Jake Ryan

“Eighth Grade” Writer: Bo Burn­ham Direc­tor: Bo Burn­ham

Variety - - Scene Stealer - IN­TER­VIEW BY SU­SAN YOUNG

FORMER YOUTUBE STAR AND AC­TOR BO Burn­ham makes his fea­ture film writ­ing/di­rect­ing de­but in “Eighth Grade,” a re­al­is­tic take on com­ing of age in the era of so­cial me­dia. In the film, Kayla’s (Elsie Fisher) con­fi­dence-build­ing Youtube self-help videos starkly con­trast with her own life as an awk­ward 13-yearold in her fi­nal weeks of mid­dle school. De­ter­mined to put her­self out there, Kayla’s at­tempt to take her own ad­vice re­sults in some painful growth ex­pe­ri­ences. But while plenty of ac­co­lades jus­ti­fi­ably have been poured on Golden Globe nom­i­nee Fisher’s break­out per­for­mance, it’s Jake Ryan as fel­low fum­bler Gabe who steals the mem­o­rable chicken nugget date-night scene that in­cludes touch­ing on splin­tered fam­i­lies through the lens of a “Rick and Morty” episode.

RYAN: “The ‘Rick-and-morty’ scene was some­thing Elsie talked about when we first [ap­proached it] and we de­cided to do a lit­tle im­prov in the chem­istry read. When we went to shoot that [date night] scene, Bo said, ‘Is it OK if you do more “Rick and Morty?”’ and I said, ‘Oh my God, yes!’ It’s easy to feed off the en­ergy that Elsie brings, so [our scenes] flowed nat­u­rally from the be­gin­ning.

“Bo has a cool vibe and when I first met him he was re­ally funny and he lis­tens to peo­ple. He was try­ing to re- cre­ate what kids talk about to­day. He was al­ways ask­ing, ‘Is this what kids would do?’ He would tell us the script didn’t mat­ter, al­though we tightly kept to the script. How­ever, in cer­tain cases he would let us im­pro­vise just a lit­tle bit. That gave us a sense of free­dom to be the char­ac­ter.

“[My char­ac­ter] Gabe is a bit of an awk­ward fel­low, but he doesn’t care. He still tries to be him­self and crack jokes, and that’s a lot like me. When I talk to peo­ple, I don’t tend to care what peo­ple think of me. I like to make peo­ple feel com­fort­able and Gabe likes to do the same. In the chicken nugget scene, he just wants Kayla to be com­fort­able. He’s very con­sid­er­ate, like Kayla, and rec­og­nized that Kayla is shy, ner­vous and as awk­ward as he is.

“I’ve been home-schooled since I was in sec­ond grade, so I don’t hang out with a lot of peo­ple that of­ten, but when I do a switch in my brain goes off that helps me not

to be shy. When I’m around other peo­ple, I try to make other peo­ple feel happy and make friends, like Gabe.

“I didn’t re­ally have any idea this char­ac­ter would be so po­plar and so many peo­ple would re­late to him. In the script, he was sup­posed to be off-cen­tered, and I had no idea what that meant. So I was just me and made the char­ac­ter more sub­tle than maybe how he was orig­i­nally meant to be.

“Bo helped me a lot, he told me to stay as grounded as pos­si­ble, be­cause I fit the char­ac­ter so well. He kept telling me, ‘Be your­self, don’t stop be­ing your­self, you are fine the way you are.’ He kept telling me it was OK to make mis­takes, be­cause no one knows how to speak. You are still learn­ing how to speak in­side. So you just have to do what comes nat­u­rally to you. Bo gave me the free­dom to mess up. He cre­ated a re­ally safe en­vi­ron­ment and ev­ery­one on that set was just happy to be able to do their job.

“I worked with Wes An­der­son on ‘Moonrise King­dom’ and ‘Isle of Dogs,’ and I feel like my only ex­pe­ri­ence has been with in­die movies, which al­lows direc­tors and ac­tors to take the time to re­ally ex­per­i­ment with the characters and do some­thing unique.”

About a BoyJake Ryan plays adorably awk­ward teen Gabe.

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