Exclusive: The DUFF stars Mae Whitman and Bella Thorne talk being a "DUFF"
GL: So tell us about your characters in the movie.
Mae: I play Bianca, she’s sort of very much like how I am and was in high school – kind of wacky and silly and quirky and different. She likes weird old movies and has a funny little sense of humor and is just sort of straight-forwardly and unabashedly who she is.
Bella: My character Madison is not your typical mean girl. She’s smart. She's not valley girl mean, she’s like “I’m gonna slit your throat” mean.
GL: And the two totally don't get along, right?
Mae: Bianca is really kind of afraid of her!
Bella: Madison is an insecure girl, though. Why people bully each other is for a very certain reason and it’s obviously because something inside of them feels uncomfortable with themselves and idolizes the other person for something. They’re so jealous that they don’t have that, that they have to put them down for it.
GL: The movie focuses a lot on labels and stereotypes – have you ever felt stereotyped in your own lives?
Mae: Of course, all the time. This movie is about illuminating that. Any time someone tries to put you in a box, like Bella said it means they’re threatened by you and they’re fearful and insecure about their own lives and I think that’s something we all deal with. I think people are especially prone to do that to people who are confident and unabashedly themselves. Something about people not being afraid to be who they are and not needing to subscribe to the social norms is terrifying because bullies feel that they need that infrastructure to remain in place, so they try to bring you down. I think that has definitely happened to me. It happened to me in high school, it happens a lot in roles in Hollywood – I think it’s just a very judgmental and comparison-based world.
Bella: I’m typecast as a Disney actress because I was on a Disney show. People think that I can only do comedy, but I was in Big Love before that and a bunch of serious stuff and I just don’t get it. You do one role and someone sees you like that and that’s all you’ll ever be.
Mae: I hope this is a movie that can help people understand that just because someone puts you in a box, it doesn’t mean that you can’t get out of it. It’s really just not real. It doesn’t exist. You know, you have all of these cool people around you, but if you’re so obsessed with putting people into certain boxes you end up really missing out on some great friends. I think that’s really the danger of letting that stuff be real.
GL: There's also the "I'm somebody's DUFF" campaign that seems to encourage embracing your label, too. What do you think of that?
Mae: Being labeled is something you sort of take to heart, it feels personal, but then you realize it’s not about you. It’s always about the other person. If someone tries to put you into a box because you are being unapologetically yourself, what that term represents – whatever the term is – is being whoever you are. If being an individual and being who you are and being free to be exactly who you want to be means being a DUFF, then great, let’s all be the DUFF. Who wouldn’t want to be that, you know? I think the idea is that it is what you make it. Terms have power, but you create whatever the power is.
GL: How do you break out of the boxes that other people put you in?
Bella: I think when you start thinking about the way people see you, that’s when you make the “DUFF” real. That is something that you have to just completely overlook.
GL: Do you have any good tips for learning how to be comfortable with who you are?
Bella: It’s a process. I think you really have to have the right group of friends. I struggled for a long time when I was on Shake It Up, because I was trying to be what everybody wanted me to be, this little innocent long-haired Disney girl. I spent a lot of time hating what I was, because I wasn’t me. And then I found this super freaking cool group of friends and they made me feel like I could be me. That is something you just don’t get every day.
Mae: I need to take days by myself where I do something that I really like or take some time to get out of the constant chatter. When I put that stuff out of my mind and give myself a minute of space, a lot more answers about how to navigate tricky terrain come to me. I think the more that you can feel comfortable and try to always make the choice that feels right in your heart, it'll bring out the people around you who appreciate who you are. I think it makes your life a lot easier when you’re surrounded by people like that.
GL: Bianca stands up to her bully in the movie – how can fans do that, too?
Mae: Speaking up for people and for yourself is always the right way to go. I think you need to tune into yourself and get perspective and look at why that person is being that way. Get some compassion into your heart and speak your truth. Trust that and don’t be afraid of what may come after because it doesn’t matter. Be the best person you can be and be comfortable moving along that path and know that it will take you to the right place.
Bella: I was bullied growing up and it really put me in a very harsh place. Even now, I’ll start to cry if I have to read in front of people. Bullying really leaves an effect on you and I’m fed up with it. I don’t like it and I don’t like when it happens to other people. If somebody talks trash on one of my friends, I will literally go in on them for doing it because I just don’t believe in that. That’s not cool.
GL: What do you guys hope fans will take away from this movie?
Bella: I’m hoping fans will take away that you’re freaking awesome, no matter how you look, what you do, who you are. You’re cool and there will be people that know you’re cool and love you for being you.
Mae: Every single person has something unique and special to contribute. It’s such a gift that we’re all so different. Chances are, if people are working really hard to make you feel bad, it’s probably because they’re scared of you and what you have to offer. Let that stuff go, let it roll off. We’ve all been through it. Everyone that you see, everyone that you know, everyone that you respect and like, this is a very real struggle that we feel all the time. Know that you’re not alone.
What do you think about Mae and Bella's tips on dealing with bullies? Is your school participating in the Biggest. Assembly. Ever today at 11:00 a.m. EST? If not, it's not too late. Check out meanstinks.com to find out how your class can participate in the discussion even after the live stream is over.
Photo credit to: Mean Stinks and The DUFF