The rain has been pounding at the windows for most of the day by the time Griffin Gluck’s phone interview with Teenplicity starts. Yet, it’s his cheery voice and bright charisma that shines some light on an otherwise dreary day.
Griffin’s newest role is in Middle School: The Worst Years of my Life as Rafe Katchadorian, the imaginative and creative teen who is suddenly faced with one of his biggest problems yet. Rafe’s new middle school is run by Principal Dwight [Andrew Daly], a man whose “Code of Conduct” places extreme restrictions on creativity, individuality, and fun. With his new friends to help, Rafe sets out to change his principal’s ways and does so by breaking every rule in the “Code of Conduct”.
“I think art is really his life,” Griffin says of his character. “Without art, he kind of doesn’t really have much else. Art is really important to him; it’s his entire lifestyle.”
In fact, the first glimpse audiences see of Rafe Katchadorian in the trailers is when his mother [Lauren Graham] comes into his bedroom to see that he’s been up all night drawing.
For Griffin, his favorite part about his character’s rebellion was getting to watch it be created behind the scenes. “It was really fun, first of all, to film it all,” he says. “We had a lot of fun filming those pranks. We got to see the art department putting up, I think it was over a hundred thousand Post-It notes to create this giant mural that you get to see in the trailer!” He thinks back on it fondly, “Yeah, it was crazy. It was really awesome to see!”
The Post-It prank was one of Griffin’s favorite rules to break for the film. The actor says it is due to being able to not only watch the art department create it, but also getting to help.
“[The Post-It notes were] just incredible, and we got to see it every day and got it put it up ourselves. We got to create that, so that was really cool.”
With so much going on around set, there’s bound to be chaos. The pranks are enjoyable to watch and, according to Griffin, beautiful to see put together.
“It was chaotic but kind of in a beautiful way,” the teen says with a small laugh when Teenplicity asked to describe what set was like just before those crazy pranks were filmed. “Everyone was working so hard to get things in the right place but they were working as a machine. It was crazy to see,” he says, the amazement still able to be heard in his voice. Griffin mentions how someone could say that they needed something to look completely different than what it did, and within five minutes, there would be a hundred different people just working to fix it. “As soon as we started filming, there were a bunch of mechanisms that they’d have in place to make the background scene look cool or just the regular action look cool. And, all together, it came out beautifully.”
Griffin reveals that he’s seen a little bit of the film, snapshots here and there, he says, and is pleased with how wonderfully scenes like the pranks have come out.
However, if Griffin were in his character’s situation, don’t expect his retaliation to be as outrageous.
“How would I retaliate?” he asks in clarification before taking a moment to think to himself. It’s with a laugh that Griffin says, “Well, I’m definitely not as creative as Rafe Katchadorian! He is a genius. I’d say, I would definitely get some ideas from what he did. I think at one point, we turned the trophy case into a fish tank, and that was really cool.” Fans can see this prank in particular in the most recent trailer for Middle School: The Worst Years of my Life. “I think that one would probably be my go-to prank if I were to choose one of them.”
What policy could cause a retaliation from Griffin? A ban on skateboarding.
“I go to an independent study school so I only go in once a week actually to school, and the rest I do at home. So I ride my skateboard to school every day and I think for one week, they said, ‘No more riding skateboards – it’s too loud and disruptive,’” Griffin says to Teenplicity. “So my easy solution to that was just get big rubber wheels that were completely silent! If they were to take skateboarding away, I would find some way around that and I would definitely fight back.”
It is with the help of some friends that Rafe’s retaliation is able to be on such a large scale. And the friendships on-screen definitely extended off-screen as well.
The young actor, a note of fondness for his cast in his voice and some laughter sneaking in as well, tells Teenplicity of how the actors – Thomas Barbusca [Leo], Isabela Moner [Jeannie Galleta] and Alexa Nisenson [Georgia] – stayed in the same hotel while filming.
