Judy Blume + Rachel McAdams, Abby Ryder Fortson, and Kelly Fremon Craig, ARE YOU THERE GOD? IT'S ME, MARGARET (film)

Judy Blume + Rachel McAdams, Abby Ryder Fortson, and Kelly Fremon Craig, ARE YOU THERE GOD? IT'S ME, MARGARET (film)

Judy Blume’s beloved bestselling classic, Are You There God? It’s Me, Margaret, is hitting the big screen, and Zibby was lucky enough to interview Judy (who she idolizes!!) and the movie’s talented screenwriter and cast. Zibby and a few other podcast hosts ask Rachel McAdams and Abby Ryder Fortson about the books and films that shaped them, behind-the-scenes filming mishaps, and their connection to their on-screen characters. Then, Judy talks about watching the movie for the first time, her favorite scenes, being a working mom in the 60s, and getting her first bra!


Zibby Owens: Hi, Abby and Rachel. I am Zibby Owens from the podcast “Moms Don’t Have Time to Read Books.”

Abby Ryder Fortson: That’s a good title.

Zibby: Thank you. Obsessed with this movie. I cried a million times. I loved it more than anything. I loved the book, but the movie, oh, my gosh. You guys did an amazing job. I am just so honored to talk to you about it having just watched it. It’s a dream come true. Rachel, I know you were in Mean Girls. There’s a lot of mean girl themes and friendship and the complexity of girls’ and women’s friendship in the story. I was just wondering if the two of you could share the meanest thing someone ever did to you as a child.

Rachel McAdams: Do we have to go back there? Is there a therapist close by for the aftermath? Oh, boy, the meanest thing.

Abby: I’ve had a couple friends skip out on me.

Rachel: Like being stood up for a friend date?

Abby: Just completely dropped me whatsoever.

Rachel: Ghosted. That’s pretty mean. I’ve had that too.

Abby: Fifth grade is a weird time. It’s weird. Everyone goes nuts.

Rachel: Is it a lot of shifting?

Abby: A lot of shifting.

Rachel: Of the hierarchy? The animal kingdom?

Abby: Yeah. That’s a Mean Girls theme right there.

Rachel: That’s probably where I got that from.

Zibby: Thank you.

Ashley Hearon-Smith: Hi, ladies. I’m Ashley from “Momtourage Podcast.” How are you?

Abby: I’m good. How are you?

Rachel: Good. How are you?

Ashley: Good. Thank you. “Momtourage,” we really work to be a podcast that’s for moms, not giving out parenting advice, just a community where moms can feel seen and are more than “just moms.” For me, one of the most lasting parts of your career, Rachel, is that — everything is, but one of the things that lives rent-free in my head is the picture of you pumping. It is so iconic, so legendary. It was right around the time where I was still breastfeeding my son. What do you want people to take from that photo? How did it come to be? What was the motivation? I’ve never seen anything like it. I would love to see something like it again, but I don’t know if we will.

Rachel: Thank you very much. I’m glad it lives rent-free in your brain. That’s really lovely. It was a very organic moment in the shoot. The photographer was really interested in — she was doing a study on just women in general and the pressure to be — don’t be too fat. Don’t be too thin. Don’t be too this. Don’t be too that. Don’t be more or less. Just the constant, why is there so much emphasis on what I am or what I’m not? Then out of that came, I have to pump. We’re running behind. Why don’t we just lean into this very real moment we’re having right now? I’m wearing a Versace bra. I’m figuring out how the tubing can interact with that bra. I was into it because I feel like it’s hidden for some reason. It’s this totally natural thing. It’s how you keep your child alive, if that’s the way you’re doing it and not going with formula or something else. I remember having moments when I first started where I was like, is it okay to do this in public? Just surprising myself that I was still having these thoughts of, is there shame? I’m feeling some shame. What is that all about? I felt really good in that photoshoot. I felt beautiful. I felt confident. I felt like I was a mom out there working, and yet I’m still a mom. It can all happen at once. To be on a set that was really embracing of that — it came about very naturally. It felt really good.

Ashley: You are so powerful and iconic. It encapsulates “Momtourage.” Thank you for that.

Rachel: Thank you. I appreciate that. Thank you for all you do for moms.

