Luke Hardeman, Jacob Hopkins, James Patterson, Lauren Graham Talk ‘Middle School’

This past weekend the cast and crew of the new comedy film Middle School: The Worst Years of My Life gathered on the red carpet to celebrate their special screening. We got the chance to speak with the author of the book James Patterson and some of the cast as they talked about how they relate to the movie, the process of making book into a movie, their favorite scenes and more!

To learn about the movie and more exclusive interviews from the red carpet check out our other article!

Tell me a little bit about the role you played in this film.

Luke Hardeman: I play Shon in the film. I’m kind of the nerd I guess. I had to do a lot of rough things including rolling down like a 30 ft hill in a moon costume.

Can you relate to anything you recorded on set? Any personal experience?

Luke Hardeman: Well, I actually have rolled down in a moon costume once, not a good experience.

How was it working with the cast?

Luke Hardeman: Oh, it was really really really great. We became really great friends; we all kept in touch. We are like a big family now.

Aww, and especially with having Lauren Graham there. How was it having those role models there?

Luke Hardeman: It was really great. It was great to talk to all of them and everyone and the producers and everyone was great and I still keep in touch with Steve Carr.

Working with Steve Carr, how was that experience?

Luke Hardeman: He is the greatest greatest director I have ever worked with. He knows how to get you into the mindset that you are supposed to be in when you are filming.

What was your favorite scene to shoot?

Luke Hardeman: One of my favorite ones had to be when I was rolling down a hill in a moon costume. Even though I had to do it like twenty times with all the takes we had to do.

 So that was one of the most challenging scenes too I guess?

Luke Hardeman: Yeah.

What do you hope people take away from the film?

Luke Hardeman: I hope they take away that bullying is not good. And that be creative with yourself and be your own self.

How excited are you to be here right now?

Jacob Hopkins: I’m so excited; I’ve been to so many movie premieres but this one I’m in. I don’t know it is pretty mind blowing.

So, tell me a little bit about your role in this film?

Jacob Hopkins: Yeah, so I play Miller the Killer, the school bully. Basically, when Rafe comes to school and you know he is already having trouble fitting in. I have to come in you know and push him around even more, so he has to deal with that. Later in the movie, when I realized he is behind all these pranks, I’m like ‘Woah’ he’s behind these bad boy pranks, I’m a bad boy, we can be bad brothers

So working with the cast, how was that? You are all like a big family now, right?

Jacob Hopkins: Yeah, we spent like 2 months together. Now we are here again and we are going to events together after that as well. It’s… it’s been phenomenal; it’s been amazing. Just being with everyone, working with everyone, just spending so much time together. Everyone cares about each other; there’s never a moment where we put down each other at all.

What do you hope people take away from this movie?

Jacob Hopkins: Well I hope people realize how inspiring it is that: Okay, you’re a new guy at middle school; just be confident in yourself and be yourself because that’s how Rafe was in this movie—he was an artist, he was a really talented artist. And with principal Dwight like stepped down all over him and crushed his dreams, destroying his artwork that he spent so much time on… you know, he didn’t let that get in the way. You know, I mean, don’t prank your school [laughter] but what I’m trying to say is that pranking the school was a symbol of creativity, and to be creative in your own sense.

 When you found out you were casted for this role, how did you feel? Do you have any personal experience that you brought into this?

Jacob Hopkins: So what I did was, basically when I went to the audition, I was really outgoing like I knew this guy because I read the books actually. Yeah, so I knew Miller. In the books, he was like really mean but they had to tone it down for this because in the books he was pretty evil. Basically, I was just like really outgoing, strong, pushed him around….stuff like that. Steve Carr, the director, told me on set when he saw the footage, “That’s Miller; that’s my Miller.” I was really excited when I got it; I was like “oh my gosh this is so cool!”

Tell me about being both the author and producer of this film, how does that work?

James Patterson: Well, in this case it was great because there’s really good people to work with. CBS films is terrific. Sometimes that isn’t the case. The cast is really good, and the director is very cooperative. All along the way, I really was involved in the casting and the editing and picking the director. It is one of those where if it went wrong or it goes well, you have no one to blame but yourself.

