Within the first 40 minutes of knowing her, Barrett Wilbert Weed has already said too much. At least twice. “I’m sure a lot of people would be really mad about what I just said, but that’s what I think,” she told me in her dressing room at the August Wilson Theatre. But that’s just who Weed is; she has no time for bullshit.
Even before she landed the role of Janis Sarkisian (née Ian) in Mean Girls on Broadway, Weed had been channeling her inner Janis for years, projecting the kind of on-stage confidence that you only learn by not having any of it in your formative years. But that middle-school angst has fueled her explosive performance as the emo teen outsider in Tina Fey’s musical adaptation of her 2004 hit — and cost Weed “thousands of dollars in therapy sessions,” she joked.
It’s that kind of grit that has amassed her a fervent fan-following after starring as Veronica Sawyer in off-Broadway’s Heathers: The Musical. Now, with Mean Girls, Weed has a role — and a show-stopping number — she can really sink her teeth into. MTV News chatted with the performer about the middle-school trauma that led her to Janis, working with Fey, and how she learned to embrace her awkwardness.
MTV News: I remember relating to Janis a lot when I first saw Mean Girls because she was so bold. She didn’t fit in, and she didn’t care. Did you share that connection to Janis as well?
Barrett Wilbert Weed: She’s the most real character. I don’t know a lot of Cadys or a lot of Reginas — I know a couple of Gretchens. But I know probably a hundred Janises and about a million Damians, both the versions from the movie and versions that Grey [Henson] and I have made. They’re the most real characters because they’re the most vulnerable, and they’re the most dramatic and stepped on. I think that’s how everybody tends to feel in high school.
MTV News: High school is a really vulnerable time. Do you ever wish you were more like Janis as a teen? Because she has such confidence.
Weed: Yes! She’s remarkably intelligent, in a way that not a lot of teenagers have the confidence to be. I think a lot of teenagers are incredible. When I’m not working, when I’m technically unemployed, I teach a lot, and I’ve had the pleasure of hanging out with boatloads of teenagers for the past three years.
They are really smart. It’s just they, well, I think girls are expected not to be… It’s like that whole study that I keep reading about where if you say mean things to a plant and the plant dies, it can’t grow. Humans are like that too. If you talk to humans in a certain way, then they act that way after awhile. Whenever I’m teaching teenagers I always try to treat them like a li