We recently had the opportunity to interview the stars of Mid90s, a coming of age film that tracks the trials and tribulations of a rebellious young skateboarder. Headlining Jonah Hill’s directorial debut, is a band of real life skateboarders turned first time actors: Sunny Suljic, Olan Prenatt, Ryder McLaughlin, and Gio Galicia who play Stevie, Fuckshit, Fourth Grade, and Ruben respectively. We sat down and discussed what it was like on set, their personal takeaways from the film, and what it was like to be acting for the first time under a first time director.
This interview has been edited for clarity and readability. Interview was conducted by Greg Arietta and Megan Bernovich.
Greg: How did you guys get cast in the film?
Ryder: Mikey Alfred?
Sunny: Yah, Mikey Alfred.
Olan: Mikey got 70 kids that he knew from L.A.. All of them were skateboarders like Jonah asked. He wanted to teach skatborders how to act rather than the other way around because you can’t teach anybody how to be a skateboarder… it takes being apart of the culture to know. From there we were the chosen ones.
Sunny: I went to Stoner [Skatepark] and Mikey Alfred introduced me to Lucas [Hedges] and Jonah [Hill]. I didn’t even know that Jonah was making a movie or anything [ at the time]. I thought he was just stopping by Stoner with Lucas, who I didn’t even know back then. Now, he has three films out this year which is crazy. We all just started talking and he asked me if I had any acting experience, and from that, [he knew] there’s gotta be something. [Jonah] didn’t even know I acted before. I went in for an audition. Got a call back and . . .
Greg: Now you’re here…
Megan: …drinking Starbucks in Seattle.
Sunny: Yo, that’s a good-ass slogan! [laughter]
Greg: So Sunny, you had acted before right?
Greg: I had looked at your IMDB and I didn’t even know you were in God of War which I had played earlier this year. But for you other three, what was it like being on set [acting] for the first time?
Olan: Every single day on set I didn’t know what level professional actors study [their parts]. Everyday, even if i had one line for that whole day, I practiced that one part literally all day. I’d be nervous up until the cameras started rolling. That was my approach to it. Dedicate every second [on set] I have to it. It was a great environment that was created on set by Jonah… to the point where we can all just have fun with each other and bring it out on film.
Megan: Yah, I was gonna say he’s been directed by some of the greats and he’s on his way to being a director now.
Olan: I can’t believe this was his first time directing. He’s like a genius at this. He choreographed my brain without me even knowing, and it helped my performance.
Sunny: Yah, I think he definitely got the role of the director because he’s really really good at it. He taught me a lot of things with regard to acting too. He’s just a good dude.
Greg: It helps that he’s an actor too. We’re both university students and we took a screen writing course where the teacher told us that if you want to be a director you should probably be an actor first. His logic was if you want to direct actors you have to know what they’re going through and what they’re thinking. I got caught on to Jonah Hill in 2011 with Moneyball, and up until that point I had just known him as the kid from Superbad. Then he went on to do projects like Wolf of Wall Street, work with the Coen brothers, and now he’s directing which is crazy to think about.
Sunny: He has a diverse acting career.
Olan: I’m stoked to see him direct, and [think],”Oh, shit! i’m apart of it.”
Megan: So you guys were previously familiar with him? You had seen him in some of his other stuff…
Olan, Sunny: Oh yah, definitely.
Greg: Any favorite Jonah Hill film?
Olan: The Sitter [laughter]
Sunny: Actually, I like all of them. I’m still watching Maniac right now. You know what’s funny about watching Maniac is that since we’re all close to Jonah, it feels like he’s never acted before… as if he’s a good friend [you know] who does something big, [and makes you] go, “Woah! He’s in this show!” I’m watching it as if I see Olan in a big video or something.
Megan: Just like your friend?
Sunny: Yah. But, I really really really like him in Wolf of Wall Street and War Dogs. I literally just watch little clips of him laughing [in that movie].
Greg: That laugh is so good. When he gets out of the car [in that one scene] because someone insulted him and he pulls out the AK-47…
Olan, Sunny: Oh yah yah yah…
Sunny: …where he gave them money for weed and they didn’t give it to him, so he comes out with the AK. Bro, that [part is so good].
Greg: He’s just so good. I’m kinda jealous… Did you have a favorite day on set? How long was the shooting process?
Olan: Let’s see… well everyone shot for two and a half months, but Sunny, Lucas, and Catherine [Waterston] shot a little bit before us.
Sunny: My favorite day on set was when we shot the party scenes or when we were outside the [Motor] skate shop and we skated because all the extras were my friends, so it was cool to watch everybody [have a good time].
Megan: Yah, it felt very authentic seeing you guys hang out with your actual friends.
Sunny: And with Jonah he has OCD too, so he’s was very specific with [how the] trash [was displayed] and everything.
Olan: Everyday on set was my favorite day. Another day another person to meet.
Greg: It helps to have a nice working environment too. Most of the time you hear rumors coming out of sets where everything is pure chaos…
Olan: Yah, I think it’s typical to not have a dope environment like ours was. Like, this was crazy.
