It’s a few years since Banana Split was filmed but only a week before the movie comes out when I get on the phone with Addison Riecke. She’s already had a few interviews before me about the movie and when I ask how she’s doing getting to spend the whole day talking about the movie, she shows appreciation being able to take this moment to “look back on all the good times and stuff.”
Written by Hannah Marks and Joey Powers, Banana Split takes place over the course of the summer before a heartbroken April (played by Marks) goes to college. Fresh from a breakup with Nick (Dylan Sprouse), her boyfriend of two years, April’s world is changed even more when she discovers he has a new girlfriend named Clara (Liana Liberato). But, when the two girls meet and almost immediately become best friends, they decide to keep their relationship a secret from Nick while juggling his place in both of their lives.
When Banana Split first got on Addison’s radar, she was drawn to how fun and different it was from anything she’d done previously. “When I first auditioned for it, I was like, this is definitely something I would love doing, just because [Agnes] is so out of the box from what I was used to.” Her excitement only grew because of the enjoyment she had surrounding the cast and crew.
As April’s little sister, Agnes proves to be a pain with her precocious snark and her love for Nick even after the breakup. But that and Addison’s strong ability to play off of Hannah is what makes her–as many reviewers have labeled–a scene-stealer. “I feel like she’s just really fun. There is like that sisterly love but at the same time, I feel like she’s just trying to shock people. Everything she says, she’s always just doing it to turn heads, like trying to mess with her mom or trying to mess with her sister.” Addison mentions that one of the joys of playing Agnes came from the early scenes in the movie of April and her breakup with Nick when Agnes could sneak in more snarky comments towards April.
“It was really great building this dynamic with Hannah because she played this character so well and the script is just written so well that it’s easy to dip into that naturally,” she says about playing Agnes opposite Hannah as April. Addison also gives credit to the general feel of the set and the other characters Agnes would interact with. “I feel like we were easily able to build off each other and go along with the script and how it was planned while at the same time, in other takes being able to just have fun and go crazy with it.” The best part, she reflects, was the fact that the set’s environment felt natural and fun enough that everyone was able to play around and build off each other in a way that felt realistic to the characters and added more humor to the movie.
“I feel like the film is definitely very relatable to a lot of teenagers growing up. Being a teenager is a really hard time growing into yourself and making mistakes and learning new things and I feel like that was very present and in the script, especially with friendships,” Addison explains. “I feel like that’s something very important to remember is your friendships stay close to you and just making those mistakes and working through them and knowing that’s part of growing up.”
With her own personal age difference filming the movie when she was around fourteen to now being sixteen when the movie releases, I ask her if she’s connected with the movie differently since to which she responds, yes. “In your teenage years, especially your younger teenage years–even when it’s just that one-year different gap–I feel like so much changes in each year that you grow up. Definitely, I’ve been able to see it in a different light.” She notes that since then, she’s been able to pick up on things she didn’t before about growing up and making mistakes, something she also hopes that viewers regardless of age will be able to relate to as well.
I feel like that’s something very important to remember is your friendships stay close to you and just making those mistakes and working through them and knowing that’s part of growing up.
At first glance, it can be assumed that Banana Split is about April attempting to win Nick back or struggling to deal with the breakup. Or, if we go the predictable route of a young adult story, April completely hating Clara and wanting to prove to Nick how he should be with her. Instead, April’s bond with Clara becomes the main focus as the characters prepare for their lives post-high school with all of these different changes going on and realizing that the two of them understand each other better than most.
“I really enjoyed how it kind of rewrites the rules of friendships and growing up and challenging that aspect of it,” Addison starts when I ask her what about Banana Split she hopes will become prominent in the young adult genre. She also mentions that the way the movie utilizes technology and how the characters use their phones and social media is something that felt authentic and that she wants to see more of.
Talking about April’s decision to befriend Clara after Clara approaches her at a party instead of April disliking her like she originally attempts to, Addison says it was the right choice. “I feel like everyone’s been kinda pushed into this idea that whenever you have a boyfriend, you always don’t like the ex-girlfriend or you don’t like the new girlfriend and I feel like this film really takes that on in a different way in showing that you can be friends with the people that you’re most unlikely to be friends with.”
One of the strengths of Banana Split is the way it understands how significant relationships with other people (romantic or not) are in life. “I’m kind of shy sometimes when I first meet people and first get to know them and I kind of break out as I get more comfortable with people,” Addison admits when I ask her about if she’s had any similar experiences of befriending someone similar to how April and Clara become an important part of each other’s lives.
“I think it’s something that in the film, at first glance, they aren’t supposed to like each other and at first, they don’t really like each other–or April doesn’t really like Clara. But, as they get to know each other and as they allow themselves to open up is when they get to know,” she continues. “So, I feel like I got to learn personally that even if you think someone is gonna be a certain way, to ignore your preconceived notions and get to know them before you develop an opinion on someone which I think is something really important that the film shows.”
