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Eighth Grade’s Elsie Fisher Opens Up About the Film’s Poignant Message: ‘We’re All Weirdos’ (Exclusive)

Throughout her 15 years, Elsie Fisher just assumed she was alone in her awkwardness.

“I always thought, ‘I’m so weird,’” the actress confesses to Us. “I’ve been a loner.”

Now, that feeling is deftly captured in the coming-of-age flick, Eighth Grade, which follows her introvert Kayla — voted Most Quiet by her peers — through her final week of middle school. (Comedian Bo Burnham wrote and directed the heartwarming yet heart-wrenching tale.)

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“This film taught me we’re not alone in our experiences — we’re all weirdos,” Fisher says. “Kayla is a perfect representation of that. She’s anxious and awkward, but shows her vulnerability. There’s a scene where she does karaoke in front of everyone. She’s trying to make an effort and that feels as crazy badass as slaying the basilisk in Harry Potter!”

Elsie Fisher Eighth Grade
Elsie Fisher in ‘Eighth Grade.’ Courtesy of Sundance Institute

The wise beyond her years breakout star — she shot the dramedy right after her own eighth-grade graduation — schools Us with more.

Us Weekly: Why eighth grade and not sixth or seventh?

Elsie Fisher: You know, eighth grade is a very transitional year. In sixth, you’re still very much a kid. But by eighth, you’re an adult trapped in a kid’s body. It’s a really weird time. Everyone wants to act older than they are.

Us: What was your eighth grade experience like?

EF: It sucked [laughs]. It was similar to Kayla’s in that I wasn’t bullied, but I was ignored. A lot of it was just trying to fit in with people who don’t care.

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Elsie Fisher Eighth Grade
Elsie Fisher of ‘Eighth Grade’ attends the Acura Studio at Sundance Film Festival 2018 on January 20, 2018 in Park City, Utah. Neilson Barnard/Getty Images

Us: How do you deal with those feelings of being alone and ignored?

EF: I don’t have a solid answer for you. I’m still finding out, but I’m taking it as it comes.

Us: What do you think is the hardest aspect of being a teen today?

EF: Social media. It’s led to an increase in anxiety. Everyone is overanalyzing themselves and how they act. Then they’re analyzing other people, how they act and how they act with you. Just shut up and go toss a ball around!

Us: Do you feel as if you’re missing out when you see posts by friends?

EF: Actually, yes. I’m trying to take a step away from social media. I’ve stopped using Instagram, but I still use Twitter a lot because it’s a nice place to keep all my thoughts. I wish social media didn’t have likes or views. Just put your stuff out there and don’t worry what other people think.

Us: What’s your best advice for becoming more confident?

EF: Understand that confidence isn’t something you feel. It’s something you have to be. You’re going to feel scared, nervous or anxious either way, but you just have to make an active effort. Fake it until you make it.

Elsie Fisher Eighth Grade
Bo Burnham and actress Elsie Fisher visit SiriusXM Studios on June 28, 2018 in New York City. Mireya Acierto/Getty Images

Us: You go makeup free, which is uncommon even in a teen movie. Were you nervous to show off your natural skin?

EF: No! I never wear makeup. Ever. I tried wearing it for, like, two days and was like, “I’m not about this.” I would forget to take it off, too. I just don’t need it. I’m good.

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Us: OK, really important question. Kayla’s go-to phrase is “Gucci.” Do you actually say that?

EF: Yes! So, fun fact, when I first when into filming, I was super nervous and when I get nervous, I cling on to verbal tics. Instead of saying “OK” or “Cool” to end a sentence, I would like be like, “Alright, Gucci!” It caught on. People on set would even say it. When it came time to record Kayla’s YouTube videos, Bo said he wanted that to be my sign-off.

Us: She uses her YouTube channel as an escape. What’s yours?

EF: Music. I started to learn the ukulele and I play a little piano. I also write and draw a lot. The drawings in the movie are actually mine. I have a lot of creative energy pent up so that’s how I channel it.

Us: What’s been the reaction from your peers?

EF: I’ve had multiple teachers play the trailer in class, but no one actually cares. I still can’t find a gym partner!

Us: But not all your teachers are impressed …

EF: Yes, I didn’t get a part in my high school play! Mr. Donia has his ways. I don’t understand them, but they are his.

Related: Before They Were Stars

Us: What’s next for you?

EF: Sophomore year!

Eighth Grade hits theaters Friday, July 13.

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