About The Production
Get the Party Started:
As an Emmy Award-nominated writer and producer on NBC's beloved series 30 Rock,
Cannon has long held a reputation in Hollywood for masterfully crafting female
characters in stories that are equal parts comedy and pathos. The architect of
the groundbreaking Pitch Perfect series has proved that comedies about strong,
dynamic women could pull huge audiences of female fans at the box office.
When looking to add more dimension to the female characters and storyline in
Neighbors 2: Sorority Rising, longtime production partners Seth Rogen, Evan
Goldberg and James Weaver immediately turned to Cannon.
"We're a bunch of guys and the movie was about a sorority, so we knew we needed
female input," explains Goldberg. "We had a roundtable read with several women
in the industry, and Kay's ideas absolutely blew our minds."
When developing Blockers, the team of producers felt it was paramount to again
seek a female perspective. Goldberg shares: "The original version of this script
was about three dads, and one of the biggest changes we made was to create a
female character-so it was a mother and two fathers-and we were convinced that
should be at the film's core. That change also made us realize that instead of
someone like us, we needed a strong, female director like Kay Cannon to execute
Weaver agreed that Cannon's specific voice and strong leadership would make her
the perfect fit. "As a first-time director, there are a lot of eyes on you," he
says. "Kay has this incredible amount of grit. She's absolutely relentless in
her work and keeps going in the face of any challenge in front of her."
Cannon is not only the first woman to helm a movie at Point Grey Pictures-the
production owned by Rogen, Goldberg and Weaver-she's the sixth woman in the
history of film to direct a big R-rated studio comedy.
"I had been itching to direct for a long time," she confesses. "Women don't get
an opportunity like this often and I was excited for the chance."
When making her directorial debut, it was also important to choose a film that
would one day resonate with her daughter. "Even though my daughter's still
young, I wanted to direct a film that she could eventually see herself in,"
Cannon says. "I was waiting for a story that shows young women in a way that
hasn't been seen before."
While on her first vacation in six years, Cannon received the script for
Blockers and couldn't put it down. "I promised my husband I wasn't going to
work," she admits. "I was up until two in the morning reading this script on my
phone and laughing. It was really, really funny."
The story also appealed to Cannon because it wasn't a typical 'high-school sex
movie.' "It shows young women taking control of their own sexuality, and
confronts the sexual double standard," she shares. "Right away, I wanted to do
For far too long, films have been made about young men's firsts. With Blockers,
young women finally have a rollicking film about their own sexual experience
equally relatable. The scene where the young women make the sex pact is a
favorite for Cannon because it sounds like a conversation that could be
overheard in any high school cafeteria. "They're silly; they're crass; they
curse," she offers. "They talk about sex in ways that we haven't seen young
women talk about it, at least not in high school."
Rogen is a master at capturing these ubiquitous high school moments in a
relatable and funny way-he and Goldberg wrote the hit comedy Superbad based on
their own experiences. "Blockers also delivers big, giant comedy pieces that
leave you in hysterics," he says.
Every teenager knows what it's like to make a big decision, and Blockers shows
how parents go through it twice: once for themselves and again through their
For Rogen the pact serves as the catalyst for this larger story. "All of the
parents have an emotional problem they are working out through their kids. It's
not about these young women having sex; it's about parents losing control," he
explains. "Their daughters are leaving for college, and it manifests in these
parents trying to stop them from growing up."
In a world in which the pressures to say goodbye to your youth are an
omnipresent element, the film acknowledges how terrifying it can be for parents
to watch their kids grow up. "You see the young women's perspective and also
their parents, and how different generations view sexuality," says Goldberg.
"It's both sides of the coin."
Known for balancing raunchiness with relatability, Rogen's films have characters
who genuinely care about one another-and Blockers is no exception. "These
parents are crazy, but they truly love their daughters and want to protect
them," he says. "That unconditional love is the emotional core of this movie."
One character Cannon took particular care of was Sam, who joins the pact in part
because it's what her friends are doing and she wants to share in the night.
"When I was growing up, I didn't have examples of mainstream, studio movies
showing girls in a real, interesting relationship," she says. "For the young
women and girls who see this movie, it was important to show that it's normal to
feel confused and that there can be a struggle."
Cannon hopes that this story that explores sexuality from several angles will
prompt audiences of all ages to start a long-overdue conversation about sex,
responsibility and respecting the choices of young women. She offers, "I didn't
talk about sex growing up at all. It was abstinence and that's it. Maybe you
wouldn't want to see this movie sitting next to your parents because there are a
lot of dirty jokes, but my dream for this film is to get people laughing and
then talking. I would love that."
