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TV Ties: The DUFF [+ Mae Whitman and Robbie Amell Q&A] 

duffWarning: Spoilers Ahead

I went into this movie with no idea what a DUFF was. All I knew was that the movie was filled with familiar faces from some of my favorite TV shows, so I knew I’d enjoy it either way. So when tumblr invited TV Goodness (and a bunch of other blogs) to an advance screening of the movie last week, I was excited. If you haven’t read the book or heard the term before, DUFF stands for “Designated Ugly Fat Friend.” And in this movie, it’s Mae Whitman (Parenthood, Arrested Development).


Mae Whitman’s Bianca is the “ugly DUFF-ling” who recruits boy-next-door jock Wesley (Robbie Amell; The Tomorrow People, The Flash) to help her get noticed by the object of her affection, Toby (Nick Eversman; Missing). Bianca is best friends with two stunners: aspiring fashion designer Jess (Skyler Samuels; American Horror Story: Freak Show, The Nine Lives of Chloe King) and amateur hacker Casey (Bianca A. Santos; Happyland, The Fosters). Throw into the mix Wes’s ex and sort of current girlfriend Madison (Bella Thorne; Big Love, Dirty Sexy Money) as well as the straight-talking, caring journalism teacher (Ken Jeong; Community), slightly misguided school administrator Principal Buchanon (Romany Malco; Real Husbands of Hollywood, Weeds) and motivational speaker mom Dottie (Allison Janney; Mom, Masters of Sex). And, of course, this wouldn’t be a romcom unless things didn’t go quite as planned.

After the screening, TV Goodness had the chance to participate in a Q&A with Mae Whitman and Robbie Amell. They talked about why they wanted to make this movie, some fun on-set moments and their favorite high school romcoms (besides The DUFF, obviously).


The DUFF is a comedy at heart, but there are some strong underlying messages. What did you guys take away from the movie?

Mae Whitman: “For me personally, one of the big reasons I wanted to do this movie was because I’ve always felt like an outsider and categorized in a certain way and placed in a box in my job and at school. I just wanted to communicate that I feel that and have felt it my whole life in a whole lot of different ways. It’s not real and it doesn’t have to be that way. It’s important to give that person a story because I feel like I am that person.

Robbie Amell: “I don’t think that anybody looks at anybody else as being a DUFF, but I think that everybody feels like they’re a DUFF at some point in their life. It’s more of a confidence thing, the mindset of everybody goes through something at one time or another. We just happen to tell the story in high school.”


High school can me the most amazing time in your life or the most awful time in your life.

Mae: “That feeling of being labeled in a certain way can be really isolating, which I think is the desired effect of people who try to put you in that box. They try to make you feel alone in it or make you feel less than. So it’s just really important to me to try to communicate that everyone I know personally feels this way.

I know that that label is really harsh. High school is really harsh, but so is the real world. It could’ve been anything, it didn’t have to be ‘Designated Ugly Fat Friend.’ It could’ve been ‘Designated Friend That Doesn’t Wear Cool Clothes,’ or whatever.”

Any fun, behind-the-scenes moments that you shared as a cast?

Robbie: “So, there’s one picture [in the credits where] I’m being sandwiched between Mae and Bella. It was literally just us sitting around watching videos on our phones. And that was such a fun night. We were shooting the prom scene, tt was two in the morning [and] Bella ordered pizza. It felt like a real prom. It was great. It was just like a weird little after party.”

Mae: “And they played Taylor Swift. I was just on the brink of, ‘I can’t do this anymore,’ and they were like, ‘But we’re playing 15,’ and I was like, ‘Alright.’

You have to understand. Every day was a joy for me, shooting with Robbie. It’s just so frustrating because he’s the coolest and best and cutest and funniest. There would be times where I’d try to think of a joke – because we improved a lot of stuff, which was really fun too – and Robbie’s a weird joke machine. All that stuff in the locker room where he’s doing that weird thing with his pecs. I didn’t know what he was doing. My reactions are really genuine. That was the best part. We really just tried to make each other laugh and connect with each other.”

Robbie: “When she says, ‘The tongue poking out of my butthole,’ line, that’s the only take. The director was like, ‘Woah, woah. They’ll never let us use that.’ We’re busting up laughing and that’s the take they use.


What were your favorite lines from the movie?

Mae: “Such a good question. I have a lot that I really love. The one that jumps to mind is the one after Toby finds out she likes him and we’re trying to think what would be the most embarrassing, pathetic, apologetic thing you can do for someone that would be the wrong, least confident way to go. We couldn’t think of anything and Robbie all of a sudden goes, ‘What if you say you’re gonna send an edible arrangement?’

