Moxie isn't just another coming-of-age film. If you ask the cast, they'll tell you it's a coming-of-rage journey. Based on Jennifer Mathieu's 2017 novel, Moxie introduces viewers to 16-year-old Vivian (Hadley Robinson), who is fed up with the sexist culture at her school. The usually shy teen is inspired to take action after meeting her outspoken new classmate Lucy (Alycia Pascual-Peña) and learning that her mother (Amy Poehler) was involved in the underground feminist punk movement riot grrrl during her teen years. Alongside some of her peers, Vivian sparks a widespread revolution by anonymously publishing a zine that addresses society's perpetual double standards and misogyny.
For Robinson and Pascual-Peña, their characters in the film aren't far off from who they are off-screen. Pascual-Peña is a truth-speaking, vibrant spirit like Lucy, while Robinson can relate to Vivian's shy yet passionate qualities. Being able to bring the fullness of their identities to set is part of what made the experience so empowering and allowed them to forge a connection that has lasted long after Moxie wrapped shooting in 2019. "We talked a lot that first day," Pascual-Peña says of meeting Robinson. "On our first day, our lunch was not an hour of small talk, but instead we really spent time learning about each other." The duo's deep adoration for each other felt palpable through the screen as they gushed nonstop about the lessons they learned from their characters, self-care during the pandemic, and the beauty tips they swear by. Ahead, Hadley Robinson and Alycia Pascual-Peña in conversation.
Hadley Robinson: What have you been up to during the pandemic? What have you found brings you peace? What have you learned about yourself during this time?
Alycia Pascual-Peña: You and I have had many conversations about this being a chaotic but reflective time in our life. Essentially, I'm grateful to have been able to stay healthy and be surrounded by my family. During most of the pandemic, I was up in New York with my mom and my dad. But I have enjoyed discovering new things. Yoga was something I had never done before the pandemic, but I got into that. And like always in my life, film and music have been there for me during the pandemic. But yeah, I would say yoga was the new thing that I discovered this year, in addition to listening to more podcasts.
APP: How about you, Hadley? How did you navigate 2020? Was there anything new that you found yourself discovering or falling in love with? How'd you protect your mental health?
HR: For me, it's writing. I've been trying to journal every day. It's a good way to start my day, keep a schedule, and process everything that's going on because time has become strange. So, it's a way for me to keep organized within myself. I like that you mentioned yoga because I also have been getting into yoga. It's a great way to move your body but not have to go outside necessarily. It's so accessible because there are so many classes online for free. So that's been good to do because it's not just about the body, but it's also about the brain.
HR: Have you been meditating at all?
APP: Yes, for sure. I feel like mindfulness practices, in general, were things that I wanted to learn more about. I think prayer has always been something that I go to. I love speaking to the lord, and my spirituality is something very important to me. So, I pray a lot. But just mindfulness practices like yoga, telling myself I'm going to be still, and dedicating myself to being present in the moment was something that I tried to do this year. Also, shout out to a wonderful organization here in LA called WalkGoodLA. Yoga was taught in the park for free by an instructor named Marley Ralph, who is phenomenal. The organization is all about resistance but also teaches that joy and rest are a part of our resistance as a movement.
APP: In addition to us getting through 2020, we filmed Moxie in 2019, and it is now coming out in 2021. How do you feel about that?
HR: It's so strange because the pandemic hit right after we finished shooting. It's felt like we've been in a stagnant state for a year. And now, Moxie is about to come out. Because it feels like time has stopped, it feels like we just shot the film. But, It also feels like it was a million years ago. It's strange to watch the film and think, "Oh, that was a different person." It was a year ago, and so much has happened since then. I just feel like a completely different person. But it's cool to reflect and watch us all and see how we've learned and grown, especially knowing each other and seeing as though we've all stayed pretty close. But I'm excited for the world to see it. I think it'll be a good ray of light cast out into some of the darkness.
