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Christina Izzo

Mean Girls' Jaquel Spivey Explains Why He Wanted To Play Damian And The Impact The OG Movie's Queer Representation Had On Him

Jaquel Spivey as Damien in Mean Girls.

It's one of the most talked-about titles on the 2024 movie schedule, so it's not a surprise that the stars of the new Mean Girls musical movie were nervous about remaking the beloved 2004 teen comedy. That included Damian actor Jaquel Spivey, and he recently opened up about joining the project, as well as the importance of queer representation in the OG film and this musical adaptation of it. 

During an EW roundtable to discuss the upcoming adaptation, Mean Girls cast member Jaquel Spivey—who plays Janis' gay BFF Damian in the movie musical, a role that Daniel Franzese made famous in the original—talked about how he came to be cast:

I got introduced to the project through Tina, talking to Tina. Because I thought it was a prank, they were like, 'Tina Fey wants to talk to you.' And I was like, 'Mmm-hmm.' And then sure enough. [she] pops up on the Zoon. And I don't see a world where I could have, or anybody could have, said yes if Tina was not involved, because it's Tina Fey, come on!

Spivey also revealed that he had "a fear of joining" the musical, but because the original Mean Girls movie and Franzese's Damian gave him so much in terms of "chubby gay" representation onscreen, he wanted to offer up the same for another generation of viewers. he said:

I think yes, it was a fear of joining. But for me, I was like 'How many chubby gay guys are on screen? How much is that representation shown?' I wanted to be a part of it. It's just cool to show somebody out there that's like you, and that's what Mean Girls did for me. When [Damian] threw that shoe, I'm like 'OK! If that's what the queens do, that's what the queens do.' So to get a chance to try my hand at that, and to have [Tina Fey's] blessing, the OG cast members who send their love to us. It just felt like the right thing to do.

Fey added that Damian's on-stage shoe throw and his "I want my pink shirt back!" were actually improvised by Franzese while filming the original movie, which inspired Spivey in his own performance, as he explained:

To see that and to now be a part of it, I think the fear has kind of gone away. I think we did a very beautiful thing. I think everybody's heart was in the right place and we knew that we weren't trying to duplicate anything, we were trying to create something for ourselves that, you know, honored the original work so, to me, I don't think you can go wrong with that.

Castmate Reneé Rapp, who portrays The Plastics villainess Regina George in the movie musical, praised Spivey for his own improvisations on set, including a hilariously pointed fan clack that the latter was surprised to learn made it into the film. 

The actor also detailed which of Damian's fan-favorite quotes he was most excited to perform in the role and how he worked to make them his own, explaining:

Damian has a couple but 'You go, Glenn Coco!' and 'She doesn't even go here!' were the two that I was like, 'I'm excited but also how are you gonna twist this thing around?' They're so iconic but you almost hear it the way it was performed, so even in rehearsing, I'm like 'Am I doing what was [done] already, how do I switch this up, like, how do I get it out of my head?' which was a fun challenge.

The O.G. Mean Girls cast has been publicly supportive of the young performers starring in the upcoming reimagining, including Franzese, who personally reached out to Spivey to metaphorically pass the torch. Spivey explained his interaction with the original Damian actor, telling ET:

Daniel reached out. He's very kind. He's very sweet. I haven't met him in person yet, but he's been nothing but just the sweetest person. To have the torch passed, and just to let him know that I am honoring your work and I'm also creating Damien for myself, and to have that respected is really a beautiful thing.

Mean Girls is far from the first time Spivey has offered up some much-welcome representation through his performances. The theater actor notably received a Tony nomination for his stunning work as Usher, "a Black queer man writing a musical about a Black queer man writing a musical," in Broadway's A Strange Loop. 

The performer told Playbill about how "meaningful" it is for him to provide representation for LGBTQIA+ and Black folks:

The most meaningful thing about playing Usher is knowing that people who have never felt seen or heard in their own communities finally have a tangible character and show that lets them know just how important they are to this world. I have been to many shows and left feeling like I am 'less than' because someone like me wasn't present on stage.

You'll soon be able to catch Jaquel Spivey on an even bigger stage—the silver screen— when Mean Girls hits theaters on Friday, January 12, 2024. In the meantime, you can watch where it all started with Regina George & Co. in 2004’s Mean Girls, available to stream with a Paramount+ subscription

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