The A Plus Interview

Taylor Louderman Isn't A Mean Girl, She Just Plays One On Broadway

"It’s just a dream role for me, one I didn’t know existed before."

The A Plus Interview reimagines the celebrity interview by inviting artists to answer a short series of brief, poignant questions that strive to be more meaningful than those asked by others. Check back each month for the latest installment.

From declaring that fetch isn't going to happen, asking if butter is a carb, and personally victimizing an entire high school, there's hardly a teen character more iconic than Regina George from Mean Girls. And, for Taylor Louderman, bringing the queen bee to Broadway is a gig that has made dreams come true.

While the character in the 2004 movie is played by Rachel McAdams, Louderman absolutely embodies the pink-clad Burn Book holder for audiences eight times a week at the August Wilson Theatre. Louderman hits every note — and also gets hit by that pesky bus, too — so well that she earned her first-ever Tony Award nomination this year for Best Leading Actress in a Musical.

A Plus caught up with 27-year-old to discuss all things Mean Girls, going from Missouri girl to Tony nominee, her role on Nick Jr.'s Sunny Day, and why she is so passionate about Type 1 diabetes. Plus, Louderman talks social media, bullying, advice to her younger self, what she learned from past characters (including Regina), and why the perfect role is one that you create from scratch.

A PLUS: Do you remember seeing "Mean Girls" for the first time?

TAYLOR LOUDERMAN: All of the times I've seen it have muddled together because it's been so many times. I feel like it just hangs out on Netflix and all of the TV networks now. I definitely watched it play out in real life, and that's what made it so relevant and vibrant for my generation — but without taking itself too seriously. It's a really, really smart and witty piece. And real!

"Mean Girls" has so many great female roles. What drew you to the role of Regina George specifically?

I haven't played the bad guy yet really in a show so I wanted to do something different. I really love that in the musicalized version of the story she starts off being the sexy, sassy "it" girl but, by the end, I get to humanize her. And I get to wear a fat suit. It sort of covered a lot of bases that I enjoy — it's comedy while also getting to play some really real moments in there. It's just a dream role for me, one I didn't know existed before.

Regina George is the token, well, mean girl. Is there anything about that character that you’ve come to actually admire?

Oh my gosh, yes! Regina has charisma as well as a lot of social and emotional intelligence. I think she just hasn't learned how to use them for good, but I have a lot of hope for her.

One thing that's really challenged me is going out there every night. I've noticed that if my confidence level as Taylor is low that day, it makes my job a lot harder. This has really forced me to be kinder to myself and take good care of myself so that I can go out there and step into Regina's shoes. It's a challenge, yes, but it's good for me. I've struggled with confidence here and there — mine wavers much more than Regina's does. 

One of the best things about "Mean Girls" — the movie and the Broadway show — is its message about social media. How do you maintain a healthy relationship with all that we have access to?

Each person's truth is of equal value and I feel like no one gets to speak for anyone else or dismiss anyone's opinion. I'm from a very different background than the one I'm in now. I'm from Missouri, and I've had to be really conscious of differing opinions and just sort of not force my opinion on anyone. We all get to feel the way we do and no one's opinion is of higher value than anyone else's.

In terms of social media, we get a lot of young people reaching out to us and telling us their stories. That's so important for them to feel empowered to say how they feel and it's so important for us to acknowledge them. Sometimes all we want is to feel acknowledged — I think that's such a human thing. It's not something that's wrong with us. Sometimes that can be the source of our inhumanity, just wanting to belong. Just acknowledging their stories and saying thank you for telling me ... there's not a lot we can do in those moments other than to just listen. I realize this job has given me sort of a platform or an opportunity to do good and give back. I want to do just that.

Bullying is also a major topic that "Mean Girls" addresses. Have you ever had an experience with bullying?

Rosalind Wiseman's book [2002's Queen Bees and Wannabes], which is what Tina Fey based the screenplay off of, sort of talks about this and I dug into it a lot because I'm so intrigued by the social dynamics in high school. Why, when we're young, have we not figured out that it's better and safer if we work together? I was such a floater at school — I think because I switched high schools — and I was forced to really hang out with different groups. I'm thankful for that now because I use that in my work. Group dynamics and the sense of wanting to belong can really bring out the worst in people, especially when you're young and don't know how to deal with stress yet.

I definitely had my fair share of bullying, I think I even tried to be the bully a couple of times, but I wasn't successful at it or I quickly learned that it's just not worth it. I think we really need more young, female girls who are effective leaders and don't want to crush others. That's something I really hope people can walk away from the show with.

I saw the video of you reacting to your first Tony nomination! How did that moment feel?