HR: What's your favorite thing about Lucy? Did you walk away from filming, having stolen anything from her? Did you learn anything through becoming her?
APP: What a good question. I'm grateful that I fell in love with her. I was privileged because I was playing someone I was so proud to play and embody. Something I took away specifically from Lucy is to apologize less. I think I'm very adamant about living my truth and being empathetic. But I think that sometimes leads me to feel like I need to appease people, which is something that Lucy never does the entire film. She speaks her truth without engaging in respectability politics. I felt more empowered as a young woman, artist, and Black Latina woman to be less apologetic. That was a conversation that we had on set as well, even with Amy, to apologize less. I think that's something women are unfortunately conditioned to do. So I think I left the film with that lesson.
APP: What do you think was the greatest lesson you learned while playing the wonderful Vivian?
HR: I think it was about learning to feel your feelings. Vivian feels things fully, and she projects those feelings into the world. There are a lot of moments where she's alone, and she's going through the emotional tunnel and finding the other end. I think I have problems doing that. I think as an adult; you learn to sort of not feel your feelings and suppress them and not learn from them. But I think you can do it in a healthy way. I think Vivian eventually learns to feel and process things fully rather than suppress them. I think she's been suppressing her feelings her whole life. In this movie, she's finally learning how to feel, which is so powerful.
APP: How did you first feel when engaging with the Moxie material and the script? What was the main thing that you noticed that made you want to be a part of it?
HR: I had never read or seen anything like it before. I think it's unique in the way that it's telling a very specific story. It feels like a combination of different genres, all coming together to create something new. It also elicited a very emotional reaction from me. I think it felt personal but also universal. I think a lot of people have been in Vivian, Lucy and Claudia's shoes. It speaks to a lot of people, and I thought that was special. It's a very hopeful story, and I don't get as many hopeful scripts sent to me for some reason. This one had me feeling like I was leaning forward into the future. I was excited about it rather than feeling heavier. It lifted me into a place where I want it to be. I knew that if great people were spearheading it, then they would have chosen a great cast, which they did. It allowed me to meet people like you.
HR: What about you?
APP: There are so many special components of our film. But much like you, the minute I got it, I knew this is different. It has something very powerful to say. But at the same time, it makes me laugh. It leaves me engaged and leaves me with a joyful sentiment, which I think it's rare that we see that duality in pieces. Our film is trying to confront toxic social norms and topics that may be deemed taboo. But, it is also empowering people and leaving them with a smile. Specifically, with Lucy's character, I was like, "Wow." Unfortunately, as as an artist and as an actress. It's not often that I get characters that respect the fullness of who I am as a woman, especially as a Black Latina woman. To get a role that didn't perpetuate any type of stereotypes, and she was a radical feminist and activist, and that wasn't demonized or made a commodity in any way, I felt that was so powerful. And then I saw that Amy was a part of it, and then met you girls is crazy. So yeah, much like you, I knew it was different. It brought me joy.
HR: Did you feel like you had freedom in the role? Did you feel like you could bring your own complexity and nuances to the role?
APP: Yeah, for sure. There aren't enough words to truly articulate how it felt to be on set and be fully supported as an actress and an individual. I've experienced being at a protest, being ridiculed in class, being in political discourse, and feeling immediately demonized or being told I was inferior because of cultural identity. So, the fact that I was in a space where I felt supported, and we were doing things to change that and progress conversations positively, was a visceral, empowering feeling.
The fact that so much of myself was in Lucy was just such a blessing. And the cast was a part of that. I definitely wouldn't have had that freedom or capability to step in into that role if I didn't feel fully supported by you all. I just can't thank you all enough for being such a phenomenal cast and you for being a phenomenal partner.
APP: How did it feel to bring parts of yourself to Vivian? Did you feel like Vivian in high school?