 Is this the first time that you have written the novel for?

James Patterson: Pretty much. With ‘Zoo’ the TV series, I did some of the executive producing. I did a documentary last year that went to the Emmy’s. That one was just me and a cameraman. We edited them all, no Hollywood, no nothing. Nobody to answer to—just lets go shoot it.

You have written a lot novels as well as a lot of kid’s books. What do you love most about this novel?

James Patterson: What I like and I think you’ll see it in here. People are going to laugh and a lot of people are going to cry. I think if you can do that; if you can make people laugh but also touch them, I think that’s a hard thing to do. I think that says that you did something right.

 Any big themes you want the audience to take away from this film?

James Patterson: I’m not big on messages. You go through life and here it is. What does it say? I don’t know–I love the movie theatres. There are messages and you’ll see that one of them is that kids that fall through the cracks. There’s a big thing here about testing and how it shouldn’t really be the hallmark of education. It’s one thing to say we need to have some standards; it is another thing to sit there and say that education is all about testing, testing. It really shouldn’t be.

 What was one of your favorite scenes?

James Patterson: For me, when you watch the movie you’ll see that there are a couple scenes that are kind of teary. They are unexpected, and those are my favorites.

What was the biggest challenge from taking this form a book to a movie?

James Patterson: Hollywood. It is what it is. They have their conventions and like Rafe I am a rule breaker.

You are a rule breaker.

James Patterson: I’m always doing stuff that….oh you can’t do more than one book a year. Well why not? So yeah.

Do you think this portrays you as your middle school self?

James Patterson: Well in a weird way, yes. Now, yes. Like a middle-old aged self.

You’ve been in numerous roles, so how was it going into this role and assimilating to your character as Jules?

Lauren Graham: Well this job came about in a funny way because I went in with Mae Whitman who played my daughter in parenthood to the film company because we were pitching a book that I’m working on an adaptation of. I went in as a writer, and the head of CBS films liked the book, liked our pitch, and then put me in this movie. [Laughs] So it was like an accidental audition. So, it was a really fun way to get a job. She had talked to me about this movie—what she really was proud of was the message that rules are not for everybody, and you can still find a way to use your imagination and to be creative. She wanted this positive movie, and I also know from being sort of a stepparent that for kids this age there are not enough movies for them to watch. There are little cartoon movies and then stuff you don’t want them to see yet, so I think this answers a good need.

How was it working with Steve Carr and James Patterson?

Lauren Graham: I loved him. We had so much fun. Those guys are great. Rob Riggle is hilarious, and the kids were wonderful. The only stressful part of it was that I was in Atlanta and the questions about Gilmore Girls were in the air, but there were no decisions and the two schedules totally conflicted. I just didn’t know what was going to happen. It was a very last minute, nail-bitey kind of thing. I was just like on the phone in my hotel room in Atlanta like “What are we going to do?” [Laughs]. I’ll always remember that and this movie too. But beside that, we had a great time.

Now you guys are a big family. You had to bond with the kids. How was it preparing for that?

Lauren Graham: Yeah. You know the kids make it so easy. The boys were fantastic. Alexa who plays my daughter, it was really her first role. I’m just always so blown away by these kids who just naturally kind of have this incredible professionalism but also heart. She was a local Atlanta actress and now lives in LA and is working there. Just to be part of somebody’s young life like that. You know to see like …I was there before you came to LA. I just really took an interest in her. For that reason, I just wanted her to stay so sweet and kind as she was and of course she did. So, I don’t know, it brings out I guess sort of a maternal thing but also a professional thing like ‘don’t lose your heart kid, it is tough out there!’ [Laughs] You know….but they are all doing great.

What do you hope the audience takes away from this film from both the parents’ side and also the kids’ side going through those middle school years?

Lauren Graham: Yeah, I guess it is a positive message. You go through these awkward times. You will come out of it at some point, and sometimes it can be hard to live within a structure that feels unfair. I think those middle school years are the first time you really start to see kids kind of budding their heads against things that don’t make any sense and you can still be creative and express yourself.

The film hits theaters this Friday.

-Anna Botto

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