Moxie is an upcoming American comedy-drama film directed by Amy Poehler from a screenplay by Tamara Chestna and Dylan Meyer, based on the novel of the same name by Jennifer Mathieu. It stars Hadley Robinson (Little Women), Lauren Tsai (Legion), Josephine Langford (After), and Patrick Schwarzenegger.
Inspired by her mom’s rebellious past and a confident new friend, a shy 16-year-old publishes an anonymous zine calling out sexism at her school.
I had the opportunity to speak with the young actress about Moxie. She expressed her excitement to play a character that is very similar to who she is and being free to play her character with a little improv thanks to Amy Poehler.
Nancy Tapia: You play Lucy Hernandez in Moxie. What was one of the things that attracted you when you first read the script?
Alycia Pascual-Peña: Everything. I immediately read the breakdown and ironically, mommy was like, “Did they meet you and write this?” And I was like “That’s such a funny statement to make.”
But I was in love with her. It said revolutionary, outspoken, and I was like, “Oh my gosh, that’s me.” It was written for a Latina, so I was super excited when I read the breakdown. My mom specifically said those words. She was like, “This is you on the paper,” and that’s always a pleasure and a privilege when you see that as an actress. So I was super excited to go in the room and read for her and breathe life into the character. Later get the job and be blessed with the opportunity to bring her life on set and represent this powerful Afro-Latina. It was just a pleasure the entire journey through.
Nancy Tapia: You are the Latina in this film and you actually have a couple of lines in Spanish. Was that improvised? None of the other cast members spoke Spanish. Unless I missed it.
Alycia Pascual-Peña: No, you’re completely right. That was just Alycia bringing that to Lucy, because I will speak Spanglish and speak Spanish to my friends who don’t speak English. But yes, those lines were improv and I’m very grateful that Amy Poehler is just such a joy in so many ways and was like, “Be you. We want to see that, and we want to see the fullness of this character,” and she allowed me to improv that and speak Spanish. You catch it in random points in the film, so it was my own take on Lucy.
Nancy Tapia: That was one of my highlights of your character, because I was like, it looks like that be her.
Alycia Pascual-Peña: Yeah, for sure. That is me. Also I fully was committed to actually teaching bachata to the beautiful and gorgeous, talented Hadley Robinson that day, and she did. That was our first day on set, so she’s a trooper. That is me, and I think that is a beauty of our culture, the fact that we share it with people and empower people through our culture and everything else in between. So I was really grateful to be able to bring that on screen and have Amy support me in that endeavor.
Nancy Tapia: I actually enjoyed that scene and I was like, wow, a little nostalgia. With places closed there’s nowhere to go dancing, other than at home.
Alycia Pascual-Peña: For real. We’re making it work at the crib, so very much we are dancing in closed spaces, but it was cool. I feel like that is one of the beauty of womanhood and comradery between women. Just those little moments while you’re shopping or talking about this and that, and to see these two teenage girls who are super different come together in that moment. I thought it was beautiful and powerful and to be able to represent my culture in that scene as well was just an extra privilege.
Nancy Tapia: You had really good scenes where you’re delivering strong messages. Which scene would you say was the most meaningful to you?
Alycia Pascual-Peña: That’s a really hard question. There are a lot of notable scenes that come to mind that I was very adamant about wanting to convey the gravity of what was going on in this film. And really be a shaker to help the women around me realize the injustices going on in the school and the weight of that and her character. But that’s hard. For me, it boils down to the classroom scene and the very first scene that you see her in. I think there’s so much power in that because she unapologetically shows up as herself all the time, and that is so beautiful and sincere about her.
She’s immediately making people aware around her of how Eurocentric the classroom is. I think that is a very real truth in the world that we live in today. That it’s not always rooted in wanting to have a global perspective, which is a disservice to students and education.
Then the other scene would have to be the scene where Hadley and I are speaking together for the first time and on the stairway and I’m saying, “You know that this could be a little bit more dangerous. That these are things that we shouldn’t just normalize as a status quo and should be aware of and speak out against.” So yeah, those two scenes.
Nancy Tapia: In the film there’s a part where Vivian played by Hadley Robinson is asked about reflecting on a cause she feels passionate about. What would be the cause you feel passionate about?
Alycia Pascual-Peña: There’s a lot, so I think it’d be hard to choose one, but representation, diversity, equity, inclusion. Black Lives Matter, that specific movement here in America. Racial injustice, systemic oppression, institutionalized racism, the industrialized prison complex and ending that, climate change, sustainability. I can go on for a minute. There’s a lot.
I think when I was younger, I felt the need to kind of sequester my voice and tell myself you can’t care about all those things, which is just very untrue. So I care about a lot of things and I hope that my work and my art and in my personal life, I can push the needle forward in any way about the movements that I care about.
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Nancy Tapia: In the movie, there’s the Bikini Kill by Rebel Girl as the “girls” song. What is your female song?
Alycia Pascual-Peña: Woo. That’s so hard. I feel like there’s a lot that comes to mind. I can just tell you a song that I listen to very frequently, and I was literally just listening to this morning. It would be Closer by Goapele. That would be my song, yes.
There’s a lot of songs that come to mind, but that specifically. Like the entire chorus is like closer to my dreams and I’m going higher and higher and it’s about continuously wanting to grow and it’s very peaceful, so it was my morning song this morning.
Nancy Tapia: Nice. Thank you for sharing.
Alycia Pascual-Peña: Of course.
Nancy Tapia: From watching the film it also looked like it was a fun hangout. Can you please discuss a little bit about your castmates?
Alycia Pascual-Peña: Yes, it was so much fun. I say it all the time, this movie blessed me in so many ways. I was honored to tell a story that I cared about and I thought was portraying these themes that are super important. But my favorite part about it was sharing it with these amazing human beings.
My cast is not only phenomenally talented, but they’re great people. They have the best hearts and we had so much fun. We were always dancing on set and Amy would randomly turn on a speaker and it would turn into a dance party in between scenes. I just felt so supported by each person I was on set with and I’m grateful to now leave that film and my castmates are some of the most important people in my life that I still see. I live with Josie Totah, who I met on the film, and we went on to work on Saved by the Bell together. Moxie changed my life in so many ways.
Nancy Tapia: This film also portrays how it can be like in high school and a little bit about parenting. In this case a single mother. You had not part in that, but what do you hope some of the viewers can take away when it comes teenager and parent relationships.
Alycia Pascual-Peña: Of course. For a large span of my life, I was raised by a single mother, so that specifically is something that was personal to me. I’m grateful to have a family in which I love and is a unit, but my mom was my ride or die. So I get how that can be difficult and understand the obstacles that come with that.
High school is hard and being a woman can be really hard as a result of sexism and misogyny. So there are a lot of things that I hope that people take from this film. But essentially one of the grander stories that I hope people take from it is to be empowered in their voice and whatever that looks like. That everybody has something to say, and everybody should have the agency to pursue what they want and go after it vigorously and also change the world around them, you know what I mean?
I think that a falsehood that the world tells us is that it only looks one way to go after things or to be an activist or want to implement change, and that’s so untrue. Everybody has something to say. Everybody has something to give. So I hope that people will leave the film feeling empowered and I hope that they leave inspired and understand the theme of unity that we’re trying to portray and showing that people can come from different backgrounds and different perspectives, but achieve a common goal together.
Nancy Tapia: Well, thank you so much, Alycia, for sharing about you in relation to Moxie.
Alycia Pascual-Peña: Yes. Thank you. it was a pleasure talking to you.
Nancy Tapia: Take care and good luck.
You can check out Moxie exclusively on Netflix.