Meet the Parents:
Casting the Comedy
When casting the three parents in Blockers, Cannon and her producers sought
actors who not only had the comedic chops to improv, but could add depth to the
film through their performances. First, filmmakers turned to Leslie Mann to play
Lisa, the emotional core of the film and friend group...and a mom who is trying to
be cool while still parental. "Leslie has built an incredible body of supporting
work over the 20 years, and this was the perfect vehicle to let her shine," says
In a case of life imitating art, Mann was offered the role of the soon-to-be
empty nester at the same time her own child was headed off to college. "I
actually got the call to do the movie while I was dropping my eldest daughter
off at school, so it was something that I felt really connected to," recalls
For Cannon, the timing could not have been more ideal. "Lisa and her
relationship with Julie are the heart and soul of film," she explains. "Leslie
had just lived through saying goodbye to daughter; it was very fresh and real
The scenes with Kathryn Newton, her on-screen daughter, eased the real-life
separation for Mann. "Thank God for Kathryn during that time," she relays.
"She's the exact same age as my daughter, so being around her made it a little
easier because she's so sweet and I got to hug her."
Although Lisa and Julie have a strong mother-daughter relationship, Lisa
struggles with the idea of letting go. Her desire to keep things status quo goes
to extremes when she thinks her daughter might get hurt.
The actress was thrilled to work alongside Cannon, who kept the set light and
loose to inspire the actors to go off script. "Kay comes from improv, so she'd
throw out ideas or change up the lines," Mann recalls. "It was a really fun
For Cannon, the admiration was mutual. "Leslie is such a comedic talent," she
says. "You can give her a B or B+ joke, and she easily turns it into an A with
her natural delivery."
Working alongside co-stars Barinholtz and Cena made for more laughs on and off
camera. "It was nonstop fun with both of them," Mann says. She dryly adds:
"Plus, John gave me some pointers on how to do deadlifts."
To play divorced dad Hunter, producers tapped veteran comedic actor and
screenwriter Ike Barinholtz (Neighbors, Sisters), who'd been eyeing the script
for some time. "The story felt cool, relatable and incredibly funny, but it's
also about something," he says. "I thought it was such a smart idea to make the
lead a woman, and once I heard Kay was directing, I couldn't wait to get on
Cannon felt the role was tailor-made for Barinholtz. "Hunter is this hilarious
character, but there's also this deeper emotional element to him," she reflects.
"The role fit Ike like a glove."
Both veterans of the comedy circuit, Barinholtz and Cannon have been friends for
decades. "Bill Clinton was president when I met her," Barinholtz laughs. "We've
performed together in multiple countries. I completely trust Kay, and I
appreciate that she has the faith to let me run wild."
As for his character, Barinholtz sees Hunter as lonely man in the midst of a
mid-life crisis. "He's made a lot of mistakes and he's trying to right the ship,
especially with his daughter, Sam," he explains. "He got scared after his
divorce, and when he saw this great stepdad come into the picture, Hunter
withdrew even more. Suddenly, he found himself totally boxed out of his
Hunter believes by giving Sam this amazing prom night, complete with a
booze-loaded limo, he can start to repair the fractured relationship. "That's
why he initially tries to stop Lisa and Mitchell from ruining their prom plans,"
he explains. "At first, he's the voice of reason, but a very stupid voice of
reason. After he thinks Sam joined the pact because of peer pressure, he goes
When it came time to cast straight-laced, overprotective Mitchell, the team
sought out WWE entertainer John Cena, who demonstrated his scene-stealing comic
chops in Trainwreck and Sisters, alongside Barinholtz.
"I was watching the ESPYS and John was hosting," recalls Cannon. "He has this
natural comedic persona, and I knew he should be Mitchell."
Cena was eager to take on a larger comedic role. "I'm still new to all this, so
I have tremendous faith in Kay and the cast," the actor says. "Leslie's ability
to be vulnerable and stir up so much emotion is incredible, and Ike is a
non-stop joke machine."
Though not a parent himself, Cena had no problem delving into dad mode. He
shares: "I was drawn to this character because I see Mitchell as more of a
coach, and I've had so many amazing coaches in my life. I feel like Mitchell has
a playbook on dad-isms, 'This is when I give my daughter the pep talk,
Cannon appreciated that Cena was game for anything. "He'd call me Coach on set.
Anything I asked him to do, he would say, 'You got it, Coach,'" she says.
In addition to the movie's many funny moments, Cena appreciated the comedy's
emotional pull. "All the gags and the physical humor are tied to pivotal moments
in the story and move the characters forward," he explains. "The kids go on a
journey, and so do the adults. My character needs to go on this hilarious ride
as testament to his commitment to his daughter and so he can learn to be a
The stunts were also fun for Cena to shoot. While on a mad dash for his
daughter, some of the teens charge him in the hotel. "I literally Hulk out on
all these guys, and they go flying. Throwing human bodies around is a specialty
of mine," he says with a smile.
