West Haven teen Nora Mullins lands role in ‘Eighth Grade’ movie, uses it to raise money for her principal
Just when you thought West Haven singing and acting wonderteen Nora Mullins might have a hard time topping her 2015 gig singing in the Obama White House, there she is — up on the silver screen.
Mullins, now 14 and about to enter her sophomore year at West Haven High School, has a significant role in one of the most talked-about movie releases of the summer, “Eighth Grade,” which opened in select theaters on July 13 and opened nationwide on Aug. 3.
The film is a comedy-drama, written and directed by comedian Bo Burnam. The movie follows an eighth-grader, played by Elsie Fisher, who struggles to finish her last week of classes before starting her freshman year in high school. Nora plays the role of “Steph.”
It’s her first movie role.
Nora and her friends and family will celebrate on Aug. 14 with a private premier screening at 7 p.m. at the Bow Tie Criterion Cinemas, 86 Temple St. in New Haven. You are invited.
But if you know Nora, you know she’s pretty humble and never just about promoting herself.
So in an effort to make it more than just about her, the premier will be a benefit for WHHS Principal Pamela Bellmore Gardner, who is battling a rare form of cancer.
In June of 2017, Gardner was diagnosed with neuroendocrine tumor, a rare cancer found in her stomach. She has been going through treatments since last July — with the strong support of her hundreds of students, their families and the West Haven community at large.
There is no guarantee that tickets will be available at the door.
Nora is the daughter of West Haveners Jean and Steven R. Mullins — and the older sister of Christian Mullins, who made news last year when he was offered a key role, first in the traveling production and later in the Broadway production, of “Kinky Boots.”
Christian Mullins still is performing on Broadway, according to their mother.
“I think it’s pretty amazing. We’re pretty proud to be a part of this,” said Nora’s mother, Jean Mullins.
“The message that the movie portrays is really a good message,” and the things it promotes — the need to combat bullying, be yourself and stand up for yourself — are “all things that we want young girls and young people to be able to do,” she said.
“Eighth Grade” is Director Burnham’s directorial debut, and “I don’t think he anticipated how big it was going to be,” Jean Mullins said. “Eighth Grade,” which has been critically acclaimed, currently has a 99 percent rating on RottenTomatoes.com.
Nora said that she’s thrilled by the way things have worked out with the movie.
“I’m really excited because of the message that it gives,” Nora said. “I’m really excited for the people in my age group and lower to see it.
“It’s a really good movie,” she said, and “it’s a pretty good role. I’m in a few scenes.”
How did this happen?
“I have an agent,” Nora said. The people booking talent have access to a website with photographs and descriptions of actors, and when they came across Nora, they apparently found something they were looking for, she said.
“So they called me in for an audition and within two days, they called me to come in and start filming,” she said.
Nora said her first movie role “was a lot different” from what she thought it might be going in. “I thought you’d have to learn lines.” But she said she was surprised “because you have to improvise so it sounds like you.
“I was surprised by how much you had to improvise,” she said.
The finished movie, which Nora has seen twice already, “is just a lot different from when you’re on set,” she said. “It’s just really different because it didn’t look anything like it did when they were filming it.”
The idea to make the premier a benefit for Gardner was Nora’s, said Jean Mullins.
“Nora is very humble and didn’t want this get-together or viewing to be about her,” she said. “So it was her idea to do it, and then make it about someone else.”
Said Nora: “I had the idea to show the movie and raise money for it at the same time, because a lot of people want to see it. I’m hoping that the outcome will be good.”
The profits, beyond the $8 per ticket that the theater charges, go to Gardner, Nora said.
Nora and her family and supporters are also selling “Pam Strong” bracelets to benefit Gardner, she said. To order a “Pam Strong” bracelet, call Nora’s father at 203-824-4262.