It was a whirlwind! It feels so unfair in many ways because everyone in our show is working just as hard as I am. I know I share this with everyone there. My mom made me look back on all the energy I've put into this work. Even though awards can be a silly, complicated thing, I've tried to really just enjoy it and live in this moment because it is something I've wished for since I was a little girl. We definitely shed tears together and it was a big moment for my mom and I because my family made a lot of sacrifices for me. I knew this was something I wanted to do at a very young age. It just means a lot to me and I'm so grateful. I never thought I'd get here. I'm from a very small town where expectations are low, people don't really get out, and it can be cyclical — and there's nothing wrong with that, with staying where you're from. I just didn't think it was possible for me and I guess I hope that I can encourage other people from backgrounds maybe where they feel that it's not a tangible thing for them. It is.

What piece of advice would you give your younger self when looking back?

I would tell her to chill out. I think when we're young we take everything so seriously. Work hard because there aren't any shortcuts. And I think just being a kind person is really going to get you so much farther than just sheer talent. It really is a mix of things and it's just so important to be a good person.

Credit: Jenny Anderson
Credit: Jenny Anderson

What if your older self came back to tell you something. What would you want to hear?

I would hope she would tell me to just live in the little things. Sometimes I get overwhelmed by all the pressure — I mean playing Regina George is terrifying. And to keep working on things that fulfill me and inspire me. Just have more fun. Life is about balance.

The animated show you lend your voice to, "Sunny Day," has so many positive messages for young viewers. What's your favorite part about doing that Nick Jr. show?

It's about friendship and getting along. Again, when we're young, our perception of all that can be skewed. I love that little show. I love doing children's shows. It's hard to know if they're successful or not because you can't ask a preschooler their thoughts on it. You just have to sort of watch them watch it and I don't have a ton of those in my life, so I'm constantly asking around. It's just a blast to go in there and feel like you're, I don't know, putting something good into the world and being an idiot while doing it. I pitch my voice really, really high, and talk about nails and hair all day. Plus, I get to go in my pajamas and it's amazing. We sing on it, too. It just feels really good. It's so rewarding. Where I'm from in Missouri, people don't get to come to New York very often to see Broadway shows but this is something they can see, which is fun.

I understand you have a very personal connection as to why you’re outspoken about Type 1 diabetes. Can you tell me a little about that and all you do for it?

I'm an ambassador for JDRF, which is the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation, among other Type 1 diabetes organizations. I have four younger sisters. The youngest two are twins and one of the twins was diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes at the age of 8. When something like that happens you just feel so hopeless — especially being away from home. I just thought, "OK, here in New York there's something I can do by just getting involved and spreading awareness." There's a misconception behind diabetes and Madison, my little sister, will tell me the same. She will get friends at school being like, "Oh, if I eat this cake, I can feel the diabetes coming." That's not how it works with Type 1. It's innate, you either have the gene or you don't and it can be triggered or not. 

There's no a cure for it yet, we're working on it, but it's definitely something I've watched her grow up, giving herself shots and having a twin sister who can eat whatever she wants. I just really wanted to get involved, raise awareness, find a cure, and I've found a really lovely community out of it. There are a lot of people who really want to come together and support one other, which warms my heart. It's definitely made my family more conscious in terms of healthy eating and healthy lifestyles. I think as a society we've been taught some of the wrong ideas around health, fitness, and healthy eating. It's informed my family a lot and brought us closer together.

Every once in a while I'll get some kids at the stage door thanking me for doing this. I think, gosh, it's our responsibility when we have opportunities like this. I think Tina felt that. She didn't know the film was going to be such a big hit when they made it and, going to write the musical, she knew she had a moral obligation or opportunity to send a message.

What’s have you learned about yourself from each of the characters you've played? Let's start with Campbell ("Bring It On").

My experience with Bring It On was just me learning about myself and learning what I could do — because I had no idea I could do eight shows a week, perform cheerleading stunts where I'm two stories high of human bodies, and carry a big, high-pressured show. I walked out of that experience thinking: "I didn't know I could do that."

And what about Lauren ("Kinky Boots")?

Ohhh, that's my favorite! I was going to quit the business before I got Lauren. I had sort of hit rock-bottom in [terms] of jobs, and I just wasn't figuring out who I was and I wasn't happy in New York City at the time — and then I got that part and I just fell in love with everybody in that building. The show had been running for quite a while so everybody knew what they were doing, nobody was worried about the show, and it was the first time I really discovered comedy. 

I got to go out there every night and, since the show is written so well, they just fall in love with Lauren. Then I started playing with the science of comedy because every night you get a different audience but I'm delivering the same lines. So, if I change my inflection on the line just slightly it might get a bigger or smaller laugh. Slowly you start doing that every night and start to find out what works and what doesn't. That is so much fun and I want to continue doing comedy because I had a blast. It was the first time I really felt like I was playing Taylor. I don't always want to be the Regina George pretty girl.

Is there a role out there you’ve been dying to play or a story that you’ve been dying to tell?

I think it doesn't exist yet because the dream roles, I love creating them. I think that's the most fun part about any Broadway show is creating. Now I do the same show eight times a week and I feel like I miss the creating because that's when you get to explore. In terms of stories, if you look at this season there are a lot of women's stories being told and that's a beautiful thing to see. I love telling stories that we don't really hear — I think that's how we find empathy and create a stronger society.

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