Kristen Howerton: Hi, I’m Kristen with Rage Against the Minivan. Ashley, completely agree on the pumping photo. So iconic, meant a lot. I’m also a therapist, if anyone wants to talk further about our adolescent traumas. I’m going to defer to my daughter India for our question.

India Howerton: Hey, guys. I loved the movie. I think that going forward, it’s, for sure, going to be a movie that’s going to resonate with a lot of young girls. A question for both of you guys. What was a movie that you really thought shaped you in your growing up, a coming-of-age movie that you really related to?

Abby: God, I don’t know. I was obsessed with the Studio Ghibli movies growing up. We watched all of them constantly.

India: Oh, yeah, me too.

Abby: I don’t know if I had a movie that really shaped me. I was more of a reader myself. I was in the library constantly. Gosh, I don’t know. What about you?

Rachel: It’s tough, isn’t it? I feel like you’re so influenced by film. I was at that time. I watched a lot of stuff. Anne of Green Gables is a beloved character. I liked to imagine I was her, despite not being in the right time period or looking anything like her or anything at all. There’s a little Anne inside of all of us, right? I watched the Canadian 1980s series, Anne of Green Gables, about a billion times. My dad always watched it with me. He always cried when Matthew died. I look over, and he’s like, . That’s a favorite. You’ve read all that?

Abby: Definitely. Loved it. Loved it too.

India: Thank you, guys.

Rachel: Thank you.

Abby: Thank you.

Zibby: What’s something that went wrong during filming that we might not know about or that made you laugh hysterically on the set or something that is behind the scenes?

Abby: There was this neighborhood cat who was really obsessed with all of us. One day when we were shooting, he came around. His name was Simba. He looked like a little mini lion until his owner shaved off all of his fur and then turned him into a plucked chicken. He just sat down one day, plopped himself right in front of the camera, and would not move. We have about five minutes of behind-the-scenes footage of this cat just sitting there and us all going, buddy, come on. We got to shoot.

Rachel: No one wanted to go pick him up.

Abby: No one wanted to go pick him up because he was just so cute.

Rachel: He was so cute. He did become the set mascot.

Abby: He was our little set mascot.

Rachel: So sweet.

Abby: He was sweet. He was so fluffy too.

Rachel: So fluffy, for a time. It was hot. Maybe they were trying to do him a favor. It was Charlotte in the summer.

Abby: We were shooting in North Carolina, so it was hot Charlotte weather.

Zibby: What about you, Rachel? Same thing? Anything funny?

Rachel: I’m trying to remember if there was anything that went off the rails.

Abby: I remember I broke a door once.

Rachel: You did? Slamming it?

Abby: Snapped the door handle right off from slamming it.

Rachel: Were you just so angry in a scene?

Abby: Yeah, in a scene. I wouldn’t do that on purpose.

Rachel: I’m sick of this job.

Abby: No, it was in a scene. I just slammed it too hard, I guess. Snapped the door handle right off. Things happen.

Rachel: You’re like, we’re going to have to take a quick break.

Abby: They fixed it, though.

Rachel: I can’t remember. It was a pretty smooth shoot, all things considered. My sister’s here. She was on it with me. She’s my fabulous makeup artist. Kayleen, do you remember anything going wrong? Oh, she’s not here. Never mind. She’s abandoned me. I’m sorry, I’m blanking.

Ashley: Hi, there. I hope you don’t hear my four-year-old in the back. Moms have to multitask.

Rachel: It’s okay if we do.

Ashley: Thank you. It’s funny because you both were talking about this right when we first were in this room. I’m from “Momtourage,” by the way. We believe that you can have it all, but not either well or at the same time. It’s a crazy pressure to put on a woman to think that you can. You’re a working mother telling the story of Barbara, a working mother. We always say, is there one thing that you think that moms — Abby, you can answer this too, not as a mom, maybe you’re a pet mom, but as a woman — that they should outsource if they have the means to do so since we can’t always do everything all the time?

Abby: I think it’s super important to have a community of support. I know that tons of people have supported my mom and me and everyone. It’s really important to have a community. I think you can always look to family members or friends for help. It’s important to know that you can ask them. It’s important to have people that you can ask for help if you need it because sometimes you do get overwhelmed. You have so many things going on. I’m lucky that I have someone in my life who I can ask and I can call at four AM and be like, “Hey, what do you think about this outfit?” or whatever. I think it’s always important to have your community and support and to be able to ask for help or outsource support if you need it.