Another favorite was the car chase scene when Lisa, Mitchell and Hunter try a
Fast and the Furious maneuverer to catch their daughters' limo. For Cena,
filming the sequence was a particularly memorable time. "Mitchell's in the
backseat, and Lisa spins the car so fast it lands on its front end," he
explains. "To shoot it, Leslie, Ike and I were on this thing the stunt team
calls a 'rotisserie.' They had us hang upside down and spun us around several
times. It was awesome."
Leaders of The Pact:
Casting the Young Women
To complement the seasoned comedic actors, filmmakers were looking for fresh
voices and a natural chemistry when casting the three young women. "It needed to
seem as if they'd known each other most of their lives," explains Cannon.
"Fortunately, when the three actresses got together in that week of rehearsals,
it felt like they'd been best friends forever."
"The young cast was awesome," Goldberg raves. "It was fun for Seth and me to
watch because they were filled with this energy and excitement. It felt like
being back on the set of Superbad, where you have all these young actors about
the same age experiencing a big break."
When casting Lisa's sweet, strong daughter Julie, filmmakers immediately turned
to Kathryn Newton, whose star is rapidly on the rise following her standout
performances in Lady Bird and Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri. "She
has this picture-perfect life and she's planned this perfect prom," says Newton
of her character. "With her, it's Snapchat, Snapchat, selfie, selfie because she
wants to make memories and capture the moment; she's very sentimental."
Newton was immediately drawn to the script because Julie is always in the
driver's seat with her boyfriend Austin (GRAHAM PHILLIPS of television's The
Good Wife), especially when it comes to decisions about sex. "She feels
comfortable in her relationship and confident about taking this next step," the
performer explains. "This young couple has an honest relationship with clear
communication. It's all Julie's idea: She tells Austin she's ready, and he says
he feels ready, too. It's funny because Austin is the perfect boyfriend, but
Lisa just can't see that."
The actress also understood why Julie's friends would want in on the pact.
"These three have done everything together, and they want this to be another
shared experience and amazing story," explains Newton. "It's their last hurrah
of high school, so why not go out with a bang?"
Producers felt newcomer Gideon Adlon, whose credits include television's When We
Rise and American Crime, was the perfect fit to play Hunter's daughter, Sam, a
cool-nerd coming to terms with her sexuality.
Ecstatic, yet nervous, to take on her first film role and comedic part, the
actress leaned on Barinholtz, her on-screen dad, to help guide her performance.
"Ike was very supportive of me," she says. "Between takes he'd give me feedback
or encouragement. This is my first movie, and I wouldn't have had it any other
way. I wish I had more time with him."
Sam's deeper storyline also appealed to Adlon's more dramatic background of
work, as well as her real-life experiences. "Sam has to deal with her absentee
father just showing up on this important night," explains the actress. "It's
funny, but she's also really hurt by it. She wants her dad back in her life, and
I can relate to those complications."
On top of the complex relationship with her father, Sam is keeping her struggles
with sexuality a secret. "It's causing a distance between Sam and her best
friends. All three are very close, but she sees that Julie and Kayla sometimes
have a tighter bond," says Adlon. "That's one of the reasons she joins the
pact-so they can have this shared experience."
Even though she has her eye on someone else, Sam chooses her dorky, yet enduring
friend Chad (JIMMY BELLINGER of television's The Middle) as her prom date. "I
think Chad's a little in love with Sam, which makes him sweet," Adlon says.
"He's also her beard. Sam can't truly be herself until she's able to tell her
friends who she is."
To play Kayla-Mitchell's athletic, tomboy daughter-producers looked no further
than Australian actress Geraldine Viswanathan, who jumped at the chance to work
with Cannon. "I'm obsessed with Pitch Perfect, New Girl and 30 Rock," she says
of Cannon's comedic portfolio. "I remember being on the plane thinking that I'm
going to meet Kay Cannon-one of my idols. This is my first American role; I was
As a stand-up and member of Sydney sketch comedy group "Freudian Nip,"
Viswanathan was excited to see the seasoned actors improv on set. "I took in as
much as I could, and I learned so much by watching their energy," she says.
Viswanathan also identified with Kayla's desire to finally cut loose on prom
night. "She's led this very disciplined, scheduled life, and now that high
school is ending, she's ready to close that chapter," the performer says. "For
Kayla to lose her virginity is another way to break past these expectations and
Viswanathan sees Conner (MILES ROBBINS of television's Mozart in the Jungle), a
kind-hearted stoner, as the perfect prom date for Kayla. "He has all the
connections to facilitate a good time for her," she notes. "I also think they
genuinely like each other, and it becomes more than just like wanting to have a
Prom Planning Committee:
Design and Costumes
Blockers was filmed during the spring of 2017 in and around Atlanta, Georgia. As
the movie centers on prom night, a majority of the schedule included
all-nighters on location, often in cold and rainy conditions. That didn't stop
all involved from buckling down and weathering the storm together.
