Fangirlish has refused to work with me over the past few days, so we’re sorry that this interview is running late. It’s not a lack of love for Khadijha – she’s actually one of the kindest, most loving people we’ve ever met.
We were excited to sit down and talk with the model, who plays Steph in the adaptation of Anna Todd’s novel, After.
After is based on Anna Todd’s best-selling novel which became a worldwide phenomenon on social storytelling platform Wattpad, AFTER follows Tessa (Langford), a dedicated student, dutiful daughter and loyal girlfriend to her high school sweetheart, as she enters her first semester in college. Armed with grand ambitions for her future, her guarded world opens up when she meets the dark and mysterious Hardin Scott (Tiffin), a magnetic, brooding rebel who makes her question all she thought she knew about herself and what she wants out of life.
What was it about AFTER that drew you to the project?
The fact that they were doing a story about your first love.
And what about the role of Steph? What was it about that rule that made you want to pursue that role?
The fact that she became Tessa’s spirit guide. She was just so inviting and welcoming and wanted to show her a good time. Then the other side she could clearly see that Tessa was very conservative and very square. She was taking her under her wing like, come on girly loosen up a little bit, let go a little, and live a little.
Over the course of the books Steph is a disliked character. But why should Fans like her now? What are her best qualities?
I feel like the reason fans should like her in this specific movie is because she is that first best friend. It seems like Tessa, the only friends she’s ever had was Noah and her mom. She just focused on school. Steph just shows her how to have fun. She’s very welcoming and tells everyone to be nice to her. She doesn’t treat her any differently than she treats everyone else
After has been described as a story about sexual awakening do you feel that that best describes the story? How would you describe the story?
I would totally describe it as sexual awakening. Especially just reading the story and hearing her experiences. I know growing up and being a young woman and having experience that with my first love. I love how they just capture those moments – those awkward moments. It’s just very real and raw and honest and beautifully done.
Having Anna onset, what was that like? How did she help shape your portrayal of Steph?
Having her on sat was very inspiring. To have somebody who so incredible and that has experienced so much herself and still came through and made this incredible phenomenon book. Having her tell me as the type of influence in Tessa‘s life and where stuff comes from and the kind of family – it kind of made Steph be how Steph is.
Can you talk a little bit about stuff to relationship with Tristan? What it was like working with Pia Mia? What is your relationship like?
Steph’s relationship with Tristan is a very sweet one. Tristan makes Steph happy and bubbly and sweet. They have so much fun together and they’re very loving together. That’s kind of how Pia Mia and I are in real life. It’s very much a girl power and loving. Chemistry is on point.
Can you talk about working with the rest of us cast? How did you guys get along do you have a favorite memory from set?
The whole cast is so good. They are such inspirational actors and very great people all around. They’re so funny. Every one would dance, we were always laughing. Not to mention our song which is Britney Spears, Baby One More Time. We would all sing randomly. A person would start singing, mostly Samuel. being the amazing singer that he is. Everyone would join and it was so great. Pia Mia would always sing on set – the voice of an angel. Everybody got along. The cast got along so good and not to mention they’re not too hard to look at too.
What did you learn most about yourself filming this movie?
When I learned most about myself is the fact that I do trust myself. Taking on something bigger than you can even imagine, I really had to have a lot of trust in myself. That I was going to be able to perform and bring this character to life and portray it in a way that the fans had seen her. I learned that I can trust myself and that I can believe in myself.
So obviously After is a massive books series with an amazing following. Was there any kind of pressure that you felt bringing Steph to life knowing that there are so many fans that are dedicated to the series already?
There is definitely a certain level of pressure. One thing that I kind of empathize with books, is that books are a release from reality. So many people use books to escape from reality. They create relationships with these characters and I would just hope to live up to the standards that they have created. Some kind of support system for them.
What role would you want to play if you weren’t playing Steph?
I don’t know. That’s so hard because I feel one was Steph. I feel very related to Tessa in a sense, because I grew up with a single mother and I grew up really sheltered. I hadn’t gone to a party until I was well in high school. It’s hard for me to say I would play anyone else because I feel like the cast of me for this role really well.
I feel like all around humans are kind of having an awakening – a spiritual awakening. It’s very vulnerable. People are more consciously aware and empathetic, than people really ever have been. It’s such a millennial type of story.
You were talking about the relatability of the film. Can you talk a little bit about why it’s important to have a movie like this?
So many people feel so alone. I feel kind of like this book reassures young girls that it’s normal to be confused about your body. When you’re growing it’s normal – you’re going to have these moments. A sexual awakening – it’s going to make you feel awkward. It’s going to make you feel uncomfortable. But in the end you’re still going to be you and it’s going to help you grow. I love how it really does do that.
There is a big fan base for the book already, but the great thing about adaptations is you have a chance to draw in new fans. What would you tell people who have never read the book why they should see the movie?
It’s a coming-of-age love story it’s all about finding yourself by kind of diving into someone else. So many people go through that. It is capturing those intimate moments between a person and a person. I just love how it does that.
What was it like working with Jenny Gage and having her as your director?
Working with Jenny Gage is phenomenal. She’s actually the reason I got the role. She is the one that suggested me for the role of Steph. She really put on for me to get it. She has such an amazing perspective and was really very empathetic of everybody. She was so conscious of how people would feel and how comfortable somebody would feel. Working with a person like her makes you feel very supported and very cared for.
Do you have a favorite scene from a movie that you were excited to see come to life?
The scene of where we were getting ready for Tessa’s first party. It was so fun. Not everybody remembers the first time that they went to their first party, but I remember the first time I went to a party. I just think it’s so cute – how fun Steph is. She is so supportive of Tessa. How Tessa stands her ground – I just think that’s so cool. It’s a very female empowering scene.
What’s next for you?
I’m a model too and have been doing a lot of photo shoots. I just did this thing with Vogue Mexico. I have a campaign coming out with Mac. I did a music video with his amazing artist. So much coming up.
After is playing in theaters now.