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Actress Hailee Steinfeld. (Lenny Gilmore/RedEye)

Actress Hailee Steinfeld. (Lenny Gilmore/RedEye)

By Maeve Filbin, Benet

I was lucky enough to sit down with Hailee Steinfeld, who is just as much of a demanding and poised presence as her character Nadine. Still riding the hype surrounding her song “Starving,” as well as her other girl power anthems, Steinfeld’s momentum continues through this movie and other upcoming endeavors. Similar to the pace of “The Edge of Seventeen,” our conversation felt like one big run-on sentence filled with humor and sincerity. In the brief fifteen minutes we had together, we managed to tackle big ideas such as her brother’s love life, the ability to find your voice through a great outfit, and the lesson that she wants to share with everyone living on “the edge of seventeen.”

You play a character who’s struggling with everything that comes with high school — girl problems, boy problems, and everything in between. Did you find it easy to relate to Nadine?
I absolutely did, in more ways than one. I was homeschooled up until sixth grade, so I didn’t technically go to a traditional high school. In ways I feel like I had all these experiences, just in a different light and to a different extent, with different people and problems and in another slightly other world. So I think having this movie gave me the opportunity to really truly be a teenager and freak out about things that you would freak out about, and be confused, and be unhappy and be happy, and be super excited for the five minutes that we are until everything turns bad again. There are so many things in this movie and so many things within this character that I relate to.

And you have a brother, correct?
I do.

Would you be ok with one of your best friends dating your brother?
You know, in some ways, I have mixed feelings about it. Part of me is like, I mean, they’re my best friends so I really like them, and I only want my brother to be with somebody that’s awesome and great, and if they’re my best friend that means that they’re awesome and great, right? But then, on the other hand, having a best friend who you’re almost sharing with your brother, that’s like not ok! And it’s weird, and it can’t be easy. Obviously, Nadine takes that like way too seriously, and it’s upsetting [to her]. And obviously if there’s that sibling rivalry, and then your best friend is taken away from you in that way, it can be hard. But it hasn’t happened yet, so I don’t really know how I would handle it. Maybe it will one day, and I’ll figure it out!

About Nadine’s outfits, her style is amazing, but it’s so vibrant and unapologetic for someone who keeps to herself most of the time. What do you think that says about her?
I mean I’ve always been a huge fan of using fashion and style as a form of personal expression, and I think someone who — like you said — keeps to herself for the most part, can get up in the morning and put those cat socks on with shoes that have dogs on them. That is a choice, and she makes it with a purpose and she goes for it.
Finding that was one of my favorite parts of the process. Finding, sort of, that wardrobe… that was obviously unique and different, but still sort of aspirational in a way. Still to a point where girls can look at that and say, “That’s cool, there’s nothing wrong with that!” And finding that was really fun.

What do you think was your favorite piece of her wardrobe?
The Big Lebowski sweatshirt! And the sweater situation thing, I think it had a deer on it… I think that her wardrobe is kind of like a character on its own.

Krista and Nadine have a really funny friendship origin story, and I was wondering if you remember meeting your first childhood best friend.
I do, actually! So my brother — who’s three years older than me — was in school, and he started hanging out with what became one of his best friends, and he had a younger sister who was my age. So we started hanging out because my brother, my mom, and this other kid’s mom would constantly be in touch about hanging out, and it kind of became a thing of like, “Oh, let’s bring the kids here, let’s bring the kids there.” So we all started hanging out, she’s still one of my best friends, and I remember all those times we had. Looking through pictures, all these memories come back, and it’s so fun to say that I still have one of my childhood friends. I think that’s super cool.

Nadine calls herself an old soul constantly in the movie, and sometimes feels a little withdrawn from her peers. Do you ever feel like an outsider in your own generation?
I do sometimes. I think we all do at certain time. I guess when we feel like we respond to something that others don’t, we kind of feel like, “I wonder what it is about me that people don’t like, or maybe it’s because I’m into things that are different, or older, or not so relevant.” I guess in some ways I feel disconnected when I’m traveling a lot and I’m not physically home. And then I come home, and like so much had gone on and I’m like, “Woah, woah, woah! Somebody fill me in!” I feel that sort of disconnect. Nadine really feels like nobody understands her, when really, she just doesn’t talk to anybody to figure out that people actually do.

I think we’ve all had a moment like Nadine when we send an embarrassing text to someone that we really did not mean to send it to. Would you be willing to share an embarrassing story?
You know, luckily, I haven’t had an experience where the message was that bad. I’ve had the experience before, where like I’ll text somebody — like if I have two people with the same name in my phone. I’ll text the wrong “Joe” totally talking about something else, and it’s like an in depth thing and lengthy and this, that, and the other. Then they totally just read the whole thing, and they’re like, “I think you have the wrong person,” and I’m like, “Oh my God, I’m so sorry!” And then they start asking questions about what you were sending, and you’re like, “Dude, it wasn’t for you. Just move on, I’m sorry!”
But yeah, that’s like the worst feeling when you realize it’s the wrong person and you’re like, “Oh my God, what did I say?” But this is like traumatizing in this [movie].

Nadine had a mentor, her history teacher Mr. Bruner, in her life. Do you think you have an adult in your life who kind of acts as your sounding board to the extent that he does?
My parents. I’m very lucky that I can go to them for everything. I do go to them for absolutely everything. I think that I have had two teachers that I will always remember that were very supportive and patient with me, and kind to me. I feel like everybody has that one teacher that they’ll always remember. With Nadine sort of hitting it off with Mr. Bruner, and him being not only her mentor, but also kind of a parent figure to her, he’s her sounding board and her voice of reason. One that’s going to tell her everything that she needs to hear, even though she doesn’t want to [hear it]. He’s exactly what she’s lacking.

Are there any memories you have from your cast members or behind-the-scenes?
So many! Woody and I spent more time laughing than actually like working, and being serious and professional. I am praying that there is some kind of blooper reel somewhere in the world that will show up from this movie. Haley Lu and I hit it off so quickly, and it was so much fun and so easy to play best friends with her. We had some really funny moments. I was recently going through videos on my phone, and I have a bunch of videos of us in my room in the movie. We had hula hoops, and apparently we were really bored and probably over tired and loopy, just laughing at absolutely everything that just wasn’t funny, and playing with these hula hoops trying to do tricks and whatever. But I have a lot of those weird, funny moments of like Blake jumping up and down coming through a hallway… just random fun stuff. It really was so much fun making this movie. Everyone in it was so awesome, and there are tons of moments that I’ll never forget.

What do you think is next for you?
Well, I am making an album, which I’m very excited about. That will be in the new year. Pitch Perfect 3 is a thing that is happening hopefully very soon. Those two things are what is on the agenda as of now.

If you had any advice for Nadine, or someone who is on “the edge of seventeen,” what would it be?
You know… I feel like I never thought I would say this because I never ever wanted to hear it, and when I did I never took it well. But I would say that that moment that we feel is the end of the world really is just a moment in time, and it will pass. It will get better, and tomorrow is a new day. I think that [Nadine] would probably swing at the person who told her told her this. I myself never really took that the right way, but I really do feel like I had countless moments where I was super dramatic about things. Looking back on it now, my mom was right! I’m totally laughing about it now. You guys, just realize that it’s life, and life is messy.

And what is your favorite song to crazy dance to right now?
Martin Garrix and BeBe Rexha, “In the Name of Love.” I love, love, love this song! “One Dance,” by Drake. Since the day that song came out it’s been my jam. I would say those two are top two on repeat right now.

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