Molly Morneweck: Not your average summer job

By Penelope Biddle, Wayland High School

Senior Molly Morneweck is no stranger to stardom. Since landing her first main role in a school play in eighth grade, she’s played the lead in four school productions. During her physics class last spring, Morneweck’s acting career leveled up. She had become a movie star, in a story that aligns with her own life.

The film, “Growing Pains,” is a fictional coming-of-age story about two teenage girls and their evolving friendship as they enter their freshman year of highschool. Morneweck first found out about “Growing Pains” last summer through a friend’s mom.

“My director posted a ‘Backstage’ ad looking for rowing extras in the [Wayland Weston Rowing Association] Facebook page,” Morneweck said. “My friend’s mom sent it to me. I looked at the casting on ‘Backstage’ and they were still looking for the lead.”

Having never previously auditioned for a professional or film role before, Morneweck was unaccustomed to the process and a little short on resources she might otherwise have. With a little research, she worked around the obstacles and was able to contact the film’s director and send in her audition.

“I found the director’s website and her email, so even though I didn’t have the headshots or the ‘Backstage’ account, I just told her, ‘I’d love to audition for this,’” Morneweck said. “She sent me two scenes and I sent her self tapes.”

In physics class the next morning, Morneweck got the news. It was almost too much for her to handle.

“I opened up the email and immediately started crying, like, full on sobbing in physics,” Morneweck said. “People were like, ‘Oh my God, oh my God. What’s going on?’ and I could barely get the words out.”

She had landed the role of Zoe Christopoulos, one of the two friends that the story revolves around.

“My character is pretty uncomfortable with the way she looks and that impacts the way she feels,” Morneweck said. “She makes unhealthy decisions and she has to learn how to rely on her parents and her friends. [The movie] is about her finding how she is comfortable and feels her best.”

Morneweck had a striking similarity to her character’s experience, so much so that Argyrople felt that the casting was fated.

“She’s a childhood cancer survivor and is supposed to have a scar across her stomach,” Morneweck said. “I had a tumor when I was six and actually I have the same exact scar on my stomach. It was really, really cool that the shared medical history and that she becomes a rower really resonated. My director said it was ‘meant to be.’”

Zoe begins rowing in the movie. The experience Morneweck had as a former rower came in handy, but not in the way she had expected. It turned out years of perfecting form would not help tell Zoe’s story because Zoe’s story was not one of perfect form.

“There were two days where we did filming on the water,” Mornweck said. “It was good that I already knew how to row, but I actually had to row purposefully bad for the movie, so that was really challenging, having to revert back to when I was a novice and first starting.”

She reached out to her former teammates in search of more capable rowing extras. Several rowers and coxswains from both Wayland and Weston signed up to be extras in the film. Sophomore Max Markarian and seniors Madison Schofield and Riley Reynolds signed up as well as Darcy Foreman, a WHS class of 2021 graduate.

“I thought [being an extra] was fun,” Reynolds said. “It was really interesting to see the behind the scenes process and be like, ‘all of my favorite films are probably created in a similar way.’”

Not only was the experience of being in the movie enlightening towards the process of filmmaking, but it also gave the actors a chance to meet new people.

“There were a whole bunch of kids from all different crew teams,” Schofield said. “I met people from Shrewsbury and St. Mark’s where they filmed.”

While participating in the movie was surreal for many, Morneweck’s experience was extra out of the ordinary, especially compared to acting that she had done in the past.

“It was really fun,” Morneweck said. “I had personal assistants. It was so surreal. They would spray me with sweat for the work out and running scenes and they would fix my hair and sometimes puff me with powder between takes.”

Professional makeup was not the only difference Morneweck experienced from high school plays. During filming, she had to make a number of changes in the way she thought about the acting process.

“With theater, you can really connect with your character before,” Morneweck said. “You have all these rehearsals, you really get to connect with your other actors. With film, I met them the day we were filming.”

Morneweck also found that things could get repetitive and tiring when filming, especially during more demanding scenes.

“You’d have to do the scene over and over again, so if it was emotionally taxing, you had to keep that up for a long period of time,” Morneweck said.

She found that there were, however, some perks to acting for films that theater just couldn’t provide.

“The short term memory for lines, that was really cool,” Morneweck said. “I could just look at the script and do it, whereas with theater you need that long term memory, you need to remember for months.”

Now that filming is done, all that is left for the actors to do is wait. Morneweck says that viewers can expect the film to be finished sometime this spring or possibly in the early summer, but they are going to have to hang on a little longer before they can see it. First, the movie will likely be entered into a few film festivals. After that, the goal is to get the film to be picked up by a streaming service. Although Morneweck has a long wait until she gets to see the finished product, she has plenty to look forward to.

“There’s going to be a premiere, so I’ll be wearing my prom dress and I’ll see everybody again after a year of not seeing them,” she said. “I’m really excited to see the premiere. That’ll be a celebration for sure.”

As for the even more distant future, Morneweck isn’t set on becoming a movie star as her sole career, but she plans to keep acting.

“I am very much trying to figure out what I want to do in college and everything but I definitely want to keep theater a part of my life.” Morneweck said.

This story was originally published on Wayland Student Press on December 6, 2022.