While April incidentally warms up to Clara almost immediately, Agnes is more hesitant. Partially because of her love for Nick and partially because she’s convinced April has lost it by becoming so close to Clara. But, when asked if she could ever picture Agnes liking Clara in the future, Addison thinks it’s a possibility. “I don’t think she’d ever show it though. I think she’d definitely be inside chill with Clara and like her a lot, but I don’t think she’d ever actually say it out loud,” she admits.
I note that while watching the movie, the fact that the girls don’t compete with one another and aren’t pitted against each other was refreshing which Addison agrees with. “That’s my favorite part about it, I feel like girls are always pushed into a competition like even when it’s not about a boyfriend. The first thing that came to mind actually is the like in the rap industry: Nicki and Cardi from the beginning were always pushed against each other. I feel like in no matter what industry or element or age range, girls are always kinda pitted against each other, so it’s definitely super refreshing to have this [movie] where it’s about them pushing each other up and being together.”
I feel like in no matter what industry or element or age range, girls are always kinda pitted against each other, so it’s definitely super refreshing to have this [movie] where it’s about them pushing each other up and being together.
Addison is no stranger when it comes to being a part of projects that focus on women and relationships between women. Some of her work has included The Beguiled and Brat TV’s hit series A Girl Named Jo where she plays Cathy. She’s also launched her own production company, LÁ cov., with plans to develop The Lions of Little Rock by Kristin Levine into a feature film.
“I feel like right now especially is a really great time where we’re seeing a lot more women coming into places of power and places they’ve never been before. Especially in the entertainment industry, I feel like a lot of women are getting the opportunity to be in a broader spotlight than they have before. With what I create and what I plan to create in the future, I definitely want to give more women more of an ability to have those jobs and have those opportunities,” she says about her production company and looking at the projects that interest her.
The goal, however, for Addison isn’t just to hire women because they’re women but to prove the capabilities of women when given opportunities. “All this time, it’s always been easier for a man to get the job if [women are] working the same amount or even harder. I feel like finally giving those women who’ve worked so hard a chance even when they haven’t been able to get that chance before is what’s really important–and getting opportunities toward your talent.”
Getting to work with Hannah on set and see her taking on roles both in front of and behind the camera (in this sense as the screenwriter, but Hannah has also worked as a director), Addison credits her as an inspiration. “She’s really, really fun to be around and really brilliant and a really inspirational person that I’m very lucky to have worked with. She’s just awesome. She’s definitely someone I look up to,” she muses. “Especially in front of the camera and behind the camera which is something I want to do as well. So she was great to work with and inspire me.”
“Reading the script in general, I was able to learn a lot from her and I feel like in general with acting and other different types of avenues in the entertainment industry, just learning from what other people are doing and seeing what other people are doing is the best way to learn and progress and grow as an actor yourself,” she continues. Addison explains that simply getting to watch how Hannah worked and read her screenwriting was an important opportunity to help her with her craft. “Every opportunity that I work on and everything that I act in, I’m able to learn a little more each time.”
It’s really great with my generation in general that they’re educated on current things that are going on and really wanting to make a difference in the work whether it’s just in their community or at their school or in a broader sense too.
It’s fair to say that Addison is already following behind in her own way. When I ask her what working behind the camera would look like for her, she describes it as an “all of the above kind of thing” with the hopes of screenwriting, directing, and producing. “Ever since I was really little, I’ve loved reading and writing and I’ve definitely known ever since I was young that it was something I’ve wanted to do. With acting, it’s the perfect avenue where you can dip in and out of where you can be a writer and an actor on something or direct and produce something or be the director of photography and act in something. There’s a lot of different ways you can go in and out of that and pursue those different types of things in front of and behind the camera.”
Addison also gives credit to her generation and the changes that she sees happening in the industry. “In past generations, I feel like it’s always been like, ‘Oh, they’re kids, they don’t know what they’re talking about.’ But now, I feel like more than ever kids do know what they’re talking about. And now more than ever, especially having the platform that I have, I feel like I have this opportunity to speak up about things that are important and inspire others to speak up about what they think is important. It’s really great with my generation in general that they’re educated on current things that are going on and really wanting to make a difference in the work whether it’s just in their community or at their school or in a broader sense too,” she uplifts youth power and navigating any attempts to shut that down.
While being aware of the platform she has and her ability to amplify her voice and highlight things that matter, Addison also has to find a balance between her work life and all that comes with it as well as having a normal life at sixteen. “It’s definitely a challenge for sure. I feel like I’ve very lucky that I started out when I was younger. I started acting when I was seven.” Getting that early start on The Thundermans she says, was a really great time to adjust and realize she wanted to pursue acting.
“I lived in Lousiana and I was leaving to go to California to film Thundermans. Really, the biggest things I was missing out on were birthday parties and sleepovers and as I’ve gotten older, it’s gotten a little harder because it’s more like graduations and things like that, that I’m missing out on,” she explains. “It’s definitely a double-life kind of thing to be able to grow up here in Lousiana and be able to feel grounded at home with my friends and go to school and be able to go to California and really feel like I’m an adult, really and creating things that are important to me and being in a creative mindset to pursue the things that I wanna do for the rest of my life.”
(photo cred: Alex Krux)