Can you imagine? You’re feeling weird about a girl and a weird pineapple medley shows up? It would be the weirdest thing ever. That was all Robbie.”

Robbie: “And then for a wrap gift I sent her an edible arrangement.”

Mae: “He did. It was like the most romantic thing ever.”

And who was the better kisser?

Mae: “Such a good question. Hmm. Which actor’s in the room with me and who’s far away? Actually, both great in different ways. I will say this, I think Wes is Bianca’s true love. We’ve all seen Frozen. We know that true love’s kiss is the way to go.”

This movie has a lot of negative connotations with hashtagging yourself. Do you have a positive hashtag for yourself?

Mae: “I have so many good things about myself to choose from. [Laughs.] I struggle with hashtags. I’m old and confused about how to use them. Robbie, tell me how to use a good hashtag.”

Robbie: “That’s tough. I think one of the things I wanted people to take away from the movie was not to change yourself for anyone and not to let somebody bully you into feeling a way that you shouldn’t. You should be confident in who you are. So if you can turn that into a hashtag…”

Mae: “I think that’s smart as hell. There’s a real tendency to judge not only other people, but ourselves. I constantly find myself beating myself up about feeling a certain way or doing something [a certain] way. That doesn’t really serve you.

Oftentimes you can use observations about yourself to grow. If you don’t like it you can be something else. It’s all up to you. Being easy on yourself and accepting what your natural tendencies are will take you far.”

Robbie: “Hashtag Don’t Judge.”

Mae: “Trend it. Trend it!”


What’s it like to play a teenager again?

Robbie: “What are you saying? [Laughs.] What’s interesting is what I remember about being a teenager is I always thought I knew everything and I felt more mature. I look at teenagers now and think, ‘Wow. You’re so young,’ but the last thing you want to do is talk down to teenagers. I think what we tried to do is make a very real story and not talk down to anybody.”

Mae: “For me, I often still play a high-schooler. I look pretty young. The other day I was at a doctor’s office. I walked in and she was like, ‘I’m sorry sweetie. Did your mom come with you? You have to be over 18.’ I was like, ‘Ok.’

For me, I like it a lot. Sometimes it has a negative connotation. People are like, ‘Don’t you want to grow up and play whatever?’ The older I get, I can bring more of a perspective to the being in high school situation. I understand it better with each passing year. I feel like I can bring a lot more love and respect to what I went through at that point.”

Which scene was the hardest for you guys to film whether it was emotional or just too funny?

Robbie: “I just couldn’t remember my lines one day. The locker room scene with the giant penis on the board-”

Mae: “I think that’s why. It was a distraction.”

Robbie: “That was just a weird scene for me because a lot of it’s offscreen. I’m explaining a date that’s not actually happening. Other than that, none of it was difficult. I had a lot of fun. We were given a lot of free reign with the script, which was great. Like Mae said, we just got to try and make each other laugh.”

Mae: “It was super fun. The only hard stuff was sometimes it was long hours or there was a lot to do. We were in Atlanta, which is a super cool place, but we were there in the dead of summer. There was extreme moisture and heat and bugs, so that was a little difficult.”

Robbie: “My easiest day on set was watching Mae dance and try on clothes.”

Mae: “That was my hardest. Of course, it’s like five seconds in the movie, but we shot for seven hours. It was twenty outfits and making me do the whole song. I got so tired by hour five and a half that I was barely alive. I had to climb on that table and the store’s mirror came crashing down. I take one pause. Nobody told me to stop.”


What’s your favorite high school based romantic comedy?

Robbie: “Besides The DUFF.”

Mae: “I don’t know. I love Clueless so much. It’s so special and funny and weird. It makes me sad and happy at the same time. I would say that or any of the John Hughes movies like Pretty in Pink. Some Kind of Wonderful. Did you ever see that? That is the best, plus the girl in it is the best friend girl and is super tough.”

Robbie: “The first movie I ever saw was Cheaper by the Dozen 2 and Jonathan Bennett, who played Aaron Samuels in Mean Girls, has become one of my best friends. He’s like a brother to me, so I have say Mean Girls.”

Edited for space and content. All photos courtesy of tumblr, CBS Films and Getty Images.

The DUFF opens nationwide Friday, February 20th.

The cast at The DUFF premieres in LA and NYC.

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  1. Heather M

    Sounds like a fun night!

    Some Kind of Wonderful! AKA the one Hughes didn’t actually direct, but hey Lea Thompson and Howard Deutch met on it, so there’s that. 😉

    Love it, and this:

    What a great week for Amell — he did such good work Tuesday w/Victor Garber and the reviews for this keep calling him out.

    1. Tina Charles

      It’s funny after The Tomorrow People I was lukewarm on Robbie Amell. After The Flash + The Duff, I LOVE HIM. lol

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