Q&A: Daniel Franzese on 'Mean Girls - Cliques and Alternate Endings

This month marks the 10-year anniversary of Mean Girls's release, and everyone — yes, everyone, even the North Shore burnouts — is using it as an excuse to indulge in their obsession. Daniel Franzese, who played your favorite Mean Girls showboat, Damian, understands. "The script was the funniest script I had ever read," he told Cosmopolitan.com. "We were the first one of those [high-school] movies that also had the Internet. I mean, Mean Girls is dissected on the Internet."

Case in point: When Franzese posted an Instagram photo from a mini-reunion with Lindsay Lohan back in February, the blogosphere, this site included, had a little meltdown. "I was a little nervous about this interview," Franzese said. "The only bad comment I read when that picture came out was from Cosmopolitan. Like, 'Notice how Damian's balding? It's been ten years. DOESN'T THAT MAKE YOU FEEL OLD?' I was like, 'Ew, you bitches.' You totally Regina George'd me." Did you hear that?? Cosmo had a Mean Girls moment with Daniel Franzese! For the record, and with a sincere apology, Franzese is not balding. "It was the lighting, totally," he said over the phone. "I still have my hair." He also still has a ton of Mean Girls memories, which he happily set his pride aside to share with the world. Herewith, his stories of cast cliques, the weird fan who made him a needlepoint, and the actor who was almost cast in the movie: James Franco.

Cosmopolitan: What was your audition like?

Daniel Franzese: I sat in the waiting room in character as Damian, commenting on anything and everything I could. Amanda Seyfried had come in for her test and she was wondering aloud, "Should I wear this beige shirt or should I wear this maroon shirt?" Mark [Waters, the director] and Tina [Fey] had their backs to me, and I said, “I’d go with the merlot.” I don’t even know where that line came from, but they both whipped around and started laughing. They went on with the audition with Amanda and then the casting assistant said, "Hey, it’s your turn next." I walked into the room, and Mark and Tina were like, “You?! We thought you worked here; we didn’t know you were auditioning. Now we’re excited — we like you!" It was a really great way to come in and [get noticed]. But then, according to the E! True Hollywood Story, (laughs) Mark said my audition wasn’t very good but that they just really liked me anyway.

I was also told that there were some people who thought I was too old for the role — I was 26 and the role was 16. So I did everything I could to look as young as possible. There was this trick a friend taught me to get a really close shave, so I did that, and then I wore some kind of racy, funny T-shirt and just got really animated and excited — higher energy than I normally have as a person.

You also auditioned for [Saturday Night Live creator and Mean Girls producer] Lorne Michaels — over dinner. What does Damian talk to Lorne about over an amuse bouche?
I was so nervous. I’ve always been a fan of Saturday Night Live, so I couldn’t believe I was going to meet Lorne Michaels. Then on my flight, I was seated in first class, a couple of seats away from Chevy Chase, which was so weird to me because I was about to go meet Lorne and [Chevy has] the whole SNL connection. I didn’t say anything on the plane, but then at the baggage claim I went up to him and I said, "So, I’m about to go to dinner tonight with Lorne Michaels: Do you have any advice for me?" He said, "Well, not really any advice, just tell him I said hi." I thought, OK, this is my great opener. So at the dinner I said, "Hey, you know what’s really funny? On my ride here, I was on the plane with Chevy Chase!" Tina was like, "What’d he say? 'I’m a jerk?'" And then the conversation immediately changed and I was like, "Nooo, I messed that one up!"

I also met Lindsay [at the dinner], and Lacey Chabert, too. I hit it off with everyone and I remember leaving, saying, "I’ll see you all tomorrow at the table read. I’m the only one who doesn’t have the part yet." Although Jonathan Bennett [who played Aaron Samuels] wasn’t cast yet either. There was another actor who was playing Aaron Samuels at the dinner. Now, the next day at the table read, this other actor hadn't shaved and he didn’t take his hat off; he was playing it really cool. People kept coming over to him like, "You know, you should really take your hat off." And then, right after the table read, he got fired and they called Jonathan Bennett, who I guess was their second choice.

