Candice Barley

When we asked Zack Brooks if he’d read Judy Blume’s classic middle-grade novel Are You There God? It’s Me, Margaret, his answer was enthusiastic. “I have! I’ve read it twice!”

Zack plays Philip Leroy in the Lionsgate adaptation of the book. The teen heartthrob and popular kid, Philip isn’t the nicest kid in school or in Margaret Simon’s immediate social circle. This is sharp contrast to the kind and thoughtful Zack who shared that his passion for acting is matched with video games, walks, and a love of meeting new people. Bringing a well-known character to life is a big job, and we had to find out how Zack did it and what he took away from the film.

Navigating the entertainment industry since he was 4 years old, Zack got his start in commercials and modeling before moving into acting. “When I was about 10 years old, I fell in love doing an audition. It looked like fun and I tried it and it was amazing.” Now, inspired by actors like James Dean and River Phoenix he’s after what he calls “serious acting,” drama and thriller roles for TV and film. Are You There God? It’s Me, Margaret is his first film role.

Candice Barley

For Zack, Philip is one of those boys who doesn’t get it. He’s not very nice to the people around him, and he’s more suave than sensitive. Part of building an understanding of Philip was finding where he and his character meet. Zack and Philip are both “funny and outgoing,” but Zack isn’t a mean person. (Despite the conflict their characters face, Zack and Abby Ryder Forston who plays Margaret got along well. “She was so caring and so kind and understanding. She helped me throughout filming.”)

Zack also shared some of his tricks for bringing characters to life. “I listen to a bunch of music and think of what that character would listen to, and I think it really helps put me in how they would react and respond. Something my mom taught me is ‘What do you think they would carry?’ Do you think this character would have a lucky coin? Or, you know, if there’s baseball then you have baseball cards in his pocket. I think it really helps me portray who I’m going to play.” For Philip? Michael Jackson and lucky coins are part of the package.

These artifacts of Philip fit right in with Zack’s other favorite parts of the film, including the aesthetics. Are You There God? It’s Me, Margaret is set in the 1970s, and Zack was thrilled to try on all of the authentic 70s wardrobe pieces, including the crocodile boots that he wore for the party scene. Throwing back to a time decades ago and seeing the spaces (like basement parties) and games (like Spin the Bottle) that were middle school staples.

Beyond his own excitement at making his way into film and learning what a movie set is like, Zack shared that he’s excited to have the movie out to spread its message, something he’s been holding onto since he first read the book. “I hope [viewers] get a better understanding of what girls go through. I hope a bunch of boys my age and younger and older understand what teen girls go through and how rough it can be for them.”

Previous articleJayden McGinlay on Horror Films and Playing Cecil in “Children of the Corn”
Next article3 Ways to Make Dance Part of Your Summer Break
Veronica Good has been with Showstopper Magazine since 2016. When she isn't keeping you updated on the latest trends, she is at home with her many pets or probably playing The Sims 4. Veronica has a BA in English and an MA in writing from Coastal Carolina University. She is also a writer of fiction and poetry, and her work can be found in Archarios, Tempo, and Scapegoat.