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'Mean Girls' star Jonathan Bennett: 'Almost every day I get recognized as Aaron Samuels'

"Mean Girls" actor Jonathan Bennett reminisced about working with Lindsay Lohan and Tina Fey — and re-created the movie's catchphrases — in an interview with TODAY.
/ Source: TODAY

Fans of the movie know that Oct. 3 is "Mean Girls" Day — a reference to the much-quoted scene in which Cady (Lindsay Lohan) is asked by crush Aaron Samuels what day it is.

But for Jonathan Bennett, who played Aaron in the 2004 teen movie, every day is "Mean Girls" Day.

"For the last 15 years, almost every day, I get recognized as Aaron Samuels, whether it's the person at Starbucks writing 'Aaron Samuels' on your cup before they give it to you and I'm, like, 'My name's Jonathan,' or people yelling 'grool' or 'fetch' or 'Your hair looks sexy pushed back' on the street," he told TODAY. "Like, everywhere you go, someone calls you Aaron Samuels. I don't know what it's like not to be, I guess. Like, I don't remember what it's like waking up and having that not happen."

As for filming with Lohan, Bennett recalled, "Lindsay would get really nervous before takes sometimes. And it was cute because she was only 16. You're kind of at that age where you're awkward and you have fidgety things and you're tugging on your sweater all the time. She wanted to text her friends and be a girl. She was a kid."

MEAN GIRLS, from left: Jonathan Bennett, Lindsay Lohan, 2004.
Everett Collection

He added that it was daunting to work with Tina Fey, who wrote the film and co-starred as calculus teacher Ms. Norbury, as a young actor.

"Tina Fey is the best there is," he said. "Picture you've never really worked in Hollywood, and the first movie you have to go on set and say lines to in a comedy, having done no comedy, you're with Lorne Michaels and Tina Fey. Like, what do you do? You're just always nervous that you're not good enough."

He also credits Fey with starting a conversation about bullying in high schools with the movie's message.

"As a kid growing up in Ohio, I would have liked Tina to write this a lot earlier," said Bennett, who was 22 when the movie was released. "And I've had so many fans come up to me or message me or write me about how much this movie impacted them, just by bringing awareness to it and talking about it. And actually just acknowledging the fact that mean girls exist. Right there when you acknowledge that, that's what starts change."

MEAN GIRLS, Jonathan Bennett, Rachel McAdams, 2004.
Everett Collection

Bennett said his character, who famously "only cared about school, his mom and his friends," was easy to relate to — even though their extracurriculars were different.

"I think my favorite part about playing Aaron Samuels is he was so far off from who I was," Bennett said. "Like, I grew up a theater nerd and a drama club nerd. And here I am, getting to play what I always wanted to be, which is, like, the cool jock guy. And I remember Tina wrote a note after the movie to me saying something along the lines of, "Great work, great acting. I know it's not easy being jocksy all the time."

Just in time for Oct. 3, Bennett has released "The Burn Cookbook: Real Recipes to Feed Your Inner Plastic," a movie-inspired cookbook that's full of fetch food ideas.

Nearly 15 years later, Bennett has an idea for where Aaron and Cady would be now.

"Aaron would've finished college and they would've definitely sold all their belongings and moved to Mykonos."