K.J. Apa and Maia Mitchell on "Life-Changing" Decisions Explored in 'The Last Summer'
The Netflix film, which includes a number of intersecting storylines, follows Griffin (Apa) and Phoebe (Mitchell) as they fall in love the summer before they start college.
[The following story contains spoilers from The Last Summer.]
K.J. Apa and Maia Mitchell may be known for their roles as high school students on Riverdale and The Fosters, respectively, but the two take on post-grad life in the Netflix movie The Last Summer, which is now streaming.
The film features a number of intersecting storylines involving recent high school graduates as they prepare to head off to college. Apa and Mitchell star as Griffin and Phoebe, two classmates who reconnect and begin a romance after years of not talking. "It's the last summer before college and all the characters are figuring out what they want to do," Apa tells The Hollywood Reporter.
Mitchell describes Phoebe as "a very ambitious young woman," as well as an aspiring filmmaker. "She's in the phase of life between high school and college. She's gotten into NYU, and she's basically spending the summer making a documentary, so she's very focused and very ambitious," Mitchell adds of her character. "She's not really looking for anything romantic and then along comes Griffin and her world is kind of spun upside down by him and their summer love affair."
"Griffin is an aspiring musician. He's really into his music. He's kind of a goofy little guy," Apa says about his character. "He's taken aback when he sees Phoebe for the first time in a long time. After they see each other after all these years, their story kind of takes off."
The film focuses on a defining moment in the characters lives, which sees them transitioning from childhood to adulthood. While Apa says that the film doesn't touch too much on the societal expectations that high school students face as they head off to college, The Last Summer does look at the characters' journeys as they decide what they want for their futures.
"It can always kind of be a pretty daunting feeling having to make a life-changing decision that fast. I don't think it should be taken lightly," says Apa. "Whatever decision you make is pretty much going to set you on that trajectory for the next four or five, maybe even 10, years. I think it's a pretty important moment in life."
"I think for a 17- or 18-year-old, making that decision is really overwhelming and I don't think the traditional route works for everyone. I think that's a lot of pressure for young people," adds Mitchell. "You see our characters in this movie, especially Griffin, trying to figure out what they want versus what their parents want for them. They're trying to figure out what the path is that works for them while staying true to themselves."
When Phoebe is first introduced in the film, she makes it clear that she is not looking for a romance. "Griffin kind of fools his way into Phoebe's life. She wasn't really looking for a relationship. She had all kinds of trust issues with men anyway, but it was his charm that did it. It was inevitable," Mitchell says of the two's relationship. Apa adds that Griffin's persistence to go out with Phoebe "made him more confident."
While Griffin is eager to begin a relationship with Phoebe, Mitchell says that her character's trust issues with men contribute to her reluctance to begin the romance. She initially uses her film as the reason she is unavailable to go on a date with Griffin, though Mitchell says that Phoebe's busy schedule is only "an excuse."
"I think to an extent she was using her film as an excuse to not get involved with anyone. I don’t think it was entirely because of her film. I think a lot of it had to do with her trust issues," Mitchell says. "She's been let down by a lot of men in her life, and so I don't think she's really open to a relationship at all for that reason. She's focusing on herself, which is kind of an easy way to keep her distance."
The pair eventually hit a roadblock in their relationship when Griffin learns that his father is having an affair with Phoebe's mother. While Griffin's parents once appeared to be in a happy relationship, Phoebe's mother has dated a number of men that have led her daughter to have a hard time trusting potential romantic interests.
But Apa says the affair storyline makes Griffin and Phoebe "stronger."
"I also think that besides them, it also hugely impacts his relationship with his parents," Apa says. "I think his dad goes out of the picture after that, I'm guessing. We end the movie before we get to explore that and we didn't really get to play with any of that afterwards."
The film also leaves the fate of Griffin and Phoebe's romance up in the air. But both Mitchell and Apa have predictions for the couple's future.
"We left wondering how they will go moving forward and that speaks to the time that the movie is set, which is that in between period before college and before the unknown, so you're left wondering what might happen," says Mitchell. "But their relationship is tested and if you can get through something like your parents having an affair with each other, you can get through anything."
She added that while she thinks that the two would keep in touch following the end of the summer, she's not positive that they remain a couple. "I think they keep in contact. Do they get married? I don't know," she adds.
Apa, meanwhile, says that he sees things working out for Griffin and Phoebe. "I definitely think that they end up together. I think there's so many different possibilities that could happen, but I have hope that they would end up together," he says.
As for their favorite storylines in the film (apart from their own), Apa says the romance between baseball player Ricky Santos (Tyler Posey) and Erin (Halston Sage) stuck out to him. "It's really, really romantic and had moments in there that made me blush," he says.
Mitchell said that her favorite storyline follows Audrey (Sosie Bacon) as she decides whether or not she wants to attend college. "I connected with her the most because I didn't graduate from my school, and I didn't go to college, so I never really connected with the traditional route of getting a degree," she says. "It was almost more like following what I felt I wanted to do, which was sort of Sosie's journey in the movie. I felt that was an interesting story to tell in the midst of all these people figuring out their college plans. I thought it was important to add that perspective."
While the two don't have the same favorite storyline, they do agree on the most memorable scene to film. "I think probably the funniest thing that we did was while filming was eating the ribs," Apa recalls about a scene in which Griffin and Phoebe try out ribs from each other's favorite restaurant.
"The bloody ribs! It was awful because we literally ate all those ribs and then we had to shoot Griffin and Phoebe's love scene right after," shares Mitchell. "It was probably the most ridiculous day."
Apa has been playing Archie Andrews on The CW's Riverdale since 2017, while Mitchell portrayed former foster teenager Callie Adams Foster for five seasons on Freeform's The Fosters. She currently plays an adult version of the character on Good Trouble.
"It was refreshing to dig in to this character because he's a little bit more earnest and more endearing than Archie is. He's a little bit more of a nerd," Apa says about the differences between his TV role and Griffin. "Although they have similar tones, I enjoyed it just because we could have more fun with it."
As for Mitchell, she says, "The characters for me, Phoebe and Callie, are really different. Callie's got all types of trauma and complications, which get kind of heavy sometimes. It was fun to do this movie, which was a little lighter for me. It was a fun way to spend the summer."