Ashley: I heard you hate vacuuming too, so you could always outsource vacuuming.

Rachel: Are you often trying on clothes at four AM?

Abby: No, I just have random thoughts going through my head. I wake up, and I’m like, oh, my god, wait, what was I saying earlier?

Rachel: That’s a good friend.

Abby: Definitely.

Rachel: I kind of wish there were little chefs for babies that could come around, especially when babies are —

Abby: — I’m picturing that.

Rachel: I know. I don’t know why they have to be little as well.

Ashley: A tiny, little baby chef would be cute.

Rachel: A tiny, little baby chef, yes, who would just help babies diversify their palettes. I loved, with my firstborn, the whole baby-led weaning and experimenting with food and handing him a giant carrot or a big chunk of broccoli. I was really into his experience with food and introducing new things. The second one comes around, and it’s baby pouches, which have come a long way too.

Ashley: You’re a little tired.

Rachel: I feel like some experiential baby food person would be nice.

Ashley: We’ll work on that for you. Thank you so much.

Rachel: Okay, thanks. Just put it on the list.

Kristen: It was interesting watching the movie because reading the book as a teenager, I resonated so much with the Margaret character, and it was interesting to watch it now and resonate so much with the mom, especially that tricky balance of, I’m passionate about the things that I love and making art, but I’m a mom. I feel like maybe as a mom, I’m supposed to be doing these things. How much do I put my art on the backburner? I feel like that balance is such a universal question for women forever. It was back then, and it still is now. Rachel, I just wondered how much of that resonated with you in your own work-life balance as a mom, as an actress, as an artist.

Rachel: Very much so. I am always sort of dancing between the two. It is hard to do both at once, for sure. To your point, you can have it all, but not all at once. It’s taking off one hat and putting on another. It can make you feel a little discombobulated, but it also helps me appreciate the one when I’m in it. My job just lends itself to this. It’s full-on. I do find those times difficult in terms of getting enough time with my family. There are these short spurts of really intense work and creativity. Then I get a lot of time with my children, which is great. I know that’s a really unique scenario that I feel very fortunate to be in. I know that’s not, probably, the common scenario. I know it’s tricky whatever it is. I do think we’re better moms when we are self-actualized to a point. I think the idea that you can always be doing what you’re passionate about and always connected with yourself, no one has that, even people who don’t have children. That’s just one of life’s great adventures to try and figure out. You’ll never totally get there. This idea that you can be satisfied fully is crazy. I do think it’s a dance.

Kristen: I love that. You can do it all, but not all at once. That’s pretty profound.

Abby: Bye. Thank you.

Rachel: Thank you so much.

Judy Blume and Kelly Fremon Craig

Karen Cicero: Hi. The Week Junior is a publication for kids eight to fourteen. My question is, what advice would you have for kids this age who want to be writers?

Judy Blume: Oh, dear. Are you directing that at me? I have a feeling you are.

Karen: Yes, thank you.

Judy: You know what makes a writer? A reader. The best thing that you can do is read, read, read because that’s how you learn. Nobody can teach you to write. It’s deep inside. It comes from inside you. If you need to write, you will. Otherwise, with bother? I’m not talking school. I’m talking to become a writer.

Karen: Thank you.

Sarah Aswell: Hi, Judy and Kelly. This first question’s for Judy. Tell me what it was like to watch the movie for the first time and how it might have affected what you think about making your other books into movies in the future.

Judy: There will never be another experience like this one with Kelly. Never, never, never. It’s just the experience of a lifetime. Watching it the first time — did I see a draft first?

Kelly Fremon Craig: Yeah, you probably did see a draft first, a slightly longer version, and then we were tweaking.

Judy: I was watching things. I was there sometimes in person, so it wasn’t a complete shock to me. It was wonderful and moving. I watched it with my husband. It made him cry. It made us laugh. It’s the most wonderful movie. I love it.

