Originally published in 1970, Judy Blume’s novel Are You There, God? It’s Me, Margaret. has been a beloved classic among kids and adults alike for more than 50 years, and the new film adaptation of the same name proves just how truly timeless it is.
Starring Abby Ryder Fortson as the titular Margaret Simon, the irresistible film retells the well-known coming-of-age tale with the perfect balance of humor, respect and insight. It’s as funny as it is relatable, destined to become an instant classic—and its young actors are well on the road to stardom as well. Among them is Zach Brooks, who plays Philip Leroy. He’s the cutest boy at school—though he may not be all that Margaret makes him out to be. We got the chance to speak with the actor about his love of acting and what this new role means to him. Read the full interview below.
Sweety High: When did you discover your passion for acting? Was there any specific a-ha moment that made you realize it was the path for you?
Zack Brooks: I realized I loved acting like my favorite characters early in life and I’ve been watching my mom audition since I was born. She is an actress, and when I went to one of her premieres, the one the only Chad Michael Murray told me that he could tell I was destined to be an actor because he said he saw “that spark” in me! That was it, I was ready to start acting, and I have loved it ever since!
SH: Had you read Are You There God? It’s Me, Margaret. or any other Judy Blume classics before auditioning for the role?
ZB: You know, I always thought that particular Judy Blume book was for girls, but when I got the callback for the role of Philip, I read it and loved it! It helped me understand what middle school girls go through and how boys can be not the nicest to them and even how their bodies are changing. I was so glad I read it because I fell in love with the story, and it is just such a heartfelt and spectacular book.
SH: Did you feel like there was any additional pressure on this role, given how culturally important the book is? What can you tell us about your character, Philip?
ZB: The script honored the original book so perfectly. I tried to really portray him like the book does in the way that he acts, the way that he moves and just his whole vibe. Philip is not always the most positive guy to the girls in the film, just like how he likes to bother the girls in the book. Everyone knows him as the heartthrob, funny guy and the cool guy everyone wants to hang around.
SH: In what ways are you most similar to Philip? In what ways are you different?
ZB: Well, he’s a very outgoing person, and I can relate to him in that way. Of course, I am not an unkind person to girls at all and so we have a big difference with the way that I treat them. I also think of myself as the funny guy, and he’s pretty funny when he is with his best friend, Freddie Barnett, played by Jecobi Swain.
SH: What was your most memorable moment on the set? Did you have any favorite interactions with the cast?
ZB: Definitely my favorite part was filming the party scene. It was so cool to be transported back to the ’70s and see what parties were like—oh, and the clothes! Anne Roth was the one that dressed me for the film, and I absolutely fell in love with the vintage clothes. One of the funniest interactions I had with Abby Ryder was when I kissed her on the chin for two minutes in the closet. We laughed so hard!
SH: Is there any part of the film you’re most excited for fans to see when it releases this month?
ZB: Yes, of course! The one thing that is exciting is that my first kiss is on the big screen. My friends are totally gonna make fun of me for it, but I’m kinda looking forward to seeing everyone’s reaction!
SH: Is there anything else you’d like to add?
ZB: You know, I just hope people watching the film will understand what girls go through during middle school and how we could make them feel more comfortable, because I know somebody who was bullied in school because she didn’t have much breasts. It really hurt her for a long period of time. I just want people to understand what it’s like for young teens!
For more insights from our favorite young stars, click HERE to read our interview with Ava Ro and Jensen Gering on Erin & Aaron and working with Larisa Oleynik.