HR: It did feel very personal. In high school, I was similar in the sense that I had shy tendencies that were very intrinsic. It was hard to get out of my shell, which I think is similar to Vivian. I think I found myself in a similar way too, but maybe not as rebellious as I'd wished that they'd been. But I do think I came into myself in a way. I learned a lot from Vivian too, and I brought a lot of myself to her. I wanted to make the stakes high. For me, in high school, the stakes did feel very high sometimes. And they are because you're learning so much at that age. You're absorbing everything like a sponge. And so little things that happen can be very detrimental and have a huge impact. You carry that stuff with you for life. You're setting yourself up for the future in those moments, and so the stakes are truly high. That's what they felt like for me in high school, and so I tried to bring that to the film. Also, I learned from Vivian that it's okay to have moments of shyness where you're processing information. It's how you choose to speak out, which matters, but it doesn't have to look one way. There are a lot of ways to do it.
APP: What do you think most surprised you about playing Vivian?
HR: I didn't think Vivian was going to be as funny as she sometimes is. I found moments for lightness where I didn't think there would be, and I usually found that when she was around people she loves. I'm thinking of the scene where we're dancing in the thrift store, and she's just feeding off of the energy. I guess that feels prominent now because I'm noticing moments in my life where depending on who I'm with, charisma can just be contagious.
HR: Lucy's makeup in the film is very beautiful and colorful. Did you have a say when it came to the makeup that Lucy wore? Are there any similarities in the makeup that you and Lucy wear?
APP: Once again, it's a blessing to connect with Lucy in this way. Fashion and makeup have always been an extension of self in my life. It's how I express myself, and it's a way that I take up space. It's a way that I boldly show up, and it's also a part of my activism in a lot of ways. I think we see that throughout the film. In Moxie, Lucy is constantly wearing statement shirts or a bold, beautiful eyeliner. I think it's just another way of her showing up as her full self and saying, "I'm here, and I'm unapologetically me." I think that she's so powerful. She doesn't feel the need to minimize herself for anyone, and I think we see that through her makeup. I'm really grateful to have a team that is much more artistically inclined than I am in that manner. Your girl cannot do eyeliner that well herself. In the film, I have looks that I cannot do personally, so it was a lot of fun to wear them. I thought it was also really cool that Amy and the phenomenal costume and makeup team wanted to bring parts of myself into the film. The boots that I was wearing and some of the shirts that I wore on were from my closet.
HR: Wait, those were your boots? I was wearing my own shoes, too. I love that we were wearing our own shoes.
APP: I'm shocked that I didn't know that prior. But yes, my boots in the film are my Doc Martens from eighth grade. Three of the shirts that I wear in the film are mine. One says "Girl Power," and one says "The Youth Will Win," which is a campaign shirt from Stacey Abrams' first run in Georgia. I think the other shirt says "Vote For Our Lives" or something like that. I think it's powerful to see that Lucy has this aspect of femininity to her but is bold and speaks very personally and truthfully to herself.
APP: Are there any beauty tips you took away from our makeup trailer on set? Also, what has been your go-to beauty product within this past year?
HR: In terms of beauty, I think Vivian is almost the antithesis to Lucy. I think she was very minimalist, and that reflected her shy nature. I don't think she was wearing much of anything, but I kind of like that because I think she is a very raw person and genuine. Through the minimal makeup she's wearing, she's showing a more open version of herself. But I can see five years down the line, Vivian exploring with makeup and kind of finding her flair. But I did love what Terrie [Velasquez] and Autumn [Butler] did. I thought they were great. They kept everything very youthful. They took really good care of my skin and my hair, which is very appreciated.
In terms of a product, I went through a phase where I was just using olive oil on my face. I discovered that my skin loves it for some reason. So, that's what I was using for a good amount of time. But, my old reliable is Ponds. I sleep with it on my face. I'll put a thick layer on my face, go to sleep, and then the next day, my skin feels great. I take a very naturalistic approach. I think the secret to great skin or healthy hair is about what you put in your body as much as what you put on your face or in your hair.
HR: What about you? Do you have a product that you use and love?