Zibby Owens: Hi. Thank you both so much. I loved this movie. This might be my favorite movie of all time. I cried at twenty different points. I was also a Jewish girl growing up with the same issues. Oh, my gosh, it was amazing. Seriously. I was crying thinking, you know, you don’t see some of these scenes in movies, even the temple scenes and all of that. It was really poignant on so many levels. I’m wondering what your favorite parts are, both of you.

Judy: You go first.

Kelly: Oh, gosh. I absolutely love Margaret’s first kiss in the closet. There’s something about that scene. My heart pounds with her every single time. That actually was both of those kids’ first kiss. We watched it. It’s on screen.

Judy: They’ll always remember when they’re asked, so where was your first kiss? It was in the bathroom.

Kelly: You can see it. You can rent the DVD.

Judy: What is my favorite? There’s so many of them. There’s a moment that I’m not going to tell you because it’s a spoiler, but it makes me burst out laughing every single time. Now it’s like, I know it’s coming. I know it’s coming. I’m not going to laugh. I cannot control myself. That’s a moment between Margaret and Nancy when they’re just getting to know each other. I won’t say any more about that. It’s so poignant. Margaret with Grandma, the vulnerabilities, the humor, it’s real life. I love it. I look at it as something different, not something that I wrote, but something that I’m watching that I’m just loving. I’m removed from it that way.

Zibby: Thank you.

Keri Setaro: Hi, I’m Keri Setaro with “Momtourage.” Ashley is my copartner down there.

Judy: Hi.

Keri: Hi. It’s truly an honor. We are two Jersey girls right here with a mom podcast. I want to mention that Exit 100, your rest stop, is my favorite. It’s my favorite rest stop to go to. We talk about rest stops on the show all the time. Yours is my favorite, just so you know.

Judy: You know, I’ve only been there once. When I was there, we were very excited. We went inside, and there was nothing. There was no display. There were no photos.

Keri: Your books are all over there, beautiful pictures of you.

Judy: It wasn’t up yet. I can’t wait to see it again.

Keri: I’ll send you pictures, Judy. I’ll send you pictures.

Judy: I’ve seen them. I’ve seen pictures. Thank you.

Keri: We just wanted to say we started “Momtourage” because we were two moms that felt adrift after having children, both creatively and personally. We no longer recognized the women who we were. This is just when your creative career really took off. You did it in a time when women were not working as much. Women usually either had kids or worked. If you worked, maybe you were considered to not enjoy taking care of your kids. You did well and loved both of those things so amazingly. What was it like being with the other mothers in the cul-de-sac when that happened, when you started writing so real and juicy books like Are You There God? It’s Me, Margaret.? How was that with being with the other women mothers?

Judy: I don’t know that anybody ever said anything to me about it. It was so surreal. Kelly and I have talked about this, how different it was then. It was like, oh, she thinks she can write books now. I didn’t feel any support. That’s sad. I’m still very friendly with someone from that cul-de-sac, so I take her out of this. I felt alone. I felt so alone. For Kelly, it’s a different generation. Lots of women are working. Most women are working.

Kelly: Still, a really hard balance. I find I’m constantly dealing with crushing maternal guilt because I work a lot. I love my work. Sometimes that means it takes me away from my kid. Trying to find the balance between those things has been tough. They sometimes feel at odds.

Keri: Thank you both for making us feel less alone. You really have.

Judy: Now you guys are out there to help others who are going through it. That’s so good.

Keri: Thank you so much.

Kristen: Hi. I read Are You There God? It’s Me, Margaret. when I was twelve in the eighties. My daughter India is here. She read it when she was twelve a couple years ago. It’s such a timeless story. I was curious, was there ever consideration making the movie set in modern times? Why did it feel important to keep it in the seventies?

Judy: Kelly.

Kelly: Never. Not even for a half a second did we think about modernizing it.

Judy: Not even for half a second would I have let them make this if they — that was the one thing I knew before I met them. If they said, “No, we have to modernize it,” I would’ve had to say no.

Kelly: No. Part of it is, I’m such a fan of the book. I felt like I wanted to make the most faithful adaptation that I could. Also, I think that there’s something about when you’re a girl this age now watching somebody fifty years ago go through the same thing that you’re going through today. There’s something reassuring about that, knowing that there’s this long lineage. We’ve all been through it. Everybody going forward will go through it. There’s something connecting about that.

Judy: We are connected. I’ve always said that. It connects the generations.

