Halston Sage went to an all-girls high school, and she spent most of her time there working on the school newspaper, serving on student council and riding horses. So, her teen experience was very different from that of her character Lindsay in “Before I Fall,” the confident but secretly troubled ringleader of a pack of mean girls. Her clique includes the film’s protagonist, Zoey Deutch’s Sam, who finds herself mysteriously living the same fateful day over and over again, “Groundhog Day”-style. The film is based on a YA bestseller, but it’s more thoughtful than most, digging into ideas of mortality and existential dread.
I’m imagining you weren’t a mean girl in high school.
No. It was very therapeutic to be bossing people around all day. I’d get it out of my system without it actually reflecting on who I am as a person. [Laughs]
You do have a scene where you and your clique scream at an unpopular girl and dump drinks on her head.
There was actually a take in that sequence where [Elena Kampouris] spit on me and wound up hitting my eyeball. It got really intense. [Laughs] We were really living that fight. Then on the van ride home it was like, “Sorry, I love you!”
Despite it being based on a YA novel, I don’t think the movie’s strictly for young adults.
Even though it takes place in high school, it deals with very adult themes — questions we ask ourselves even after high school. Who do I want to be? What do I want people to remember me for? How do I want to treat people? What do I want to do with my time here? These questions are really important and really elevated when you’re in high school, because at that age you think everything is so important and it’s the end of the world. I’m 23, and I still feel that way. I could talk to my mom and she’s still asking the same questions.
It’s weirdly comforting when you realize adults don’t know anything either.
Right! And there are still girls who are mean, but you realize they have more sides to them. That’s the benefit of getting older: You don’t just see everyone in one way. They could be someone like my character, who’s had something terrible happen in her life or is going through a rough time. You don’t want to justify their behavior, but you want to understand them, give them a little more credit, rather than reducing them to one kind of person.