The Stars Of Eighth Grade Relive Their Middle School Horror Stories

Photo: Josh Ethan Johnson/A24.
Pictured (from L - R): Luke Prael, Nora Mullins, Daniel Zolghadri, Emily Robinson, Elsie Fisher, Fred Hechinger, Imani Lewis, Jake Ryan, and Catherine Oliviere.
No one wants to go back to middle school. Unfortunately, the cast of Eighth Grade had to do so. For the sake of cinema, the cast — ranging from ages 14 to 19 — trotted back to the not-so-distant past, where braces reigned supreme and social currency was the only currency. The movie, out in limited release July 13, chronicles the last two weeks of middle school for Kayla (Elsie Fisher), a budding YouTuber. In Eighth Grade, middle school is a minefield of mundane horrors. There are pool parties, sex ed lectures, and peer-voted superlatives. (Kayla wins "most quiet.") It's all pretty excruciating, and you couldn't pay me to relive it.
Luckily, the young — and mature — cast of Eighth Grade did get paid (presumably; I don't handle their finances), and they got to be in this summer's indie darling. All for the small price of reliving middle school horrors, which, for must of this cast, isn't that far removed. In fact, they might know 2018 preteenhood better than writer/director Bo Burnham does.
At a recent screening of the movie at BAM Cinemafest, Fisher was asked if she'd advised Burnham on the film at all. "There wasn't much to correct," she said, shrugging. "The only difference I can think of is, when I read the original script, all of her DMs were through Facebook." (In the final version, the DMs are all Instagram-based.) Fisher and the rest of the cast seemed to agree that, for the most part, the movie hit the middle school-sized nail on the head.
For Eighth Grade, Burnham mined the most mundane of middle school's horrors. We wanted to mine the more specific ones. While we're here, thinking about literal eighth grade and Eighth Grade the movie, why not dwell on the pitfalls of yesterday? Refinery29 spoke with the cast at BAM CinemaFest about their nadirs of middle school.
Elsie Fisher (Kayla), 15
"All of it. It was a tough time for me socially, I guess. So maybe the social part. I did not have a lot of friends that year. [I ate lunch] alone in the library. But there wasn’t food allowed in the library so I would scarf it down in between classes...I grew very fond of the library, and she grew fond of me."
Nora Mullins (Steph), 14
"Pretty much watching people get bullied. Like, get put down. And not being able to do enough to help them. You can try and talk to people, but there’s not really much you can do. I just don’t like seeing people feel put down."

"I grew very fond of the library, and she grew fond of me."

Elise Fisher, 15
Imani Lewis (Aniyah), 19
"I think it was my graduation day. My family was going bananas, and I got really caught up and really distracted. And I had on the highest heels I’ve ever owned."
Did you trip?
"I sure did. Nice and loud, too. [My family] cheered me on, though."
Photo: Josh Ethan Johnson/A24.
Pictured: (Top L - R) Luke Prael, Nora Mullins, Emily Robinson, Imani Lewis; (Bottom L - R) Catherine Oliviere, Elsie Fisher, Daniel Zolghadri, Jake Ryan, Fred Hechinger.
Emily Robinson (Olivia), 19
"P.E. class. I get really red when I run and do activities. There was an 'E' scale of redness that was created that ranked how red I was. So, I don’t miss dodgeball."
Catherine Oliviere (Kennedy), 15
"One of the cringiest things I did was my best friends and I, we decided we were going to create a rock band with our friends. And none of us play instruments. So we sent out this email to all of our friends of what instrument everyone [needed] to learn, and we made up outfits. And it’s in proof, in an email. Which, it’s just, so cringey, I can’t."
Jake Ryan (Gabe), 14
"Well, in music class, one day the music teacher brought in an old baroque cello. And it was, like, really old. Ancient. This is going to sound really gross, but the strings were actually made of sheep guts. Yeah, I’m sorry. However, this gets worse. Instinctively, after she finished her monologue, I just said, “Wow, that must take a lot of guts.” And then the room fell dead silent. The teacher said, ‘Oh, wow, that’s funny.’ And everyone just said, ‘Wow, that was the worst pun, ever.’ They were like, ‘Go, get out, leave.’"
Fred Hechinger (Trevor), 18
"We had a class called 'Nightstar.' It was in sixth grade. It was basically sex ed, but they hired outside people to perform skits for us and ask us questions. And I knew so little. One of the questions — they would do this thing where you would have to step forward if you thought it was true or false. And they said, 'A penis is made out of bone.' And David, my best friend, and I both confidently looked at each other and stepped immediately forward. Because we were like, ‘The rest of the kids don’t know, but it’s called a boner. And that’s the secret information that know.’ And [the teachers] were like, ‘It’s actually made out of tissue.’ And we were like, ‘I’m not so sure, because it’s called a boner.’"

"We were like, ‘The rest of the kids don’t know, but it’s called a boner. And that’s the secret information that know.’"

Fred Hechinger, 19
Josh Hamilton (Mark Day, Elsie's father), 49
"Well, I remember getting cast in the eighth grade in the school musical. It was Guys and Dolls, and I got cast as Skye Masterson. It was my favorite musical. And I was so excited, but literally between the time I was cast and performing the show, my voice changed. And I had to do it, but it was — it’s hard to feel cool as Skye Masterson when you’re like [voice breaking] 'When you see a guy reach for stars in the sky.'"
Luke Prael (Aiden), 15
"Probably basketball tryouts. It’s just kinda awkward. But I really liked playing basketball. I was really good at it for a while, but I was just so skinny and so small. I never made the team. And I’d just get dominated by the older [kids]."

More from Movies

R29 Original Series