Millions of Gen X and millennial women all had Judy Blume’s Are You There God? It’s Me, Margaret on their bookshelf at some point during their girlhood years. After more than 50 years, the bestselling novel has finally come to the big screen, with Abby Ryder Fortson playing the beloved Margaret. HollywoodLife spoke EXCLUSIVELY with Abby about stepping into Margaret’s shoes after Judy gave her blessing for the film to be made.
“Honestly, I’m just so honored that I was chosen to play Margaret,” Abby told HollywoodLife. “Judy held Margaret very, very close to her chest for 50 years. I think when she was on set all of us were just nervously looking back to where she was sitting being like, is she liking this or are we doing right? That was the most important thing. We really just wanted to make her happy because Margaret was her baby, and then she handed it off to us. We were just like, if nothing else, Judy has to love it.”
Abby, whose stellar performance is a true breakout moment, admitted that she hadn’t read the book prior to getting cast. “I’m such a big reader, but I guess Judy Blume and I just missed each other,” she said. “I was super into sci-fi when I was younger, but as soon as I got the audition for it, I read the book. I was just blown away by how much I related to Margaret and by how relevant it still was. I remember turning to my parents and saying to them, ‘Oh my gosh, this is the experience. How did someone write this down in the 70s?’ I just loved it so much.”
The now 15-year-old related to Margaret “on so many levels.” She continued, “Honestly, just all the feelings that she goes through, all of the awkward stuff, all of the figuring yourself out along with her journey of just finding out it’s okay to be herself. It was just a really incredible experience to play someone pretty much so like myself.”
When Margaret moves to New Jersey, she finds a new group of friends in her small town. Over the course of the film, Margaret begins to find herself and forges her own path. By the end, Margaret stands on her own and goes to dance with Laura at the end-of-the-year party, defying Nancy. HollywoodLife asked Abby if she thinks Margaret stays friends with Nancy and the other girls as they move on to the next grade.
“I think that she definitely stays friends with Janie and maybe even Gretchen, but I think Nancy’s got to reflect inwards for a little bit before Margaret can become friends with her again. I think Nancy’s got to do some meditation maybe and work on her attitude a little bit and learn to be nice to other people,” Abby said.
While Margaret dealt with making new friends and getting her period, she also tried to decide her path with religion. Her parents didn’t force any religion on her, and Margaret explored various religions to get a feel for what best suited her.
“I’m actually really glad now that we have the ability to kind of let kids decide what you want to believe in because it is such a huge part of so many people’s beliefs and identities,” Abby told HollywoodLife. “Religion is a big part of people and it can be great to find a community within religion, but it’s also great that it’s not forced on people who don’t want to believe in it. I think that it’s great that you’re able to choose pretty much now. I think we’re coming back to that belief that you are able to choose what religion you believe in, and I think that’s really great that we’re moving forward towards that.”
The film transports you back to the 1970s suburbs. Abby wasn’t born until 2008, but there is one aspect of the ’70s she’d love to bring back. “Yep, I have my thing that I love so much. It’s rotary phones,” Abby noted. “When you are really mad at someone nowadays, and you just want to hang up on them so bad but you want them to hear it, pressing the end call button calmly just doesn’t give you the same satisfaction of just slamming the phone down and they hear it. It’s very therapeutic. Maybe have them around for a therapy exercise. That’d be a fun thing to do.” Are You There God? It’s Me, Margaret is now in theaters.