“That was really fun because we just got to have fun times,” explains Griffin happily. On his favorite moment while filming, he says, “Not necessarily filming on set but I’d say definitely my favorite moments from just working all together on this movie was just hanging out at the hotel.”
Griffin’s laugh is more prominent as he begins, “Thomas and I would go to the gym all the time,” the smirk is easy to imagine on his face, “ya know.”
“Probably one of my favorite memories is when I first met Thomas. It was the first day, I just got to Atlanta where we filmed. I got to the hotel and we walked to the table reading where we all got together and read the script. And I think the first thing I did to Thomas was say, ‘Hey, nerd!’ and hit his script out of his hand! And his script flew everywhere! I didn’t expect his papers to fly everywhere – I just wanted to like kind of give a memorable greeting. He definitely thought I was weird for a couple of days.”
With so many pranks happening in front of the camera, Griffin had plenty brewing in his head for his cast mates, one in particular.
“I wish!” Griffin explains, when asked if any pranks happened behind the scenes. “I always had a plan to spider-web Thomas’ room with a bunch of strings that you couldn’t get around. I saw that in a TV show once [and] I really wanted to try it! That never happened, couldn’t get the materials together.” Another plan in mind had to do with the pool at the hotel, which he wanted to push Thomas into. “But it was like negative thirty degrees and he’d probably get hypothermia if I did, so that one never went through.”
Griffin confesses that there were tons of ideas for pranks. He even got permission for one! “I wanted to wake [Thomas] up at like three in the morning, pretend there was a fire. I actually got his mom’s permission and I got like a room key to his room so I could do it, but I never followed through!”
Teenplicity is sure Thomas is glad none of Griffin’s plans came to fruition, though the actor did say that his admitted his failed ideas to his friend.
The set of Middle School: The Worst Years of my Life wasn’t just fun and games. Griffin reveals that he learned a lot about acting during his time filming.
“I got to work with some great actors and actresses,” he says. “Lauren Graham, Andy Daly, just a bunch of people – I’m not gonna name them all, they’re too many. But they taught me a lot about improv. They taught me a lot about just reactions and facial expressions. Efren Ramirez helped me a lot with my lines. He helped me kind of with dialect. [Efren] taught me about Shakespearian stuff and history of acting! He’s a really smart guy! All of the actors and actresses taught me a lot about acting and about the whole world together.”
The talented teen hopes fans learn from the film as well. He says how he believes people who read the book and are fans of the book will really enjoy the movie. “I think we did a good job kind of rendering the world of Rafe Katchadorian in our own way. And I think they’re really gonna enjoy that. I think they’re really gonna be able to take away [to] not be pushed around – don’t let bullies get to you. Just kind of this really positive idea that you are the creator of your own happiness and that if you don’t like something, you have to do something about it and you have to change it and fix it. I think that’s the real message that they’re gonna take away from it.”
Out in theaters October 7th, Middle School: The Worst Years of my Life is just one of Griffin’s remaining projects set to be released this year. His other project, Why Him? starring James Franco and Bryan Cranston, is due out shortly. The comedy film follows a rivalry that develops between a father and his daughter’s boyfriend.
“It’s a little bit less PG than Middle School but it’s a really funny movie,” Griffin says of the film, whose writers include comedian Jonah Hill. “I think a lot of my older fans, like teenager fans, are really gonna enjoy that one. And parents!”
To his fans, Griffin wants to reiterate what he learned from his time on the set of Middle School, from working on it and working on and reading the script. “Like I said, you are the creator of your own happiness. And if something you don’t like is bothering you or stopping you from pursuing what you want to pursue, then you have to change that and you have to do something to do what you want to do.” He says simply, “Follow your dreams. ‘Follow your dreams’ is a very cheesy way to say it but it’s true. Don’t let anything get in the way of your happiness.”
Middle School: The Worst Years of My Life is due in theaters on October 7th!