BEHIND THE SCENES: "The DUFF"

Even though is seems like a million years ago, high school memories will forever be fresh in our mind. Whether you were “popular” or “nerdy,” a “jock” or a “band geek,” we all felt labeled at one point or another during those four years.

But the movie, “The DUFF” takes labeling to a whole new level. After being labeled as the DUFF (short for “Designated Ugly Fat Friend”) to her more pretty and popular friends, Bianca (played by Parenthoods’ Mae Whitman) sets out to revolutionize the social pecking order. The movie is equally funny and full of heart.

Plus, the movie stars some fiercely talented young actresses. We caught up with three of the movies stars, Mae Whitman, Bianca Santos and Skyler Samuels, as we discussed the process of going back to high school, the messages of the movie and more!

Be sure to catch “The DUFF” in theaters starting Friday, February 20!

Mae Whitman: I was excited to do this movie because I definitely always felt put in categories, both in school growing up and professionally. There is a real tendency to label. For example, I always felt like I had to be this quirky best friend. So, I kind of just wanted to shed some light and communication about something I always felt and make other people who feel this way feel less alone.

Bianca Santos: Number one was reading the script. After reading it, I was like, yes, this is a movie I am going to see whether I am in it or not. I love this genre of teen comedy and the throwback to the ‘90s or John Hughes of the ‘80s. It is a really funny movie with a lot of heart.

Skyler Samuels: It reminds a lot of what high school was really like. “The DUFF” brought me back to how perfectly imperfectly it is to be a girl in high school.

CF: What was it like “going back to high school” for this movie? What was your own high school experience like?

MW: I was definitely tense every time I was walking down the hallway. Other than that, it was kind of nice because we were reinventing our perhaps bad high school memories to have a good one. It was nice being like, “Oh this is fun. We actually like each other.” The only other thing was wearing a backpack the whole time. You forget how annoying it is to carry one…

BS: It was really funny coming back to high school to be the cute friend because I definitely was one of the DUFFs of my high school. I am sure some people from high school will be watching and thing, “Woah that’s cool.” It was fun to come back as someone else.

SS: I was definitely not the cute popular friend in high school. So if anyone from I went to high school is watching, I hope they realize we can all semi-change from the person we were in high school.

CF: How are you similar to your character? How are you different?

MW: I feel very similar to Bianca. I tried to make her as similar to my experience in high school as possible. They were really cool about letting us improvise and gave us a say in what we wore and what we brought to our respective roles. For me, it was just really important to make sure that this movie was honest. For example, it was my idea to have her wear overalls because I wear overalls all the time and I get funny comments from people like it is weird to wear overalls or something. In my mind I wonder, “Is it? They are so practical.” I never wanted Bianca to change who she was just because of what other people thought. She tries on different coats but doesn’t change who she is.

BS: The way I relate to my character Casey is she is fiercely loyal. I know that for me that I love my friend so much and love them for who they are. At the end of the day I am always going to stand up for them because they are the best and I think that is one of the best traits Casey has.

SS: I too am a fiercely loyal friend in real life and it was a pleasure seeing that play out on screen because I think in any other high school movie, that wouldn’t be the case. Casey and Jess hang patient while Bianca [Mae’s character] goes on her journey only to come back and realize the value of her friends. In true friendship, we don’t give up on our friends when they are going through hard times. I think this movie honors true friendship.

CF: While the movie is a comedy with heart, there are a lot of underlying themes and messages as well. What do you think the take home message is from “The DUFF?”

MW: I think just the classic stuff of you are not alone and everyone feels this way in one-way or another. Also, you are not limited by labels that other people put on you.

BS: Be the best version of who you are.

CF: Tell us about your partnership with Secret Mean Stinks and the Biggest. Assembly. Ever.

SS: We had people from across the United States taking a stand against bullying and interacting with the people who inspired our movie. The DUFF was inspired by real high school students and the struggles they go through everyday in figuring out who they are. So having the opportunity to sit down with them and hear their stories inspired us and was really wonderful.