Kristen: I agree. Thank you.

Judy: I just want to tell you that today, I would say girls are reading it younger, starting at nine, probably, more than twelve, which is fine.

Kristen: Great.

Karen: Following up from that last question, what time period do you think it was easier for girls growing up? Back in the seventies or today?

Kelly: What do you think?

Judy: You know, I don’t know. It’s probably harder today because of social media. That’s what I hear, anyway. Every generation has a hard time. We all have our own hard times. To me, I think that adds something to it to make it harder.

Kelly: I completely agree. That’s a different pressure. I don’t think it’s healthy to be able to see everyone else’s life in front of you all the time and be able to — I think it makes you compare yourself far more than you would if you weren’t seeing those images thrust at you all day long every day.

Judy: It’s not all true either, right? It’s not all true.

Kelly: It’s not all true. Yes, of course. We all put our best foot forward.

Judy: We did that in the seventies and the fifties and the forties. Some of it is timeless that way. We certainly compared ourselves to our friends then. Growing up is tough.

Karen: Thank you.

Sarah: I had the pleasure of screening this movie with my ten-year-old daughter about thirty years after I read the book myself. It was a really special experience. After the movie, I asked her if she had any questions for the two of you. She wants to know, why didn’t you show period blood?

Judy: What?

Kelly: Why didn’t we show period blood? Why didn’t we show it?

Judy: Did we show it?

Kelly: No.

Judy: That’s interesting.

Kelly: I’ve never been asked that. It was more about where she was emotionally, how she felt about it than the actual specific —

Judy: — Also, the actual specifics of it is different for everyone.

Kelly: That’s right. If you showed it one way, it might be like, oh, mine doesn’t look like that.

Judy: We’re not Carrie.

Kelly: That’s right, yes.

Zibby: I loved the scene where Margaret gets her first bra. It brought me back to hiding between all of the nightgowns at Bergdorfs when my mother put me through the same thing. I was wondering if you could share your own experiences of getting your first bras.

Judy: I got my first bra, I think I was in seventh grade. This is what I think. I was in seventh grade. It was bar mitzvah year, and so there were a million big parties. That’s when I got my first bra. I also remember something that was like a Gro-Bra. I don’t know what it really was. I do remember the gym teacher measuring us for our leotards in the dance troupe. She said just what that woman says to Margaret. “Hmm. Twenty-eight, dear. Hmm.” “Not even a AA.” What about you?

Kelly: I was a really late bloomer, which is part of why I related to the book so much. I was praying to God for a decent pair of boobs to finally come in. I wore kind of like what you were talking about, a training bra or a sports bra, almost. It was like a fake bra. Then when I was fourteen, it was finally like, okay, maybe there’s barely enough to go actually get a bra. At that time — this was in the nineties. I don’t know if you guys remember this. There was this big thing where the Wonderbra came —

Judy: — Oh, the Wonderbra.

Kelly: Do you remember this? It was a thing. A plane landed, and these models from Europe got off the plane with their bras. It was like, this is going to give you the chest you want. I went with my best friend to go get the Wonderbra.

Judy: The Wonderbra, you get , right?

Kelly: Exactly. Oh, yeah. It was that much padding. It was completely false advertising. Then I remember being embarrassed at school because I was like, do people know this is just a Wonderbra?

Judy: What’s funny is in the seventies, of course, we all took off our bras. Nobody wore a bra. Nobody wore a bra that I knew, anyway. I was an adult woman with kids. That was bra-burning time. I wonder about kids coming of age in the seventies. Well, Margaret is in the — of course, that’s just 1970.

Kelly: Interestingly, we had Rachel not wear a bra through most of the movie because of that. Ann Roth, our costume designer, was the one who talked about that and encouraged that choice.

Judy: That’s amazing. I didn’t know that. Now I know a secret.

Zibby: Us too. Thank you.

Kelly: Thank you so much.

Judy: Thank you. That was fun.

Judy Blume + Rachel McAdams, Abby Ryder Fortson, and Kelly Fremon Craig, ARE YOU THERE GOD? IT'S ME, MARGARET (film)

ARE YOU THERE GOD? IT’S ME, MARGARET (film) by Judy Blume + Rachel McAdams, Abby Ryder Fortson, and Kelly Fremon Craig

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