Playing the most multifaceted mean girl in movie history, Halston Sage strikes a dynamic presence in the new teen drama, Before I Fall, hitting theaters on March 3.
Following a car accident in Before I Fall, Samantha (Zoey Deutch) is stuck repeating the same day until she reaches a more enlightened state of self-awareness. Sage plays Sam's best friend and clique ringleader, Lindsay Edgecombe. Lindsay is something straight out of every high school landscape: a girl who's a whirlwind of fierce fun to her best friends, and terrifically mean to everyone else.
I sat down to talk to Sage about reliving the teenage years, life's Big Questions, and turning a mean girl into a protagonist.
While watching Before I Fall, I was especially interested in your character, Lindsay. She’s a villain to some characters, but a really good friend to others. What was your approach to playing such a multifaceted character?
"Lindsay lives life like she's invincible. I was really drawn to being the kind of carefree girl who feels like she could take over the world if she wanted to. But what I really loved about Lindsay was that all this was put on to cover up the vulnerability that she feels from her parents going through a really bad divorce.
"It was the first time I’d ever read a script that featured this type of ringleader. You actually get to understand why she treats people the way she does. I felt sympathy for her. I forgave her, in the end, for the way she treated girls around her, because it was her way of getting control over her life at a time when she thought she had lost control."
I was sort of sad that we didn’t get to find out what happens to Lindsay at the movie’s end. Where do you think her life went after the accident?
"If she lived, I hope that Lindsay would realize that what she does matters on a huge scale. Every decision you make affects your future and the future of those around you. I would hope that she’d be able to find some sense of control over her life by finding a hobby instead of taking it out on others, instead of bringing other people down to her level of heartbreak and despair."
Did you channel any of your old high school angst when you were acting the part of Lindsay?
"I thought a lot about high school. I went to an all-girls high school, and I have dealt with my fair share of mean girls. I was able to use that for the character. But some of the things that the characters are feeling I still feel today. I didn’t have to go back that far to act through those feelings."
"I have dealt with my fair share of mean girls."
Does being in movies like this make you nostalgic for your teen years, or are you happy to be outta there?
"I didn’t have a great high school experience, so I’m happy to be out of there. But I’m grateful to the films that I’ve been in that take place in high school, because I’ve gotten the high school experience I had always wanted from making these movies."
You also starred in Paper Towns, another movie based off a popular YA novel by John Green. Why do you think it’s so important to tell such multifaceted stories about teenagers?
"Just because you’re a teenager doesn’t mean you’re not a human being with feelings. Not only are you feeling all of these feelings, but you’re feeling them for the first time. It’s a completely heightened experience, and to be adapting these young adult novels into films and bring them to life for teenager to see is very important. It makes you feel less alone.
"I go to the movies for two reasons. I go because I want to forget all of my problems, or I go because I want to relate and know other people are going through the same thing as me. At that age, it’s really important to see that other people are going through what you’re going through, and that you’re not actually crazy."
The film does address bullying in such a direct way. What do you hope that people who are victims of bullying come away from the movie with, because it really does tell both sides of the story so well?
"If you’re being bullied, it’s important to remember that what the person who’s bullying you is saying isn’t necessarily true. You can’t take it to heart, no matter how hard that is. From my experience, if you do take it to heart, it can bring you down in a dangerous way. You have to think about it logically and not so emotionally.
"Then, ask yourself what the other person is going through to cause them to lash out. What in their life is happened to bring other people down? Clearly it’s coming from something broken, something that’s not OK with the other person. If you can sympathize with that person, it helps to think of the bullying more logically. It’s not about you, it’s about what the other person is going through."
What are the perfect ingredients for a day you’d actually want to be stuck in for eternity?
"Good question. The perfect ingredients for a day I’d want to be stuck in forever would be my family, my friends, my dogs, Greek food, and wine."
What upcoming projects can we see you in?
"I’m in a new TV show for Fox, the new Seth MacFarlane show for Fox. I’m very excited for it. It’s live action, and it takes place in the future on a spaceship. That’s all I can tell you for now — but it’s very exciting, and unlike anything I’ve been a part of before."
Last question for our readers: did you read the original book by Lauren Oliver, and do you have any recommendations for us?
"I did read the book, and I cried a lot while reading the book. Lauren is such an incredible writer and really captured the feelings we were talking about so well. She capture these dynamic characters that were compelling.
"If I could recommend a YA novel, I’d recommend Looking For Alaska by John Green. In terms of non - YA books, I love The Luckiest Girl Alive by Jessica Knoll, Brain on Fire by Susannah Calahan, and and Welcome to the Monkey House by Kurt Vonnegut. I could talk about books all day long."