Abby Ryder Fortson was three years old when she decided she wanted to follow her parents into acting. Lots of kids say they want to do what their parents do, but she actually did.
By the age of four.
“My parents would go into their auditions and I would sit on the casting director’s couch, and one day I kind of just went up to them after their audition and I said, ‘Hey, when can I do this?’” Fortson tells MovieMaker. “So they got me with their agent and it kind of spiraled from there. I’m really lucky to have two actor parents who have always been there to support me and coach me on whatever project I take on.”
Abby Ryder Fortson, who is now 14, stars in Kelly Fremon Craig’s new adaptation of Judy Blume’s 1970 coming-of-age novel Are You There God? It’s Me, Margaret as 13-year-old Margaret Simon. She holds her own alongside actors like Kathy Bates, who plays her grandma, Rachel McAdams, who plays her mom, and Benny Safdie, who plays her dad.
Fortson’s parents are Christie Lynn Smith, known for General Hospital, A Girl Named Jo, and Station 19, and John Fortson, whose credits include Days of Our Lives, ER, and My Big Fat Independent Movie.
Does She Look Familiar? Here’s Where You’ve Seen Abby Ryder Fortson Before
She starred alongside her parents in Rated, a 2016 short written and directed by her dad, and her own list of credits includes playing young Cassie Lang alongside Paul Rudd in 2015’s Ant-Man and 2018’s Ant-Man and the Wasp. She was also in the country music drama Forever My Girl and the comedy-drama A Dog’s Journey alongside Dennis Quaid, and she’s done her fair share of TV, too, appearing in episodes of The Mindy Project, Transparent, The Whispers, Togetherness, Tales From the Loop, and Room 104, as well as voicing Priscilla in Trolls: The Beat Goes On! and TrollsTopia.
The gravity of playing the titular character in Are You There God? It’s Me, Margaret is not lost on her.
“As soon as I got the call back for Margaret and I read the script, I read the book as well, and I was immediately struck by how truthful and how open it was about all the different issues that a lot of people go through during puberty and being a teenager,” she says. “I realized why it was such a popular book that touched so many people’s lives.”
Published in 1970, Are You There God? It’s Me, Margaret has been a pivotal read for countless adolescents throughout the last five decades. Fortson’s mom is one of them.
“My mom read the book when she was younger than I am now,” Abby Ryder Fortson says. “It really made an impact on her life, and I just feel really honored to be able to reach out to a new generation of people who can be affected by Margaret’s story and who can connect to it.”
During the making of the movie, Fortson got to talk with Blume herself — especially about one famous scene from the book.
“She was on set for about six weeks, and it was such an incredible experience. She is the nicest person you will ever meet. She taught us all how to do that ‘I must increase my bust!’ thing correctly, because we were doing it wrong,” Fortson says.
Making a film set in the 1970s has inspired her to look for more period roles. She’d also love to work with Greta Gerwig — and also follow in her footsteps by transitioning to a writer-director one day.
“I want to do something set in the 1800s,” she says. “I want to play more strong, awesome women. I want to really be able to share these stories of women who make their own way…. I want to be able to keep empowering young people. I would also love to try directing and writing one day. That’s a big dream of mine.”
Are You There God? It’s Me, Margaret arrives in theaters on April 28.
A version of this story first appeared in the Spring 2023 issue of MovieMaker Magazine.
Main Image: Abby Ryder Fortson. Photo credit: Ben Cope