Moxie has the capability to be the first piece of media that a lot of young audiences will really discover or understand feminism, sexism, racism. Were there any primitive pieces of media that pushed you into becoming the kind of feminist that you are now?
Amy Poehler: Well, thank you for saying that. If you feel that way, it means we’ve done service to the book, because that’s what the book felt like too. The book felt like a way to explain to young people this version of thinking and how it’s changed and how it should change. And I do think that films, especially, have an incredible power, not only to inspire. When you’re entertained, you don’t really know that you’re learning. I mean, there’s nothing worse than being taught, feeling like you’re being taught? So film and television is just a great way to connect to people from an emotional human place. And sometimes the side effect of that is they learn something about the world or about themselves.
I know growing up that film was a place where I learned about, I found out about different people’s stories. I found out how different people lived. I traveled the world. I heard from people I could never meet or speak to. I was a suburban kid and I did not go anywhere when I was a kid. I didn’t know anything about the world. I just knew about what I saw in television and film. It allowed me to time travel. I think it’s still a really powerful medium in which people can kind of be like emotional astronauts and go to other planets and figure out how other people feel about other things. It’s very, very cool.
Lauren, congratulations on your film debut. Claudia seems like your total opposite, but I was wondering if growing up, did you also experience that typical, overbearing, strict Asian parenting that a lot of us have experienced, and how do you think can young Asian teens rise above that?
Lauren Tsai: I love my family so much and I think they’re so wonderful, but I definitely think that there was from the Chinese side of my family, there was a lot of pressure put on to having a certain type of career and being a certain type of way and going to college, because I made the decision to not go to college and to pursue a career in art instead. And I realized I didn’t go to college cause I knew I was trying to prove something. It’s hard because like I know that comes from a place of them understanding, ’cause they came to this country and like, that was their means of surviving. And that was their means of building a family, and they wanted me to be safe as well. So they wanted to push me to do things that were the most financially stable, because that was love to them.
I think it’s hard though when you constantly question your identity and you think that certain parts of yourself just won’t be successful or just will never make sense to the world, in a way that allows you to survive in this world. But I think that those things are exactly the things that the world desperately wants and needs you to be, for change and for your kids and the people after you and the people around you. I think that when you can be honest to yourself, all of the right opportunities and all of the right people will find you. And as long as you’re hiding that from the world, it’s really hard. It’s frustrating because you know, there’s something more, you can’t lie to yourself. And I think that we need to start being honest to ourselves first, for real happiness.
Amy, can you talk about the challenges of casting this film? And for Hadley and Lauren, can you tell us about your casting process?
Amy Poehler: We had an incredible casting director, a woman named Allison Jones who I’ve had the pleasure to work with and who really understood that we needed people to feel connected emotionally, spiritually to what they were doing. I will say there’s so many talented, young actors and actresses who are, I’m really blown away, frankly, by the level of talent in this film. And so I want to say that, although casting, we took our time with it and it was really important to us. I kind of forgotten it. It’s like when you give birth and you kind of forget the pain of it all because you just love your baby? It’s how I feel like, I’m like, yes, I want to say casting was so easy! And I don’t know if that’s the case, but that’s how I remember it.
I certainly remember Hadley and Lauren and coming in and all of us knowing immediately like, oh, that’s who we want. Those are the most talented people we’ve seen, they’re incredible. And watching them rehearse together just felt… As a director, you just desperately want to make sure that your actors feel a sense of belonging, but also just chemistry. Because this is an important relationship in the film. It’s the one that we track, which is you really, really want them to stay together. I mean, on set we were always talking about their marriage, basically… [Laughs] Like, this is the point in the marriage where you’re getting sick of each other! Your chemistry was so wonderful.
Hadley Robinson: That was probably one of my favorite parts of the casting process too, is meeting Lauren. I remember you wearing that sweatshirt and we were sitting in the waiting room and I was like, this girl is so cool! I just wanted to be your friend. And I was like, okay. So if I don’t get this part, can I still reach out to her and like, ask her to hang out with me? But yeah, that was huge! That chemistry was so fun, and to have all those people in the room, like Allison and you Amy, it just felt really right.
Lauren Tsai: Back at you Hadley. I was like, Oh my God, she’s so cool. She’s so talented. I was so nervous, but we did a scene together where we were sitting, pretending to talk outside the window and we were just using a chair. And there was like Amy, the Paper Kite team, Allison Jones, and everyone was so kind. And just the energy in the room was so loving and accepting and you could feel like they were supporting us. Like they want us to do good. They want us to be ourselves and be comfortable there. And it was cool. And Allison Jones. I mean, she’s a legend and she’s cast all of the most iconic movies. What a joy.
Was there anything that each of you wished you could change about your high school experience?
