Honor Society's Amy Keum And Armani Jackson Share Set Stories And More - Exclusive Interview

We all know the typical high school trope — the popular jock falls in love with the pretty yet overlooked girl in the jazz band, while the nerdy math kids prove to the school that they're really into theater and the theater kids decide that science is actually the way to their hearts. Crossing the perceived stereotypes that plague high school is a story that's been told time and time again, and while we're grateful for our "Mean Girls" and "High School Musical" years, we're ready for a new telling of the pressures of high school and the challenges that young people face on a daily basis — all with a sense of authenticity woven into the story. Cue "Honor Society," a Paramount+ original film that's set to drop on July 29. 

Starring Angourie Rice, Gaten Matarazzo, Armani Jackson, and Amy Keum, "Honor Society" follows Rice's Honor Rose, a determined student set to take down her academic competition — the other three stars of the film — in her unbridled attempt to get into Harvard. What ensues, however, is a touching, twisting, and surprising story of friendship, dedication, and staying true to yourself. It's the high school story we didn't know we wanted, but absolutely needed, especially given that those years between freshman and senior homeroom are some of the most transformative in a person's life.

Ahead of the film's premiere, we sat down with Jackson and Keum — who bring Travis and Kennedy to life, respectively — for an exclusive interview to chat about the film, their previous work in "Evil" and "Ready Player One," and what it was like to bring a new era of the high school student to the screen.

Amy and Armani discuss breaking the high school stereotypes on screen

It's so refreshing to see these top four students — the characters played by yourselves, Angourie Rice, and Gaten Matarazzo — all achieving while also not playing into the high school stereotypes that we've seen on screen for so long. I'd love to talk to you about the important diversity that's brought to the screen and also about your own character's doubts and insecurities.

Amy Keum: That's one of the things I loved so much about the script. Right off the bat, we're set up with people that are possibly at the four opposite corners of school and that high school culture. One, it's really beautiful. For myself, I enjoyed the challenge of presenting a character that seems so one thing, but over the course of the film, really opens up and gets to go after what she's most passionate about with all abandon. 

One thing I love about our film, too, is the genuine friendships that form out of that — of taking an interest in someone else that is nothing like you, and that maybe you would never even think you would end up in the same room together, but [you] all end up creating something quite beautiful.

Armani Jackson: A lot of people, they go to high school, and you feel like you have to get a recommendation, or you have to get to a certain point academically or in your career, your future. But high school's a place to grow and find out who you are. There's this aura around it that feels so, "Oh, I need to be a certain way." It's a nice film to show that high school might feel scary, and it might feel like you're scrambling to get things together, but really it's more about finding out who you are in those younger years.

The actors dish about their experiences in Evil and Ready Player One

You both had some amazing work take place in your careers — Armani with "Ready Player One" and Amy with "Evil." How did those projects, specifically, help you get to this point and to this film?

Armani: Every project I've done in my life has helped me on the next one. Every time you work on anything, you learn something new. I'm glad to have been in the position that I was in when I played this role. It's a great time for me to play a role like this, in my opinion. I've done a lot of dramas. I've never really played a role like this, as heartfelt and important in a story like that, so this is the perfect time for me to do a role like this ... 

I want to hit every genre. I want to do everything. There's so many different types of films, different types of shows. Why not? Why not try them all at least once?

Amy: Absolutely. For myself, as well, every job plays a small part in leading to the next. Even for this particular role, I have a lot of background in musical theater. It was actually quite fun and helpful to be able to bring that kind of knowledge into the rehearsal — not even just the rehearsal room. It felt like a rehearsal room being back in theater club. Being on set and getting to feel a little more at home, [I was] like, "I know what this space is. I lived this. This is what it's like to be at rehearsal. This is how I'd move through the space and how I'd interact with people." Those experiences definitely did inform my work in the film.

Amy and Armani reveal the supportive on-set experience of Honor Society

Are there any behind-the-scenes stories or standout moments that you would like to share? 

Armani: Let's see — there's definitely a few.

Amy: One of my favorite off-screen moments ... This isn't a funny one; it's just one that is seared into my memory in the best way. [I'm] not going to spoil what it is. But the presentation at the end — pretty much everyone, even if they weren't called on set that day, myself included, decided to stick around and literally sit on the ground and watch what was going on. It was hours and hours. We must have stayed until — I don't know, 11:00 p.m. or something like that. It was the best, getting to watch our co-stars — Armani being one of them — absolutely killing it and giving the performance of a lifetime. That's one of my favorite memories.

Armani: There were a lot of characters who weren't supposed to be attending, based on how their characters ended. They weren't supposed to be there to support. But in real life, they were there to support. Because deep down, we all wanted to watch each other do our thing.

"Honor Society" debuts on Paramount+ on July 29.

This interview was edited for clarity.