‘The Edge of Seventeen’ Star Haley Lu Richardson on the “Plague” of High School


Haley Lu Richardson may be best known for her supporting role as Maggie in the raunchy gymnastics comedy The Bronze, but the Phoenix native is poised to make an impact with a pair of high-profile projects, the first of which is already in theaters. In The Edge of Seventeen, Richardson portrays Krista, whose friendship with Hailee Steinfeld’s Nadine is tested when she begins dating Nadine’s older brother.

Directed by Kelly Fremon Craig, The Edge of Seventeen has garnered tremendous critical acclaim for its authentic and hilarious portrayal of high school life, with our own Kyle Wilson called it “one of the best comedies of the year.” Last week, Richardsoon took some time out of her packed schedule to chat with us via phone about her role in the film.

You were working on this film at the same time that you were shooting Split for M. Night Shyamalan. How did you approach going back and forth between two projects with such different tones? 

Haley Lu Richardson: I honestly don’t know! I really don’t know how actors work on two things at the same time. It’s the first time I had done it, and I don’t know if I’ll ever do it again, because it was really hard. I’m someone that, if I’m going to do something, I go a hundred percent or I don’t do it at all. So giving one hundred percent to one movie, and then flying across the Canadian border to work on another movie… it was challenging. Both movies were super accommodating, and I’m really lucky they allowed me to work on both at the same time.

When you first read the script for The Edge of Seventeen, was there just as immediate feeling of “oh my god, I have to do this?”

Haley Lu Richardson: Oh, there were no cons. Sometimes you get a script or an audition and you have to think about what the great things are, and if there’s anything that’s not so great. But with this, Krista was one of the last roles to be cast, so by the time I was auditioning I knew all these people who were working on it. I knew that Kelly was directing it, I knew that James Brooks was producing it and kind of overseeing things, and there was literally no reason I could think of that I wouldn’t want to do this movie.

Hailee Steinfeld and Haley Lu Richardson in 'The Edge of Seventeen'

Hailee Steinfeld and Haley Lu Richardson in ‘The Edge of Seventeen’

One of the things that I really enjoyed about this film is that you and Hailee aren’t very far removed from the ages of your characters, which I feel adds to the authenticity. So with that being said, do you see any of yourself or your friends in this film?

Haley Lu Richardson: Oh yeah, I definitely think that’s why people are liking the movie, because it’s so real. A lot of the time in these coming-of-age comedies, I feel like where they go wrong is where they’re trying too hard to get laughs, or trying too hard to make something seem dramatic and intense.

I feel like this movie isn’t trying to be anything, it’s just showing what this girl went through – and this is what a bunch of teenagers go through in high school. Sometimes it’s messy and most of the time it sucks, and sometimes it’s really pitiful and funny. So it was really easy for me to read the script and figure out how I related to Krista and her whole journey and what she’s going through, and what Nadine is going through.

Another thing I think Edge of Seventeen captures well is the sort of immediacy of being young. When you’re a teenager, the smallest little incidents can feel like the end of the world. Do you remember any experiences from your teenage years where you thought “this is it, my life is over?”

Haley Lu Richardson: Oh yeah! I feel like every day, every second, every time I spoke to someone in high school, I had one of those moments. And I feel like that’s something everyone who’s been a teenager can relate to. That’s the thing that makes high school so hard.

A lot of times it’s not even the mean girl at school or the guy that won’t notice you or the mean group of kids that’s picking on you – it’s you that’s causing most of the problems for yourself, because you’re choosing to make all of those things affect you so deeply.

And even though I was a teenager a couple of years ago, now I look back at those things that were such a big deal and the end of the world to me in high school, and I laugh at them. When I was fifteen and thinking it was the end of the world, I wish I had that voice that was like “guess what, this isn’t the end of the world and you’re gonna laugh at this one day.”

If only we could all be as wise then as we are now.

Haley Lu Richardson: But honestly, I don’t feel like I’m that wise now! But I feel like in that one area… it literally is just when you’re in high school! There’s like some plague on high school campuses that make you feel like it’s the end of the world all the time.

Haley Lu Richardson and Blake Jenner in 'The Edge of Seventeen'

Haley Lu Richardson and Blake Jenner in ‘The Edge of Seventeen’

I know we’re almost out of time, but I wanted to ask you about a movie you’re shooting in Columbus, Indiana.

Haley Lu Richardson: Yeah, I just finished that actually.

I grew up about 90 minutes north of there.

Haley Lu Richardson: That’s so awesome and so random! That’s such a small place that no one knows about, but it’s so unique with the architecture and the vibe. It’s not like anywhere I’ve ever been.

Is that a project you can talk about yet?

Haley Lu Richardson: Yeah, I can say a few things about it. It was filmed in Columbus because it takes place there, and it’s centered around the architecture, and this young woman who’s been stuck there her whole life with a single mom that’s had some drug problems. And [my character] meets this man who’s passing through from Korea, and our lives kind of intersect as we’re both dealing with family things. You just kind of see this connection form through the passage of time in these two people’s lives. I think it’s one of the best pieces of writing I’ve ever gotten to work on, so I’m really excited about it.

We don’t have a lot of movies that film in Indiana, or are set in Indiana, so I’m looking forward to checking that out.

Haley Lu Richardson: Everyone in Columbus was so nice! They were so friendly, and everyone seemed really excited about having a movie shot there.

That’s awesome. Thanks so much for taking the time to chat with us today, and good luck with The Edge of Seventeen, and with Split when it opens next year.

Haley Lu Richardson: And thank you for taking the time to talk to me!

The Edge of Seventeen is currently playing in the theaters everywhere.

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