"Our multi-generational ensemble cast was a joy to work with every single day,"
lauds director of photography Russ Alsobrook. "Our brilliant director, Kay,
brought inspiration, unbridled enthusiasm and extraordinary esprit d'corps to
the production. She totally empowered the cast and crew to do their very best
work during those long rainy nights in Georgia."
Production designer Brandon Tonner-Connolly was elated at the opportunity to
join Cannon's team. "Kay is very open to collaborating and hearing different
points of view, especially when it comes the feel of the film," says
Tonner-Connolly. "I found her strong leadership and ability to continually come
up with ideas inspiring."
Since Blockers is set in suburban Illinois, John Hughes' territory,
Tonner-Connolly took a page from the famed filmmaker when creating the design.
"I've always wanted to do a John Hughes movie, so I tried to push things in that
direction, along the lines of Ferris Bueller's Day Off," he explains.
Tonner-Connolly and his team wanted the distinct aspects of the design to feel
grounded in suburbia. He says: "We have three different households, and we
wanted each one to feel unique and reflect the characters' personalities. At the
same time, everything needed to feel cohesive-like they were pieces that fit
into the same world."
Designing the layered looks of the young women's bedrooms was a highlight for
Tonner-Connolly. "You truly get to know the characters by being able to see
inside their spaces," he says. "We wanted their bedrooms to be an accumulation
of the pieces they've kept over the past 17 or 18 years-to have keepsakes from
their childhoods alongside what's important to them now as young adults."
The production designer paid special attention when staging Sam's room as an
eclectic blend of interests. "We had all these elements from different phases we
imagined this character going through-a gamer, a rocker, a fantasy fan," he
says. "It's like she brought all these pieces into one space trying to figure
out where she fits and what her identity is."
Tonner-Connolly applied the same grounded aesthetic when setting the grander
scenes. "I wanted the prom to feel very realistic but with a slightly heightened
sense of style," he says.
To achieve that authentic feel, he scoured recent prom photos from the Midwest
suburbs. "We stayed within the color scheme of the high school so it would feel
realistic, but added some bright and energetic elements," he says.
As the evening escalates, so do the sets, eventually culminating at the massive
hotel after-party designed to feel like a dozen proms at once. The set pieces
growing increasingly larger is a nod to the young women gaining more
independence as the night goes on, while their parents have less and less
control. Tonner-Connolly explains: "As the parents go from the prom to the lake
house to the hotel, they're moving further away from their comfort zones, while
the sets feel more grown up to the young women."
"We wanted prom to be the catalyst of these young women stepping into adulthood
and that to be reflected in the design," says Cannon. "It also needed to be a
special and beautiful night that the characters would feel nostalgic about in
When approaching the film's fashion, seasoned costume designer Sarah Mae Burton
looked to the characters' interests to craft distinctive styles that still felt
"It was important to Kay and me that when dressing these young women,
particularly for prom, teenagers who watch this movie would want to wear these
dresses-they weren't unapproachable or too high-fashion," says Burton.
For Julie, the unabashed romantic of the group, Burton was inspired by John
Hughes' classic Pretty in Pink. "I thought Julie would like the style of that
movie, so I choose a timeless dress with a vintage vibe," the designer says.
"The cut is more modest, but the red has a little edge."
To symbolize Kayla's transition from athlete to adult, her prom look accentuated
her sporty side, while still being a bit sexy. "The top is more revealing but
still has a similar silhouette to a sports bra," explains Burton.
Sam was the most difficult to dress. At first, Burton tried matronly velvet
dresses, outfits with a Renaissance flair, as well as plain prom dresses before
choosing a dark outfit cut to the knee. "It's a look that blends in because Sam
doesn't want to stand out," shares Burton. "She's not quite sure of who she is
and how she wants to present herself to the world at this point."
Another challenge for Burton was dressing hundreds of actors in formal and
casual wear for the prom and party scenes. "We did a lot of research on what's
popular with teens today, and it seems the '90s are back in full force," she
One of the looks Burton loved most was the cape worn by Angelica (RAMONA YOUNG
of television's Santa Clarita Diet), Sam's secret crush. "After trying more
theatrical looks, we decided a feminine prom dress with a simple cape said a lot
without being too much," she explains. "Many times, young female characters who
are gay wear something that feels very masculine or dark. Angelica is a young
woman in a beautiful pink prom dress who knows who she is, and I think that's
Production wrapped, Cannon reflects on how the young women-and their
parents-grow up during this wild night. "The pact might not have been something
teens completely thought through, but by the end of the night, each young woman
is able to make her own rational decision in a very adult way-and that's good
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