Snail Mail Has A Mind-Bending Take On The I Saw The TV Glow Ending

And why the film’s ultimately about FOMO.

Summer horror movies require a special sort of je ne sais quois, and that’s the case for A24’s latest blockbuster bid, I Saw The TV Glow, released on May 3. The second film by rising director Jane Schoenbrun tells the troubled coming-of-age story of ‘90s teens Owen and Maddy and their relationship to a mysterious show called The Pink Opaque. But more than just an emotional thriller, it’s a music extravaganza — with a killer retro-leaning soundtrack by Alex G (featuring songs from Caroline Polachek, Jay Som, and more), and major cameos by Phoebe Bridgers and Snail Mail’s Lindsey Jordan, who makes her acting debut as Tara, a character in The Pink Opaque.

As Jordan describes it, the role fell into her lap serendipitously. She had just told her manager she wanted to begin exploring acting opportunities when she suddenly received offers to audition for two different films — one of them being Schoenbrun’s I Saw The TV Glow. “It genuinely felt like a weird little miracle,” she tells NYLON. On release day, NYLON caught up with the musician to chat about the experience, her preparation for playing the film’s Buffy-like character, and her thoughts on the film’s controversial ending — so major spoilers ahead.

Congrats on the film’s release! How are you feeling about it?

I feel great. I've seen it now twice, the final cut, and I saw an early cut of it a year ago, so I've seen two different iterations of it. I love it, but I might need a little time before I go again. The last time I saw it, I was like, "Jesus Christ. It's really heavy."

It’s hard to visualize what the movie will look like when you’re filming. Were you surprised at all by the end product?

[When I got] the script, it honestly took me a couple reads to really get it, what it all means, and the ending. One of the first days I was shooting, they had an ice cream truck where there was pink smoke coming out of it and green light inside. I saw that, and I was like, “Ah, I'm starting to get an idea of what this movie looks like in my head.” [But] seeing it, I was really surprised. I genuinely feel it's unlike anything else I've ever seen. It reminds me of something that if I wasn't in it, I'd be obsessed with it.

Your character, Tara, is like the movie’s version of Buffy The Vampire slayer. Did you have a strategy for bringing her to life?

Yes and no. Mostly, the character is a badass. What you see on the screen, the scenes where I'm being tough, is very one-dimensional. I watched a lot of YouTube videos about acting. But the rest, I spent so much time writing. We were on tour in Europe, so I was in a van with a bunch of people and couldn't say [my lines] out loud, so I was writing them down and trying to figure out how a human would say them so it doesn't sound weird and unnatural.

It's actually insanely hard running the same lines back and forth in your head for months, because I was like, "At this point, I don't even know if this sounds good or not." There was one [line] like, “Estee Lauder called. They said, 'You need to go get a new look.'" That was the first line I delivered on camera in my life. I also had an ax trick that I was supposed to do, that got cut, because I couldn't really do it. [It was] just trying to make everything sound like Buffy, iconic and not cheesy, but in all the right ways. Like porn acting, basically.

What was the most challenging part of this experience for you?

Doing all of the emotional work. There's pop scenes, where I'm saying lines that are catchy and fun, and then there's a couple little emotional moments. Working with Helena [Howard], the other girl in The Pink Opaque, she's such a talented actress. I was like, “Well, she's locked in. I can try to lock in with her.” And then, when we did, I was like, "Wow, this feels awesome."

Jordan as Tara (left), and Helena Howard as Isobel (right).A24

That's really interesting because your music is so emotional. When you were doing those scenes, did you feel any similarities to performing?

I think playing shows is way more theater-y than I would ever have assumed until I started doing it professionally. The songs are really emotional, and people in the crowd are really connected. Sometimes, you're playing a stinky club on a Wednesday night in Ohio, and the record came out two years ago, and the ex-girlfriend could burn in hell at this point, I don't care. [But] I want to play the songs with conviction, I don't want people in the crowd to think I'm just phoning it in. So it is a lot of channeling. So it was similar. It wasn't the easiest transition ever, but I definitely felt like, "Okay, let me think of something really sad."

Did Jane give you any pointers? How was it working with them?

They were extremely helpful and patient. Things moved really fast, so we didn't do a million shots of anything, but they helped me into the zone. Even at the second round of auditions, they were spending a good amount of time helping me craft my delivery, just for the audition. They were like, "Oh my God, you're so close. If you just think of it like this, instead of like this ..." They were a comforting force on set, very nonjudgmental, and just sweet and patient. I was not expecting that on a movie set.

Since the movie has come out, people are already discussing how the film touches themes like gender dysphoria, and fandom. When you read the script, what resonated with you the most?

I feel like the movie is about the FOMO of never discovering yourself and how much that can ruin your life. I totally identify with that. I'm constantly trying to weigh the things in my life, like, "Am I being true to myself enough to enjoy life to its fullest extent?" That's one of my morbid thoughts. I have been watching that movie over and over again, and being like, "F*ck, I feel like it touches me personally."

I feel like for LGBT people, it's a thought process that you have to go through: “Do I want to keep everything peaceful and not be my truest self, or do I just murder my whole life right now?” The takeaway for me is those decisions are insanely important. When [Owen is] working in the arcade, and he cuts himself open, and everything is so bleak and miserable, it's like, shit. Maybe if he had become who he was supposed to, he wouldn't be living the bleakest life ever.

Do you have thoughts about the ending? It's been pretty divisive for the people who've seen it.

I think personally... If I say my interpretation of it, I won't get in trouble? I really think, when you're watching The Pink Opaque, I think that the ones in the show are actually the people. And when they're sentenced to the Midnight Realm, in the show, and the show mysteriously ends, I think Hell is the real world. That's why I think Owen’s true form is a woman. They're literally, pretty much sentenced to Hell, or purgatory. I don't know. I've been thinking about this for over a year now.

‘I Saw The TV Glow’ is out now in theaters.