Sunny: I think it’s also cool that we’re all really close. And I’m not just saying that because I’ve filmed before and it’s been really fun, but I’ve never … ummm, like we all skate and we all hang out outside of shooting so it’s so cool to be going on press and traveling because it just feels like we’re just going on a skate trip. Like we’re going on a plane or we’re going on a train [together], and it’s just so tight.
Megan: Did either of you, Gio or Ryder, have a particularly favorite experience?
Ryder: I was just a chaperone.
Gio: Everyday was just something new to learn by everyone on set That’s how it was for me at least.
Megan: I guess for everyone except for Sunny, you guys didn’t get to see alot of the filming of [Stevie’s] home life. What was your guys’ reaction to seeing the finished, full film and all the parts that you weren’t in?
Ryder: I wish there was more because there was a lot of that sort of stuff. I feel like it was supposed to be a bigger chunk of the movie.
Greg: Did it get cut?
Sunny: Yah they cut like a lot.
Gio: The movie was like three hours long…
Sunny: … And now it’s like 80 minutes with credits. I think what Jonah’s goal when editing was that he realized that some scenes just didn’t have to go in.
Ryder: He took out all the stuff that didn’t add to the story if that makes sense. It’s literally just enough stuff to get the point across without having parts where we’re just messing around. I also have like no clue [since i didn’t cut it].
Olan: I agree with him, that’s not my check either. I don’t know why he chose the decisions that he did, but I heard him state that it’s so great great to over write and over shoot in the editing places.
Greg: I bet having that in the editing process really helps cause then you can pick and choose what you want… All these characters feel genuine and true to life, do you guys see yourself in any of these characters or have any take aways from them? Obviously they’re your performances, but when I saw the film, I look back and see something different than someone like yourselves who are currently living those lives.
Sunny: What I took away and what I really enjoyed about my character is the subtle facial expression I would make. I watch them, and I would have a little smirk or . . .
Ryder: So you’re just a really good actor [laughter]
Olan: Yah. Pretty much.
Ryder: “Yah so I was watching it and I did a really good job. I killed it…”
Sunny: Yah, I was watching it and I was like, “Damn, I’m the best actor ever and I should just keep going. It’s so crazy!” [Laughter] But actually, I think Jonah wouldn’t “make a meal out of it,” especially with the cameos too. Alot of the violent scenes he would just keep it on wide shot and let it just play out…
Olan: Let it be what it is.
Greg: You guys did all your own stunts right?
Ryder: That’s crazy that that’s even considered stunts.
Sunny: Yah that’s tight though.
Ryder: The only stunt in that movie is falling off the roof. That’s the only thing I would consider to be a stunt.
Sunny: I did have to bring in a stunt person because of liability, but they still used me. I actually did jump off the roof for one of them. I just jumped on a pad. They brought in a lady [to do another take], but I guess they ended up going with my take because you can kinda tell [if it wasn’t me].
Greg: Yah, I thought it was cool that they just let you guys do your own things. It’s not the most dangerous stuff out there…
Sunny: With skating though, it would be weird if there were stunt doubles doing our skating. Na-Kel [Smith] is pro. Ryder is Am. Olan is one of the fucking best skaters. And Gio is really good too.
Greg: Did you have to fake or act when you had to learn how to ride a skateboard for that one scene?
Gio: Like Sunny is really good. He’s a talented skateboarder. He needed to play someone who couldn’t skate. But like, that was pretty hard for him.
Sunny: I’ve had people tell me, “Oh so did you have to learn how to skate before the film?” And then I get really happy because I know it looks realistic then.
Ryder: You’re just a really good actor.
Megan: One of the integral parts of Ryder’s character is that you’re the one who is filming all this and going along with all everyone and documenting everything, how was that in addition to skating and playing this character, but also holing a camera? How did that feel for you while you were shooting?
Ryder: I enjoyed filming on set. I really liked my character just from the script because his whole thing he doesn’t talk, and [how] filming and documenting everything is his role. That’s what he can contribute because he doesn’t make jokes. He’s the scapegoat for tense situations… when things get serious and then it’s like, “Oh, yah lets just make fun of Fourth Grade,” and then it goes back to normal and continues on.
Greg: Just out of curiosity, do you know what were you shooting on the handheld? Was that microtape?
Ryder: Yah, it was like a Sony Hi-8. I’m not sure exactly what kind of Sony camera, but I went through alot of tapes.
Megan: Did you get to be apart of the editing process at the editing, putting together your little film?
Ryder: Uhhh, no that was all Jonah. I got sent a couple rough versions and then I didn’t see it for a while. Then later they said, “Hey can you do all these title [cards] for it,” so I did all that stuff for it.
Greg: We’re almost out of time, so final question. You guys do all these junkets, but what is the one thing wish someone would ask about you or just something no one knows?
Sunny: That I skate. I want people to know that.
Ryder: I like to keep it vague so no one really knows. Especially if you’re gonna act, you don’t want people to know too much about you.
Gio: For me at least, [I want people to know] that I’m not like Ruben is in the movie. I’m not a dick I guess [laughter]…
Sunny: Alright, that’s enough. That’s enough. That’s all they need.
Gio: Alright fuck you Sunny. [Laughter]
Megan: That’s a great note to end on, I think. Thanks for your time and we hope the rest of press day goes well!
Mid90s is in theaters now. You can read our full review here.