Phoenix native, to talk about her role as Nadine’s closest (and only) companion, her severe case of Peter Pan syndrome, and why stereotypes are overrated.
First and foremost, I wanted to commend you on your performance. One thing I noticed was that it was so genuine and authentic; it felt like a high school experience: you have the best friend, the jock, the mysterious crush, the quirky history teacher. How does that parallel your high school experience and what was it like to channel your inner 17-year-old to play this role?
I moved to LA when I was 16, now I’m 21. For the past five years, I’ve been playing (someone who is) 16. So, everything I do, I’m forced to go back into that whole world and mindset, so I feel like I’m still there.
Well, that sounds like a good thing; you’re young at heart.
I never want to grow up, but I want to be like, 4. I completely agree with you; I love how real the movie is. I don’t think it’s trying to be anything. A lot of the times with coming-of-age comedies, you feel like sometimes it’s funny, but you feel like they’re just trying to get a laugh, or they’re overexaggerating something to be entertaining. I really feel like with this movie, it’s not trying to be anything, it just is very much a real representation of what high school is like. Sometimes high school is like, so over the top and so messy and so pitiful and angsty. I just feel like the movie and Hailee, her character just portrays that so well, which is something I can relate to because that’s how my high school was. I had those exact same feelings and was in such similar situations; I feel like we’ve all been in those situations.
Describe your role in your own words. You were obviously the “best friend,” and you kind of betrayed (Nadine), but you were still likable and relatable. How would you describe it?
When I first met Kelly (Fremon Craig), the director and writer, we talked about how we didn’t want Krista or any of the supporting roles to be stereotypes. You kind of see them in the beginning and you see what they’re normally classified under, like the jock…the best friend that betrays her friend, but at the end of the movie, you realize that they’re not that person; no one’s bad…no one’s a villain in the movie. You kind of see each of the characters’ reasoning for why they make the choices they make and for Krista, specifically, I went into it not wanting her to be the villain and trying to justify every choice she makes. It’s obvious that Krista is a selfless, supportive friend and she’s always had Nadine’s back and she’s kind of always given herself for Nadine. She’s not doing it to get at Nadine; she’s doing it because she’s realizing that she has to do something for herself at some point and it just so happens that it is really hard with her friendship with Nadine. Krista, she’s pretty mature for her age and I think she was able to see the big picture … it doesn’t have to be the end of the world and the end of their friendship. I think doing that and giving Nadine the space that she needed, it makes Nadine realize that too.
You’re from Phoenix. What was it like growing up here, and when you made the transition to Hollywood, what was that like? Do you ever get homesick?
I definitely get homesick because being an adult is hard. I had a very normal high school experience, but I moved to L.A. and started acting when I was 16. As a 17-year-old, I was expected to work as an adult and I had responsibilities and I was under a lot of pressure—a different kind of pressure than you’re under in school. It was weird because I want to stay a kid forever and it’s been a struggle the past few years of staying young and not making such a big deal of everything going on around you, especially when the stakes are so high.
What was it like working with the cast? It seemed very authentic and organic on-screen, so what was it like behind the scenes?
I think it was exactly the same. Everyone that was working on the movie cared about the movie, which is such a good feeling when you’re making something. Because it’s the worst feeling when you show up and you really care about it, but other people are just phoning it in and don’t seem to care. Everyone gave everything they had and wanted to make a quality finished product. That was something I really appreciated, and it was just fun.
Is there a scene from the film that stands out or is your favorite?
I honestly love all of the scenes that I’m not in. It’s so fun to see because we filmed this movie a year ago and after you’ve had some time away from it, being able to watch the movie and see all of the things I wasn’t in, like all of Hailee and Woody’s stuff together, I love. It’s not a memory for me, but I love watching it because I wasn’t there when they were filming that, but I saw it brought to life even better than it was written, and it was written really well.
What is your favorite coming-of-age movie of all time?
It’s so lame but it’s the only one I think of. “She’s the Man” because I literally love that movie and Amanda Bynes.
What’s next? Do you have anything in the works?
I have a movie coming out in January called “Split.” It’s an M. Night Shyamalan movie.