Can you please, please tell us who that actor was?
I don’t want to embarrass him, I'm afraid. He has worked consistently, he’s a good guy... but, yeah he is somebody who you would’ve known. Also, Lindsay recently told me that, even before [the actor who got fired], James Franco was considered for the role of Aaron Samuels. I thought that was so cool — Bennett was great but that would’ve been cool.

You mentioned being older than your character, despite the shaving hacks. Did you ever feel out of place among the cast? Were there cliques?
Slightly. Amanda was 17 and so was Lindsay. Lindsay and I get along way better now as adults than we did when she was a kid; back then I just felt like, "Oh here’s this kid," you know? I actually didn’t know who she was — to me she wasn’t really on the grid yet, except for that whole Aaron Carter thing. I hadn’t seen Parent Trap or Freaky Friday, I had only heard about them. It wasn’t negative, though. Lizzy Caplan and I really stuck together on that shoot. Definitely Lizzy and I were a clique — there's no question about that. We were always laughing, always in each other’s trailers, always in each other’s hotel rooms. Inseparable, really. Amanda and Lacey hung out a lot; Lindsay did her own thing. She had a guardian and two young friends with her and they all hung out a lot. Really, it was Lizzy and I rolling solo.

How about Rachel McAdams? She was the same age as you guys, right?
Yeah, it’s funny because Amy Poehler was less than a decade older than Rachel McAdams when she was playing her mom. Rachel’s a really humble person. When we would all go out, Rachel would just stay home. Her agents would come to set and she wouldn’t go to dinner with them, she was just like, "I’m going to chill." She didn’t want to do interviews, she wasn’t very Hollywood — she was just an actor. And I remember one time a group of us went out shopping in Toronto, we went to go get a drink, and we walked into this bar and Rachel was just there, chilling by herself. She was like, "Oh, I’m having a beer." Really low-key and normal; a cool, down-to-earth chick.

Were there other changes to the script?
I remember at one point Janice was going to do some deep, meaningful poetry while playing the drums at the talent show. And I know I had another line that I think was so funny that didn’t make it in: I was smoking a cigarette when we were walking across the field to go sit on like the grass. Cady says to Damian, "You know, you really shouldn’t smoke," and Damian goes, "But it keeps me thin." It was so painful to let that line go, but Mark doesn't like his actors smoking in movies, which is admirable.

As a gay guy coming out of high school around the time Mean Girls premiered, seeing Damian own his sexuality was really empowering to me. Do you get a response from LGBT fans in particular?
It’s funny that you say that — not to take away from the power that Damian has contributed to that kind of thing, but Mark’s whole position on Damian was that Damian probably doesn't realize he’s gay yet. I mean, he knows deep down, but he’s still going through puberty and figuring it all out. He hadn’t dated anyone yet; he probably hasn't kissed anyone yet. And I just think that sweet spot of vulnerability was something that made that character real. That moment of a kid in high school who just didn’t care what people thought about him. I like to say I’m the legendary father of the House of Glen Coco. Anything that shines a little light on anyone who’s feeling left out in any way, I am just beyond proud to contribute to that in any way — even if it’s accidentally.

Are you still in touch with your fellow mean girls? Do you have plans to mark the anniversary together, maybe with a group outing to a Ladysmith Black Mambazo concert?
There’s been talks of trying to figure out schedules for all of us to get together for something, but everyone’s so busy. I do talk to Lizzy and I talk to Lacey pretty often. I talk to Lindsay; every time I see Amanda, it’s great. We run into each other more than we make plans with each other. Amy Poehler as well, because I’m really good friends with Aubrey Plaza so I've visited the Parks and Rec set a bunch. Diego Klattenhoff, who played Shane Oman, he and I became really close when he was in L.A. before Homeland, so we hung out a lot. Also, I reconnected with Rajiv [Surendra, who played Kevin G.] after I took that infamous Instagram picture with Lindsay a couple of months ago.

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