Hadley Robinson: Yeah! It’s so funny because you asked that question and I think immediately, ‘Oh, what would I change about myself?’ It’s not the environment. And I guess that’s all you have control over in a way, or at least how I felt. But I think the first thing that came popped into my head is that, it would just be giving myself the advice to just be fully me. I restricted myself a lot out of fear and I think there was a lot of missed opportunity that came from that. And it came eventually, but there were a lot of moments where looking back, I thought there was a lot of shame around just being yourself, like what Lauren was talking about. And I just truly wished that I had embodied the full me just truly.
Lauren Tsai: I felt like for high school too, I spent most of those years building a very small box for me to then live inside after I graduated high school. Of kind of figuring out, Oh, this is what I should be like, and this is what I should look like and sound like, and these are the kinds of things I should do. And I think that I wouldn’t change anything though. Cause I think like the hardships and everything made me realize how good it feels to be myself when I am being myself. I’m glad that I, I know how empty it feels when you’re not yourself, but I think I would just try to remind myself that to fail is something to be proud of. And to really try more things and be crazy and stupid. Not just while you’re young, but your whole life. Like the idea of being young, I think we don’t have to worry about time. We just have to worry that we’re present in it. That’s it.
Amy Poehler: Ooh, Lauren, that is deep.
Lauren Tsai: [Laughs] Yeah. I said that and I was like, I like that one!
Amy Poehler: That’s good for your TED talk. [Laughs]
Amy, you’ve called Moxie, a ‘coming-of-rage’ film, which I think describes it perfectly. A lot of people, especially young women when we discover or understand feminism and sexism for the first time, we’re filled with a lot of that rage, a lot of that anger, and it actually never goes away. But to you, how important was it to inject that, that anger and that rage and the film, while still keeping the tender parts super tender, the loving part still loving?
Amy Poehler: You know, female anger is really still a very undiscovered territory. It’s either made fun of or minimized or pathologized. Like, you’re just like a sociopath in the woods, you know, killing people with swords. [Laughs] And it’s a fuel. It’s a real fuel. When you’re feeling angry about something, it’s your body and your mind telling you that you care about something. And then, you know, we often don’t encourage young girls to be angry, to get to express it, to get to feel it even. And so sometimes half the battle as a woman in life is to even identify that that’s the feeling. Cause we often mask it with other things: with irritation, with tears, with, you know, with frustration, all these words.
But we’re just purely angry. We’re angry at the stuff that’s been handed to us. We’re angry at the opportunities that are taken from us. We’re angry at the way we’ve been treated, and we’re angry at the lies that we are sold when we realized the truth. Anyone that has little kids, when little kids realize they’ve been fooled, they get really upset. It’s a very primal thing, which is, told me one thing, but that’s a lie. And women have to learn that over and over again in very small ways. It’s a lot of brutal cuts. I think that it was fun for everybody to get in touch with that. We had, we had a moment where everybody got to scream. And we had a day in the woods. Hadley had a day in the woods where she just screamed at a bunch of trees for a whole day!
Hadley Robinson: It felt great!
Amy Poehler: Felt great! [Laughs] I would recommend that to anybody if they ever feeling like particularly blue.
Lauren Tsai: The best!
Amy Poehler: The trees can take it!
The movie shows that a girl revolution can come in different shapes and sizes, in different forms. I’m wondering for all three of you, what kind of a Moxie girl are you in real life, and how do you fight back?
Hadley Robinson: I think I’m very similar to Vivian. It’s ironic because I’m an actor, but I’m better at listening and computing information, processing, and then maneuvering beneath the system and trying to make moves from there. I also like bringing people together. I think that’s a huge way to show Moxie. I love just like trying to get a huge group of people I care about together ,and then to start conversations. I think that’s really important. I like to bring up ideas that maybe other people wouldn’t feel as comfortable bringing up. That tends to be my move.
Lauren Tsai: For me in terms of like that feeling of Moxie and rebellion has always been with a piece of paper for me. I’ve always felt very comfortable alone in my room at my desk, and I really believe that people can change the world from their desk if they’re being honest with themselves. I feel like I’ve always been very angry and dark in my work, but I want to be that though, especially for all the women who always feel like they’re never gonna be as important as their male counterparts, so they have to work harder. Or people are going to always tell them that they’re not real because of this or that. I want to keep going. And I think that for me, putting all of that into my work is my form of rebellion.
Amy Poehler: I think there’s all different types of Moxie. I think the kind of Moxie girl, you are is so specific to you. And I think the way I try to inhabit that is to remember that. That there’s no one way to tell a story, and there’s no one person that should tell it. And that the older you get, part of your work to do is to stop talking in a way to unlearn a lot of stuff. To stay flexible to change and to stay connected. Don’t check out, you know? If you’re afraid to get it wrong, then you may never do anything at all. So the doing of the thing is the thing. And keep trying, keep chipping away in whatever way you can.