Prom Pact is Disney+’s newest original movie that’s both fresh and a nod to classic ’80s teen movies. The delightful film has been updated for a modern audience — prom-posals, anyone? — and showcases how teen movies have evolved since the ’80s. HollywoodLife spoke EXCLUSIVELY with executive producer Julie Bowen about Prom Pact’s mission.
“I felt like it was really important to address how problematic the ’80s were and just address it head-on,” Julie told HollywoodLife during the film’s press date. “Not pretend we could just go, oh, it’s ’80s prom theme, and then we just ignore all the stuff that wasn’t okay in those movies. But our main character Mandy absolutely… she’s got a mouth on her. She speaks up from it. She stands up for what she believes in. She wears a Ruth Bader Ginsburg necklace and Save The Bees T-shirts, so it would be appropriate when everyone around her is going ’80s prom crazy that she would say, ‘No, it’s not cool, and these are the reasons why.’ Once they’ve done that, we can now enjoy the good parts of those movies, and there were lots of good parts.”
Mandy is played by Doogie Kamealoha, M.D. standout Peyton Elizabeth Lee. She’s joined by Zombies alum Milo Manheim, who plays Mandy’s best friend, Ben. Breakout star Blake Draper also stars as Graham, the popular basketball heartthrob. Think 2023’s version of Sixteen Candles’ Jake Ryan. Julie revealed how Blake was cast as this crucial character.
“Graham is such a key role, and we saw a lot of people for it. Diversity and casting was really important. But Graham, in order to be the privileged kid that he was and for her [Mandy] to make the assumptions about him that she needed to make, he needed to be white for her to be able to say you’re a privileged male. So we were kind of in a bind because we wanted to have as much diversity everywhere as we possibly could,” Julie explained. “We actually had Milo Manheim originally read for Blake, and we were like, ‘Oh, no. He’s Ben.’ And God is he Ben. He’s a wonderful Ben. So casting a wide net, we looked at young men from every country, race, color, creed for the role of Graham because we thought, well, maybe we’ll change it. Maybe he could be a privileged kid from a different racial background or something.”
She continued, “But then when we met Blake and he was so charming and so lovely… We had no idea he was Australian. All via Zoom, we had no idea. And then there was maybe that second or third Zoom with him he was speaking in his native accent, and I just loved him all the more. He is so interesting. He looks like such a classically handsome ’80s guy, and that’s what we wanted. And yet at the same time, he has a twist. His character is much more vulnerable, and in real life, Blake is so unusual. He’s so out of the box. He’s such a funky dude. He dresses crazy. He loves crazy music. Everything about him is surprising and delightful. I think that this is not the last time we’re going to see him.”
Julie starred as Claire Dunphy for 11 seasons on Modern Family, but she’s solely behind the scenes with Prom Pact. She told HollywoodLife that there were “discussions” about her playing Mandy’s mom. “But at the same time, I really wanted it to be somebody else. I really wanted to be behind the camera,” she said. “Wendy [McClendon-Covey] is fantastic, and I love her. I also am not super good at being objective about watching myself. During the post process when you have to watch the film 20, 30, 50 times and you’re cutting tiny moments here and there, I don’t think I would have been able to be as objective about it had it been me. I would have just said ‘cut it all out’ because I am not good at watching myself, so it was the better choice.”
When it comes to the person from the Modern Family cast who would have the best prom-posal, Julie went with Eric Stonestreet. “I saw the video of how he proposed to Lindsay [Schweitzer], his girlfriend, and it was all production value,” Julie revealed. “I don’t know if he ever made it public or not, but he literally surprised her. He told her they were doing something completely different [and] that they were getting interviewed because some company was interested in them being their spokespeople. They had a full camera setup and everything and then the kids walk in, and he tricked her. He surprised her. It was emotional, beautiful, and great production value. I would go with Eric Stonestreet. Although Jesse [Tyler Ferguson] would sing and dance and it would be amazing.” Prom Pact will premiere March 30 on Disney Channel and the next day on Disney+.