Twenty years ago, the world changed when Tina Fey’s Mean Girls movie hit audiences upside the head with its comedic but nuanced take on girl aggression in high school.
Since then, the movie’s spawned a hit Broadway musical, nominated in 2018 for twelve Tony awards. And now, coming full circle, the musical has been adapted into a film premiering in theatres on January 12, 2024, and slated to stream later on Paramount+.
While Regina George may get top billing as protagonist Cady Heron’s lead Mean Girl, this refresh of the story recognizes that mean girls aren’t only the popular ones. Meet 2024’s Caroline Krafft (with two Fs), Cady’s Mathlete opposition, portrayed by the multi-faceted and talented Allison Winn.
Unlike Clare Preuss’s “uglified” Krafft in the 2004 film, Winn’s Krafft is described as a “well-put-together, preppy, and ruthless mean girl who isn’t afraid of being a bully to win at all costs.”
Speaking to us over Zoom from her home in New York City, Winn is very much a part of the generation affected by the original Mean Girls movie.
[The following interview has been edited for length and clarity.]
What sort of connection did you have to the show before being cast in the movie musical?
[I’m a] huge fan of the original movie. I know every line, so getting to be a part of this was just a dream for me. And I got to see the musical when it was in New York a couple of years ago. I even auditioned for it, actually. But otherwise, I’m just a huge fan.
When the movie came out in 2004, exposing the world of girl bullying was eye-opening for many people. How does that message carry through in this newest version of the show?
I think the message still rings true. They’ve just decided this round to click the refresh button on a few scenarios and update it for 2024 audiences. But that message is timeless, that bullying is not okay. Girl bullying, especially, is real. Still. And Cady still gets to have that catharsis by the end that we all love from the first movie.
Your character, Caroline, in the original, was the loud and proud nerd girl. She was comfortable with her intelligence which didn’t make her popular. Your version of Caroline has also been updated and appears as another version of Cady’s fears. Do you want to speak to that?
Without giving too much away, I like to think that Caroline is, in both films, a reflection of Cady’s greatest fears. In 2004, we all know and love that perception of her, and this time, I’d say Caroline is just as confident, just as smart, just as everything she was before, but she’s got some different tricks up her sleeve this time.
There is a musical number during that sequence. [However,] I don’t have a musical role in this movie. I got to observe where that moment would come in but for me, it was just a regular day on a film set as an actor.
The same as 2004, it’s the auditorium scene. We’re all on stage together – the mathletes on each team – and we all got to know each other pretty well. Then, I faced off against Angourie Rice who plays Cady, so I got to know her a little bit that day.
How much of the high school vibe was captured in the time that you were there?
We told each other a lot of stories about high school, but there wasn’t a cattiness, awkwardness, or anything. Everyone’s so excited to be there. It’s such a fun job to be a part of, and everyone just wanted to be friends and have fun immediately which is wonderful. I remember talking about what we did in high school, what we were good at. Most of us are actors, and we don’t need to have math skills to do what we do, myself included, myself especially maybe – I might be the worst at math in that whole scene in real life. There was this one kid who was amazing at math and was doing the equations on the board. The rest of us talked about what our time was like and what plays we did and all of that.
Were you the theater kid in high school? What was your niche?
Oh yeah, big theater kid. Lived and breathed it. I daydreamed through all my other classes just to be able to get to those rehearsals and classes.
Do you have a dream role?
I want to play a witch. So badly. On a TV show, film, whatever. I am just desperate to play a witch. A period piece version, anything like that.
What draws you to a witch role as a dream gig?
Y’know, I remember reading The Crucible when I was in high school. I remember seeing productions of it, the film. It’s an aesthetic that interests me. I love the supernatural qualities of it. It’s very women-oriented, very often. It just naturally births complex roles and people and characters.
What scares you as a performer?
I’ve never gotten to play a straight-up villain before, and I’m really interested in doing that. I did a play a couple of years ago that dabbled in villain territory but there was still a lot of compassion for the character and what they had previously gone through, so I didn’t see it. I think diving into a villain and someone who has something really terrible is something that scares me but also makes me curious to figure out.
A wicked witch, then?
Wicked witch. Yeah.
How do you lean in on a role that isn’t a natural fit with your personality?
Sometimes that’s the most exciting thing. The aspect of learning a craft, or learning how different brains think. In the end, it’s about playing emotions in a scene, and usually, that doesn’t — luckily for me — have to do with understanding astrophysics. Caroline, for example, she knows she’s good at something, she’s confident, and she’s not afraid to show it. I would be the opposite in that scenario because I’m not gifted at math, but I understand those qualities and I feel good about myself as an actor. You just have to put those qualities forward.
Has there been a previous role that left you with a surprisingly great experience or memory?
[Filming Marvel’s Daredevil] was an amazing experience. Charlie Cox is a dream to work with. He’s such a pro. I met one of my very best friends in the world on that set. Aside from sitting in cages next to each other, what a blessing. It’s so funny that I’m thinking about this, I met some of my best friends on some of these sets — and I met one of my other really good friends doing a film called Vox Lux. I never really thought about it but of course, that’s why those memories are even warmer as time has passed, even if the subject matter is so dark.
Living in New York City, there are many different performance options available to you. Would you ever consider improv or sketch like SNL?
Oh, I’d be thrilled. I don’t have a huge background in improv, but I enjoy it and for commercials and comedy, it sort of goes with the territory so I’ve learned on the fly. I appreciate it so much, the skill set that all those people have on SNL. But, yes! I love it. I love being able to take words that are already put onto the page and see what else we can do with it and keep the circumstances as is. I think that’s so thrilling.
Do you pursue additional training to build your actor’s toolbox?
I’ve done a lot of accent and dialect work, mostly when it calls for it in an audition or a show. Those are little things. Over the last few years, I’ve gotten into yoga as a post-dance transition in my life and I’ve really, really enjoyed that learning and how beneficial it is for mind and body.
Have you ever considered teaching yoga as the next step in your practice?
My teacher that I see regularly has nudged me a couple of times, [saying,] ‘I think you should take a teacher training course just to have in your life, even if you don’t pursue it.’
I’m open to it, but I’m still kind of pushing him away with it, but yeah, it’s a lifestyle. I would love to only get better at it and if a teacher training course would help me become a better yogi and a leader, that would be amazing.
Your mother was a professional dancer and you danced from a young age. Has that training been utilized in your career as an actor?
I’ve done musicals — staged musicals — before so I’ve been in dance ensembles. I’ve been in The Music Man. In college, I was a musical theater major, so I used it there. On film, I haven’t used it much at all, I would say. But dance is my heart. When I operate, I still think of myself in first position. I’ll catch myself off-guard [and remind myself,] ‘You don’t need to stand like that right now. That’s not your job today.’
It’s always the card I’m holding behind me that I’m hoping I can pull out and show everybody.
With the New Year and everything looking up now that the strikes are over, do you have any thoughts to share with our readers?
Be kind. Stay sharp. And keep hoping. In time, many great things will come. It’s been a hard time, so it’s nice to put out there that there’s hope now.
Paramount Pictures’ musical movie, Mean Girls, opens in theatres this Friday, January 12th, and will be available to stream at a future date on Paramount+.