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Paper Girls Cast on Pop Culture Influences, Raising Stakes for the Amazon Drama – The Hollywood Reporter

It’s stand by me meets stranger things meets Wizard of Oz meets terminator. Reminiscent of several nostalgic ’80s sci-fi touchstones, Amazon’s Papergirls brings a fresh element to the classic archetype: time travel. And as if time travel weren’t complicated enough, Papergirls follows an all-out time war, with four girls at the center of it all.

Based on the comic series by Brian K. Vaughan (who also wrote the series Saga and Former Machine), the Amazon show brings four newcomers into the spotlight, as they prepare to headline their own show on a major streaming platform. Sofia Rosinsky, Riley Lai Nelet, Camryn Jones and Fina Strazza hold it down as the titular paper girls — a group of 12-year-olds delivering early-morning newspapers in Stony Stream, Ohio, in 1988.

“One thing that I do think makes Papergirls very unique is the fact that it’s time travel,” says Rosinsky, who plays the headstrong Mac — the first girl to ever become a paperboy in their town. “But on top of that, there’s also a time war happening. I think that takes the urgency to a whole other level.” The 16-year-old actress describes her character of ella as misunderstood, misguided and layered — three words that would do well to describe what it feels like to be 12 years old — growing up, but not yet fully grown.

“When I first got the audition, my sister read through the sides with me, and she said, ‘You know, this actually reminds me a lot of The Breakfast Club,’” Rosinsky added. “One of the directors, Mairzee Almas, also made the comparison between Papergirls and Wizard of Oz. I really like that comparison, and I actually drew some inspiration from the Tin Man after she mentioned that.”

Upon landing the job, each of the castmembers dove headfirst into the source material — Vaughn’s comic series comprises 30 issues — but with plentiful source material inevitably comes the pressure of pleasing a built-in fan base.

“It’s so amazing that there was a built-in fan base because as soon as the show was announced, there were all these little pop-ups of comments on my page, like, ‘Oh, my god, I’m so excited, ‘ and I loved that,” says Jones, who plays tech-loving gamer girl Tiffany. “But there was a little bit of pressure because I feel like it wasn’t just for us anymore. It was like we have to make sure that they love it too. I think that was always the goal, and I think it did happen. I think y’all are gonna love it.”

“It was really, really encouraging,” adds Nelet, who plays the town’s new girl, Erin, of the initial fan response. “We know that this story means a lot to a lot of people in a deeper, [personal] sense. And I think that’s where we did feel pressure on wanting to tell the story authentically, while also staying true to the comics.”

While Strazza watched the 1986 stand by mealong with several other coming-of-age classics, as part of her research for the role of private school-goer KJ, she also focused on separating Papergirls from the pack. “[If anything]we really tried to focus on the source material because we wanted to create our own show with [its own] nostalgic feeling,” she said.

And despite the show’s ’80s setting and sci-fi-heavy plot, the actresses say the show doesn’t romanticize the reality of what it was like to grow up during the time period.

“When we’re in the ’80s, it’s not necessarily supposed to be nostalgic, because the ’80s weren’t great for everybody,” Strazza says. “And we highlight the intense bigotry that was present. It wasn’t just about, you know, the pop culture that we see on TV and in movies. We tried to get down to what it was really like for a lot of people, and hopefully, that comes across.”

“The show doesn’t exaggerate the time, and it feels really authentic,” adds Nelet. “The ’80s sucked for a lot of people, and we go into topics of racism and sexism and homophobia. I love that we’re just telling a real story.”

A true defining trait that sets Papergirls apart from other shows of its kind is that it tells its story from the perspective of four young women, fighting a war while grappling with real coming-of-age struggles.

“One of the greatest things that we heard from a lot of women on set was that they wished they had a show like this when they were younger,” says Strazza. “Because it highlights this female power and having decisions and making choices for yourself and not having a man make those choices for you or save you — showing that a woman can be her own hero. I hope that audiences really appreciate that, and I hope they take away that sense of power with them.”

“It’s OK to be who you are, and to feel how you want to feel,” adds Jones, of what she hopes audiences take away from the series. “It’s okay to take control of your life. You can decide your own fate, like our characters in the show. They decide what they want to do, and they don’t need saving from a man. They save themselves. And I love that about the show because you see a little piece of yourself in it.”

Papergirls premieres on Prime Video on Friday, July 29.

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