APP: I'm shocked by the olive oil thing, but I think that is so dope. You don't need to do anything, but I'm so fascinated with what you do because you are genuinely one of the most beautiful human beings I've ever encountered. My go-to is coconut oil. My affinity for coconut oil is probably not healthy, but it'll continue to be my go-to for moisturizing my body. It works really well for me because I have fairly dry skin, and I think coconut oil is one of the most natural moisturizers. I know that it doesn't have an obscene amount of other products or preservatives in it. I use it for my hair to moisturize my curls because I've been on an eclectic curl journey of just not putting heat on it and stuff. I use it on my lips. I use it for absolutely everything.
HR: Do you have a self-care routine?
APP: I don't have a set-in-stone routine that I need to do constantly, but I think there are just certain things that I like to engage in. I do like taking care of my skin, and I have a process with that. I like listening to gospel music, jazz, and R&B. Music is a big part of self-care. I love tea and coffee, probably more than I should. Prayer, meditating and staying connected with my mom, papi, and abuelos are all part of my self-care. But, I don't have a specific routine. I think that they're just components of my day that are constant. But sometimes, there are nights that I indulge, and I put a hair mask in and have my favorite food.
APP: What's your self-care routine?
HR: A key part of my self-care is that I have to move my body every day. It differs from day to day, but I always have to move. And I do that at night. I don't move in the morning. I drink coffee and do work in the morning. And then, at night, I have to move my body somehow. It's a way for me to get rid of anxiety or any stress. It's how I take care of myself. I like to listen to podcasts and music while I run or bike. It's a good way to engage my mind and body at the same time. It feels like I'm pressing a reset button when I do that.
APP: What's been the best piece of beauty advice that you've been given ever in your life? But, I want to expand on that. What's the best piece of advice you received in 2020?
HR: I grew up next to Swedish doctors. They're some of my favorite people ever. They're so healthy and happy. They have the most luminous skin and gorgeous hair. And they like to say less is more. It's about what you put in your body and your stress levels. If you lean into happiness and health, those things usually are very fruitful in terms of how you then look and live in the world. But they don't use any products whatsoever. Or, if they do, they're all-natural. I used to use way too many products because I thought, "Oh, I need something corrective for every flaw that I have." And then I found that when I did nothing and took their advice, I saw that your body will heal itself and figure things out on its own. In terms of advice in 2020, I haven't really gotten any advice because I haven't gone out into the world. So, I haven't been thinking about my appearance as much as usual.
HR: What about you? What's been the best advice you've received?
APP: Since I was little, my mom has always told me to be proud of it all. What we think are flaws, there's beauty in that. All the aspects that I may not love about myself make me the distinct human being I am, and I need to love that. And that's easier said than done, especially when we live in a world that continually bombards us with unrealistic beauty ideals. But I think that that's something that has always been true in my life. My mom has just told me to accept it all—the stretch marks and the pimples—and not be ashamed of that and not let that hold you back from doing things. But specifically within this year, a beauty tip that I came to my own conclusion of is to do better with what I consume. I don't always have the healthiest tendencies. But after being stuck in the house. I was like, "Yeah, maybe I shouldn't have Oreos for dinner." I love to indulge. But, I'm just trying to be more mindful about what I put into my body and how I'm taking care of myself.
HR: You have the most luminous skin. I have to ask about your skincare routine.
APP: Girl, thank you. Honestly, I can't even take that much credit. I think it's a lot of genes and melanin. I think that is a large component that I have nothing to do with. But yeah, my go-to is staying super moisturized with coconut oil and my creams. I use Palmer's cream and shea butter. In the shower, I'm very adamant about exfoliating, and I use African black soap.
Hair Blake Erik (for Hadley Robinson) and Alexander Armand (for Alycia Pascual-Peña)
Makeup Lisa Aharon (for Hadley Robinson) and Eliven Quiros (for Alycia Pascual-Peña)
Photography Lisa Aharon at The Wall Group (Hadley Robinson)