Every now and then, there is a film that captures a moment in time with such specificity that it feels as if it were plucked directly from your childhood. The other side of this type of phenomenon is that if you don’t fit the demographic portrayed, you will find very little relatable with it. If you weren’t a boy who grew up in the 90’s, Mid90s might seem like it takes place during a strange time. Having been a boy in that time period, I can confirm that yes, it was a very strange, sometimes troubling time.
Mid90s marks Jonah Hill’s directorial debut, and he pays homages the decade that seems to have been part of his most formative years. He doesn’t shy away from the darkness of it, which creates a film that is both authentic and poignant. We talk with the cast of Mid90s (Sunny Suljic, Olan Prenatt, Gio Galicia, and Ryder McLaughlin) about skate culture, toxic masculinity, their favorite Jonah Hill move, and more.
I think it’s safe to assume that none of you grew up in the 90’s, but in the film, you were surrounded by all of these nostalgic elements from my childhood. After doing the film, is there anything from the 90’s that you wish was still around?
Olan Prenatt: Mostly the music really.
Sunny Suljic: Definitely the music. I really liked the clothing. I pretty much loved everything about the 90’s, except that there really wasn’t the technology we have today, like iPhones. For example, now you could get sponsored in skating much easier because of social media.
How many of you knew how to skate before the film?
Gio Galicia: I think all of us, the whole cast, already knew how to skate going in.
Mid90s was very accurate in its depiction of skate culture at that time. How has it changed 20 years later?
Sunny Suljic: It hasn’t changed a lot. The tricks are more technical now.
Olan Prenatt: The clothing has changed too since then.
Sunny Suljic: Yeah, definitely the clothing. It appeals to everybody now because really anyone can start and do it.
Olan Prenatt: I feel like skateboarding has been and will always be what it is to a lot of people: an escape, a family, a community. It’s sort of, almost not even a sport because it’s also a lifestyle.
Ryder McLaughlin: I know calling it a “lifestyle” just sounds so corny, but it’s true.
The film shows that the 90’s were full of toxic masculinity when growing up, which I can remember all too well. In the film, gay slurs are thrown around and there are even jokes about rape. In your experience, has much changed since then?
Ryder McLaughlin: I remember in middle school I wasn’t the most masculine kid. It’s hard, especially back then when it was like “guys don’t cry,” and stuff like that. I think we’ve come a long way since then. People can now be more comfortable just being themselves and not worrying about putting this tough exterior just because they’re a dude. Everything is much more fluid now.
Sunny Suljic: There’s not as much pressure. Like, if you’re gay, it’s not a shock and it’s not crazy so you don’t refer to that in any negative way. That’s definitely changed for the better.
Mid90s is like the 4th or 5th film about skateboarding I’ve seen this year, and I noticed something they all share. It seems like skateboarding is the great equalizer. No matter your age, race, economic background, etc., everyone is equal. So what is it about skate culture that does what we can’t even do as a country?
Olan Prenatt: Whoa. Skating is very powerful. I just absorbed what you said right now and it just hit me.
Sunny Suljic: The way you put that in a sentence is just crazy. I never realized how deep it was before.
Gio Galicia: That’s actually the perfect way to describe it.
Ryder McLaughlin: It’s like a sport anyone can join. You don’t have to have a lot of money. You can even just hang out at the skate park and there’s a good chance someone will give you their old board if you need one. It’s just an overall nice culture where you can be from whatever background and we’ll probably end up being friends and hanging out.
Olan Prenatt: I agree with you. It’s so diverse in all depths. Once you get so many diverse people in one skate park, you forget about all the things that make us different. You just get to that environment where nobody is thinking about anything outside of the skate park. That’s when people start connecting.
Jonah Hill has been in so many films that I’m sure all of you were familiar with his acting work, but as a director, did he more or less let you do your own thing or was he more hands-on?
Ryder McLaughlin: He for sure knew what he wanted. He’s a very kind person. We would definitely have fun, but he would make sure we also got stuff done. If you had any questions like, “How would my character react to this?” or “How am I feeling?”. He was always right there for us and it was really helpful because for most of us it was our first time acting.
Gio Galicia: He made us all feel so comfortable. If we messed up, it didn’t feel like the end of the world. He understood and we would just redo the scene until we got it right. He made it the best environment for us.
Olan Prenatt: He was an excellent director/acting coach.
Sunny Suljic: One thing that I really noticed was that he was really patient. He would let us take our time and even talk about the scene, up to an hour if we wanted to. We were all learning together. Jonah has been acting for so long that he knew what we were going through and would give us tips and examples from his past experiences.
Which of his films is your favorite?
Olan Prenatt: That’s simple. It would have to be the classic, Superbad.
Gio Galicia: Mine would have to be The Sitter.
Ryder McLaughlin: I’ll have to go with The Wolf of Wall Street. I had to rewatch it after meeting him because he plays a character so different from his real self. The accent, the teeth, the way he carries himself is all insane.
Sunny Suljic: I didn’t really fanboy over him, but he is such a great actor. I’m not just saying it because I filmed a movie with him and he’ll probably be hearing this later. He is really just a great actor. I’ve seen all of his films and he’s always a different character. It’s so inspiring that he is able to do that. Some of my favorites are War Dogs, 21 Jump Street, and Superbad.