Kristine Froseth has played the mean girl, the sweet popular girl, and even a cult member, but none of her roles have engaged the 23-year-old actress quite like Alaska Young. The enigmatic teen at Culver Creek Academy brings together the other main characters of Looking for Alaska, the newly debuted Hulu mini-series based on John Green’s first novel of the same name (he’s also a producer on the show). With a new episode each week, viewers are dive into the cloistered world of the boarding school where Alaska, Miles “Pudge” Halter (played by Charlie Plummer), and their tight-knit group experience the trials and tribulations of coming of age. While the story is set in 2005 and is loosely based on Green’s own teen experience, the show carries the characters with a sense of awareness that has become expected in recent years. In the same vein as other Gen Z teen dramas like Euphoria and 13 Reasons Why, Looking for Alaska deals with themes of mental health, sexuality, and privilege, with a heaviness and honesty that was absent from the reckless abandon of the Gossip Girl generation. At the heart of this is Froseth’s character, who’s inscrutable personality acts as emotional armor and ultimately throws the other characters into self-questioning spirals.
Looking for Alaska, like John Green’s other popular novels (The Fault in Our Stars, Paper Towns), hones in on teen emotion and tension in a universal way. Froseth, who had originally read the book as a teen and was slated to play Alaska in an unrealized film adaptation of the novel, tapped into these relatable feelings while playing her character–especially those concerning the desire to belong. The model-turned-actress spent her formative years moving back and forth between Norway and New Jersey because of her dad’s job. “I was always trying to fit in and trying to find that tribe,” Froseth tells CR. “You’re just figuring out these new things, and without having a good group of friends, it’s hard to go through.” For her role, Froseth recalled those feelings and other uncertainties of being a teen.
Here, the actress speaks to CR about coming of age, being open about mental health, and navigating through the labyrinth of life.
Are there any parts about your own experience that you relate to your character? Or any other character?
“I really relate to how Alaska puts up a front to protect herself. She tries to be seen as this other thing so people will like her. She doesn’t really trust herself enough to be herself, and she hasn’t figured out who she is. I relate to that in a lot of ways because moving around a lot, I’d always be the new kid and I’d always have to find where I fit. I’d try out these different, not facades, but different kind of protection fronts to get into that inner circle. A lot of people do that, but I think I just relate to not trusting myself enough to be myself all of those years. I really relate to Miles’ character as well, just wanting to find that group. He’s not a loner but he doesn’t have those people yet either, and then he finds them.”
There’s definitely the pressure of expectation versus reality throughout life, but especially when you’re a teenager.
“Yeah, because everything feels so important, and life or death. Everything seems so big and that it’s going to last forever, and the cool kids that are running the school…there are a lot of expectations and pressure for sure.”
Speaking of life or death–that theme actually comes into the show. Nowadays, a lot of TV shows made with teen audiences in mind deal with heavy topics, so what do you think young people can take away from it?
“I just hope that it will make people feel less alone and more understood, and that we’re all going through these questions and struggles. Like Alaska, she puts up this front so you wouldn’t necessarily know it from the beginning, but I think it’s so important to never judge a book by it’s cover and to try and stay open. I hope that when people watch this, they’ll feel like they relate to one of the characters, and that they feel like, ‘Oh, this person goes through this too,’ and ‘I’m feeling that way, and maybe we should all be open about how we’re feeling and start talking about it.’ Instead of hiding it. Because for a lot of people, I think it’s stigmatized as a weakness. They think you’re a burden if you open up, so we don’t know how to talk about [emotions] yet. I think it’s really amazing that shows like this and Euphoria are bringing up these topics and are really digging deep with them.”
Alaska is known for being enigmatic and unpredictable–how did you mentally or emotionally prepare for taking her on?
“It’s such a weird process because I got into the whole world of Alaska a few years ago, when it was going to be made into a movie. I just never let her go because I was so desperately hoping it was going to come back in some shape or form. So since that time of me reading the book for the movie audition, until shooting it, I kept her very close to my heart. I feel like I’ve always kept her around. And then we were really lucky that Charlie Plummer, who plays Miles, and I got to go to Alabama with John [Green] and he showed us around the little campus and talked through his story. We got to ask all the questions we wanted to ask which was really helpful. I think that was the most important part, but then we were also really lucky enough to have two weeks to go have some time together [before filming]. So there was actually a lot of preparation that went into it, of just getting to know each other and feel comfortable with each other, have all those conversations we needed to have before shooting.”
You mentioned you spoke to John about the character and the story. Was there a specific question you had for him?
“[Alaska] is such an enigma and a mystery and I didn’t want to overload my brain with too much information, because then I get stuck inside–I’m so in my head about it. To me and Charlie, which was so beautiful, John really blessed us and let us take control over the characters. He didn’t want to give us too much, because he trusted us for what we had already built…That’s an interesting question because we also wanted to respect the fact that it was based loosely on [John’s] real high school life. So it was more so just listening to him talk, instead of asking too many questions. There were some things I didn’t want to know, because I feel like it was too real and I wanted to stay in the fictional world that he wanted us to keep going towards.”
There are two central quotes in the book and the show that kind of drive your and Charlie’s characters. For Charlie it’s “I go to seek a great perhaps,” and for Alaska it’s “How will I ever get out of this labyrinth?” Do you personally relate to either?
“I relate to both, really. I relate to the labyrinth, because I’ve personally dealt with, as we all do throughout our lives, this grief and possibly depression for some. I know what it’s like to be stuck in a dark place and look for that answer of, ‘How do we get out of this?’ So I understand Alaska when she starts to go into that and she wants to find out how to get out of the labyrinth of suffering. That’s a constant search. But I also want to find my great perhaps. But that’s what becomes of it, too. You’re always trying to find it, and it could lead to different things for different people.”
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createdAt:Mon, 28 Oct 2019 22:50:00 +0000