Arturo Perez Jr. and Samantha Jayne attend the "Mean Girls" premiere at AMC Lincoln Square Theater on January 08, 2024 in New York City. (Photo by Arturo Holmes/Getty Images)

EDGE Interview: How Newbie Directors Samantha Jayne and Arturo Perez Jr. Got it Right with 'Mean Girls'

Steve Duffy READ TIME: 8 MIN.

When Samantha Jayne and Arturo Perez Jr. brought their ideas for a film version of the Broadway musical hit "Mean Girls" to Paramount Players, the studio producing the film, they made such an impression that the project was made a high priority.

"Sources say that not only did their pitch still have a deep love and respect for the original movie but also brought their own approach by subtly updating that story without taking away from the original, and this ultimately sealed the deal for them landing the coveted job," read a 2021 Deadline report.

The musical is, of course, the stage adaptation to the 2004 teen comedy behemoth that still often plays on a loop on MTV. In 2013, Tina Fey became involved in turning her film script to the musical stage with collaborators lyricist Nell Benjamin and composer Jeff Richmond. (Richmond is Fey's husband.) In 2018 their adaptation opened on Broadway, where it ran for 833 performances – a run cut-short due to COVID, but went onto a national tour that is still on the road, with a London production scheduled for this June.

Paramount picked up the rights to the film adaptation in 2020, which led to choosing of Jayne and Perez Jr. to direct.

Putting such a highly-anticipated project in the hands of two largely unknowns isn't the usual Hollywood process; in part due to huge risks involved. But with "Mean Girls," the bet paid off. Since the film opened in January, it has made $72M in the U.S. and $204M worldwide on a budget of $36M.

But even before "Mean Girls," Jayne and Perez Jr. were in the sights of Hollywood execs. Previously, the duo wrote and directed "Quarter Life Poetry," which Jayne also starred in. The series premiered at Sundance, where IndieWire named them one of The 14 Breakout Stars of the Festival. According to their website, "the series is based on Jayne's humor book published by Grand Central, evolved from an Instagram account lauded by Vogue, Seventeen, and Allure as one of the 'funniest accounts you need to follow.' The series went on to air on FX's 'Cake' and lives on FX on Hulu."

On his own, Perez has helmed numerous videos for the collective La Blogothèque, working with top artists from Paul McCartney to FINNEAS. He received an MTV Best Director nomination and won the UK Music Video Award for his live, one-take video for "Say Something" by Justin Timberlake ft. Chris Stapleton.

"Together, Jayne's sharp comedic wit and Perez' cinematic ingenuity make the pair a unique combination, tackling humor with visual splendor. Jayne and Perez met in 2012 and have been creating together ever since," adds their website.

The couple spoke to EDGE about why and how they put a new spin on a classic film that appears to be part of an entire generation's DNA.
(Editor's note: introduction by Robert Nesti)

Angourie Rice in "Mean Girls" (2024)

EDGE: "Mean Girls" is such a cult classic, right? Why remake it?

Samantha Jayne: That was the question we had to ask ourselves when we embarked on the project. I mean, we're both such huge fans of the original. I feel like when I was in high school "Mean Girls" really spoke to me on a very personal level. I feel Tina's writing really met me where I was at. I really appreciated that when I was that age. And it's funny, like 20 years ago, no social media. Kids are living in a totally different hellscape now, I think this story is so right to be updated to today and how kids talk to each other today.

Arturo Perez Jr.: Also creatively, we needed to answer the question or how but how would we go into the story.... Also, the music draws you in on a much deeper emotionally...

Samantha Jayne: Yeah, we wanted to get immersive and personal with it, which I think, was really fun to do. We had that original version [to work from]. And then it's like, "Okay, how can we, how can we do something new with it?" So, it was developing that new cinematic language for "Mean Girls." And, yeah, it was fun.

Arturo Perez Jr.and Samantha Jayne on the set of "Mean Girls' (2024)

EDGE: There are not as many songs as the Broadway show. What was your process of choosing which song should go and which song should stay, but still tell the story?

Samantha Jayne: There were a few different aspects to it. It's like, you're right. It's not the Broadway show. Like, there's a bathroom break in the Broadway show. So, we knew we had to pare it down. I mean, it was twofold. I think the first thing was on an aesthetic level and taste level, kind of like updating the palate. I know the music team really wanted to broaden the viewership, broaden the palate, beyond just the Broadway crowd. But there are songs from the Broadway show that are so much fun, some of, like, our favorites, but they didn't make it into the film.

Arturo Perez Jr.: Like "Stop." We cried, like, true tears when "Stop" wasn't in it. It works for Broadway...

Samantha Jayne: It's a tapping number. It's a showstopper. And it's so Broadway. And we love it so much.

Arturo Perez Jr.: But you gotta keep the movie going. You have to keep moving the story forward.

Samantha Jayne: Yeah. So that was that was the other aspect of it: Updating the musical palette to be a little bit more pop and what kids are listening to today. And then also it was about, like, really, story and character. Is this song driving the story forward? Is it deepening character? Hopefully it's doing both. So you have to do both. So, yes. And it was just, it was it was hard. It was hard. It's hard. Yeah.

EDGE: And what I love about this is that, obviously, the cast is notably more diverse than the original, right? Can you just talk a little bit about the importance of representation and why it matters?

Samantha Jayne: Representation is everything, everything! And we really tried not just for the main characters, but for the entire student body; for it to be representative of kids today. For instance, we had these amazing dancers, who are some of the best dancers in the world... But we were also looking for something different, right? We were looking for that kid [with a unique] kind of looks, like he's a total skater kid, or that kid [that] looks like they're always in study hall, but then, bam, they like break out into moves that were really surprising.

Arturo Perez Jr.: It's like, "Oh shit, we can. Oh, we could all do this," It's like we can all be dancers. There is no right way to be a dancer. There's no one right way to be in theater.

Samantha Jayne: [We were] trying to make it as reflective of the student body as possible so that as many kids can connect with it as possible.

by Steve Duffy

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