While we’re busy figuring out school supplies each fall, another kind of back-to-school issue is top of mind for our kids: What to wear the first day of school?
And if this preoccupation with outerwear seems frivolous to you (how quickly we forget!), kids and teens understand a truism we’d like to pretend is no longer true: People are always judging you by your cover. On the school grounds, the right look might land you in the in crowd (or evoke envy) and the wrong look can keep you on the outside looking in — until you find your tribe.
This universal adolescent angst has been captured in stories the world over, and one of the most renowned arbiters of the genre is Judy Blume. When Lionsgate brought Blume’s beloved middle-grade novel, “Are You There God? It’s Me, Margaret” to the big screen earlier this year, I wrote about it in a column. Now that Abby Ryder Fortson, who plays 11-year-old Margaret in the film, is gracing this month’s cover, I’m delighted to share more of my conversation with her here.
Tell us a little bit about you — where and how you were raised, siblings, hobbies.
I’m L.A.-born and -raised. I have one little brother. Both of my parents are actors; my brother is as well. When I was little, my parents would take me to all of their auditions, and I would sit on the producer’s couch. One day, I kind of just said to them, “When can I do this? This is so fun. I want to do this now. When can I get an audition?”
I booked my first commercial and I shot it on my fourth birthday, so I always say that my birthday is my acting anniversary as well.
Both of my parents are my coaches, and they’ve worked with me on every single thing I’ve ever done.
What is your why behind wanting to act?
I love bringing characters to life, honestly. I love being able to read a script and know instantly, “Oh, this is how that character would say something.” And I love working on every little thing, from how they roll down their socks to the biggest thing, like how their emotions are in a specific scene.
I would love to continue acting, but I would also love to direct a project of my own one day. I write as well. I would love to write and direct and branch out into other areas of filmmaking.
What did you think about the book version of “Are You There God? It’s Me, Margaret?”
I read it as soon as I got the audition. And I remember turning to my parents and saying, “How did someone write down this experience? This is the experience. How did Judy Blume write this down?” It was so beautiful and so honest. [She wrote it] so long ago, when there was such a taboo talking about things about puberty and growing up — and body changing and periods and all that.
The book and the film bring back so many memories from sixth grade — and sixth grade, for a lot of us, was tough. What did you most relate to when reading the book and making the movie?
Honestly, I related to Margaret quite a lot because I was going through the exact same stuff that she was at the exact same time that she was! I’m figuring myself out. I’m awkward, I’m messy, I’m weird.
I think I most related to her journey of finding herself, because that’s something that I’m still doing every single day. I think that’s a thing that most of us are still doing, no matter if you’re 80 or 8.
I think Margaret’s relationship with her friends is certainly complicated, because she moved and she’s thrust into a world of all this new stuff that she’s still figuring out. And with her parents, I think she really loves them. They’re always supporting her, but as any teenager knows, your parents are always the last people you want to take advice from.