Playing the villain might be more fun for many actors, but in a film like Moxie it can also be a big responsibility. In the upcoming Amy Poehler-directed teen movie, which premieres March 3 on Netflix, Patrick Schwarzenegger (Echo Boomers) tackles the role of your worse-than-typical bad boy Mitchell.
Mitchell’s aggressive and sexist behavior, coupled with the school administration’s apathy, is the catalyst that leads the usually timid Vivian (Hadley Robinson, Utopia) to starting her anonymous zine. With it, she helps inspire the girls at school to fight back on all fronts, from dress code to athletics.
Schwarzenegger spoke to Screen Rant about the burden of taking on such a hateful character, the process of collaborating with an icon like Amy Poehler, and the true meaning of the word “moxie.”
How did you first join Moxie?
Patrick Schwarzenegger: I think when I got the first audition, I didn’t really know anything about the project. It was an untitled Netflix high school movie when it came in. But then I went in and did the audition for the casting department, and that went well. Then I came back for another one with Amy Poehler, and the room was packed. It was a little nerve-wracking, but they told me a little bit about the character and a little bit about the project.
But it was interesting, because when I first did the auditions, they were like, “This guy is a really good guy, and he’s really nice.” They want him to come off as very likable, charming – kind of the opposite of what his character was. I don’t know if they were just wanting to see different sides of what I could do, or of what the character was, but I played like that. And then they told me, “This guy’s a huge asshole, he’s terrible. Now switch it to that.” It was kind of an interesting process.
But after I got the role, I got to read part of the book and the script. I learned that Amy was part of it, as well as other great actors and actresses. That’s how I really learned about it.
Once you did start learning about Mitchell and his many layers, what were you most interested in or excited to portray?
Patrick Schwarzenegger: It’s tough, because I wasn’t excited to play him. I’m very far removed from this type of character, and I think some of the other work I’ve done was obviously the YA love story. Although I most recently did a movie called Daniel Isn’t Real, where I played a psychopath, which was really fun.
But this one was a little bit heavier, because it’s a high school film and the base that’s going to be watching is young teenagers. We want them to learn and be motivated from this story, and inspired to go out and use their voice to show that they’re worth something, but it sucks to play the villain and just a terrible guy. He’s just disgusting on multiple levels, so it was kind of tough.
But at the same time, it was great to be able to be part of this overall project and message and to work with someone like Amy Poehler and Netflix. I always like to find ways to grow and to learn, and to surround myself with people that are better than me. So, Moxie checked all those boxes.
Speaking of Amy Poehler, what was the collaboration process like with her as a director?
Patrick Schwarzenegger: Yeah, she’s so unique, because she obviously started as an actress before progressing to directing and producing and stuff. She has multiple views of the character, from the director side to the actress side. But it was great, because she would let me try my own takes and then say, “Hey, let’s change this,” or “Let’s do that,” or, “Let’s do an old take,” or even, “This one’s a free-for-all, so say whatever you want.”
She really wanted me to play with it, and she always pushed me to be more of an asshole. More and more. She was really great to work with.
It’s interesting that Mitchell is immediately compelled to antagonize Lucy, which is what sets off the chain of events that leads to the Moxie zine. What do you think it is that he finds threatening about her?
Patrick Schwarzenegger: It’s a great question. We don’t go into so much of the backstory, because obviously the film starts right there. They don’t show much of Mitchell’s life or what must have happened to him to act like this, or to feel like he needs to be in control by blaming other people. But something in his past had to be deep down within him; something that makes him try to feel powerful by doing these things. But there’s probably no good answer, you know?
From your perspective, as Patrick, how do you view Vivian and her arc in the film?
Patrick Schwarzenegger: It’s a beautiful arc. It’s someone that’s shy and not gregarious at all, who is timid and at first tells Lucy to just put her head down and go the other way. But slowly, she starts to get inspiration from her mom and her mom’s past, and she sees that she can rebel and that her voice is needed and necessary. And look what she creates.
I think by the time you start to where you finish, even from her personal development of empowering other females in school to her falling in love and finding a romantic side, there’s multiple angles and growth from within.
I also really loved the camaraderie on screen of the girls. Was your bond offscreen better than on screen? Were you exiled, or did you get to join in on the conversations?
Patrick Schwarzenegger: No, I was not exiled. We all were really close and still are close. I’ve hung out with some of the cast members outside of filming, and most of the scenes were in the classroom or at the school. We were all together, so we would all hang out during lunch breaks or in between takes.
Amy really made it a fun set. We did have some good camaraderie and became pretty close as a group. And we still have a Moxie group thread, with texting and everything.
How do you approach playing characters with this dark underbelly as an actor, because obviously the characters think they’re right?
Patrick Schwarzenegger: They feel like they’re right, yeah. It’s an egotistical thing. It doesn’t make much sense, but it goes back to working with someone like Amy. She’s there to kind of push you to become more of an asshole or to come out of your shell in a different way. That’s the good part about having an amazing director with a background in acting.
After having been in the film, what does the word “moxie” mean to you?
Patrick Schwarzenegger: It really comes down to having courage, and then the determination to see that difference and make a change. I think courage is probably the one word that that really comes to mind. Courage to stand up for what’s right, even when it when it might not feel that way. Vivian has moxie in this film, definitely.
I love what you said earlier about wanting to inspire youth even if your role in particular is the villain. Is the message a work is sending often a big factor in your decision-making?
Patrick Schwarzenegger: What message is it sending? Who am I getting to work with? Who am I surrounding myself with on certain projects? Stuff like that. Is the character different than what I’ve done before? Is this making me grow? Those are main things that I’m looking at.
What is next for you professionally?
Patrick Schwarzenegger: We’ll see. I’m about to finalize a little project coming up, and I’ll hopefully be able to announce that one soon.
Do you have any particular memories from set or fun interactions from Moxie?
Patrick Schwarzenegger: Yeah, we had tons of fun. There were night shoots on the field, playing football all together. Amy Poehler can throw a football; she can sling a ball in between takes and stuff. She got the football and just chucked like 30-40 yards. Those are some really some really fun and great memories.
Moxie drops March 3 on Netflix.