New York University's independent student newspaper, established in 1973.

Washington Square News

New York University's independent student newspaper, established in 1973.

Washington Square News

New York University's independent student newspaper, established in 1973.

Washington Square News

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Beyond NYU: When music meets ‘Mean Girls’

Steinhardt sophomore Mahi Alam marked his big debut on the silver screen with the musical remake of the iconic early 2000s film “Mean Girls.”
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Tina Fey, Angourie Rice and Mahi Alam from Mean Girls. (Image via IMDb)

Steinhardt sophomore Mahi Alam grew up watching the cult classic “Mean Girls,” but now he’s taking his relationship to the movie a step further. In just his first year at NYU, Alam landed the role of mathlete Kevin Ganatra, better known as “Kevin G.” in the musical remake of the 2004 film.

The newly released “Mean Girls” musical has consistently ranked in the top six at the box office since its release on Jan. 12. The movie was originally going to be released directly into streaming until Paramount decided to release the film in theaters — a rare decision in an increasingly streaming-based industry, but one that gave Alam his first experience on the silver screen.

Alam first began auditioning for films and television shows when he was in high school, and has landed work on shows like NBC’s “New Amsterdam.” Though acting has been a huge part of Alam’s life, his true passion has always been music, which eventually led him to study music technology at the Steinhardt School of Culture, Education, and Human Development. Having grown up surrounded by singers, Alam said the art form is a crucial part of his family’s dynamic and connection to one another.

In an interview with WSN, Alam spoke about the beginning of his acting career, his passion for music and becoming Kevin G. 

This interview has been edited for length and clarity.

WSN: How have you built your career as an actor?

Alam: I began just slowly building my resume. My first-ever gig that I did in terms of acting was this small Facebook original web series called Strangers.” Then, I did another small project called “Hungry.” Then, in 11th grade, I did “New Amsterdam” on NBC, and that was an amazing experience as well. I’d say my biggest work in terms of my acting career was a Disney+ show called “American Born Chinese.” I got to play the best friend of a main character. That was an amazing experience on its own. Then after that, I started getting more auditions for movies.

Growing up in Bangladesh, Alam has always had a love for music, as his brother and father were both singers. When his family moved to New York City in 2010, Alam attended the Professional Performing Arts High School in midtown Manhattan, where he found himself branching out from Bengali music to Western music and, unexpectedly, acting.

WSN: What has this entire “Mean Girls” experience been like for you? 

Alam: It’s been pretty bizarre. This is my first movie that I’ve ever done. In terms of the actual process of shooting it, it was insane. Most of my scenes were with Tina Fey, who’s such a legendary actress and the writer of “Mean Girls.” I was very lucky to have basically most of my scenes with Tina Fey, as she was the math teacher and I was the mathlete. I’d say I was definitely less experienced than a lot of the people that were acting over there, but they all made me feel at home. 

Alam started shooting for “Mean Girls” in February 2023 and was on set until June 2023. The movie was shot in New Jersey, which gave Alam flexibility to visit his family back home often. However, he still had to take a leave of absence from the spring semester, as he also had to do previously to shoot “American Born Chinese.”

WSN: What led you to study music technology at NYU? 

Alam: I’d say my strongest suit in music would probably be vocal performance. Obviously I need to improve in that area, but not as much as I want to improve in production. I’ve always wanted to make and produce my own music, and music technology is a really, really great program for that. The music industry is a lot harder to break into than the acting industry, so that’s why I did a lot more acting in high school. It just made sense to do actual work within the acting industry because I still have a lot to learn within the music industry — that’s why I’m here at NYU.

After releasing two songs as a teenager called “Just Maybe” and “Addiction,” Alam has strived to make higher-quality music as an adult. He said that he has written and composed about seven songs and is working to develop his image beyond acting, as a singer and songwriter. Alam said his favorite class he’s taken at NYU is Computer Music Synthesis, where students make music and give and receive feedback from one another and the professor. 

WSN: What does it mean to you that you can play Kevin G. in “Mean Girls?” 

Alam: This was probably my biggest challenge as an actor just because the movie in itself is a cult classic. A lot of people do love Kevin G. because he is one of the few brown figures in that movie — he’s so iconic. I just knew that it would be pretty much impossible filling his shoes.

Contact Aashna Miharia at [email protected].

About the Contributor
Aashna Miharia, Deputy News Editor
Aashna Miharia is a first-year studying journalism and public policy with a minor in business studies. She’s from the Boston area and a novelist, coffee enthusiast and lover of independent bookstores. You can usually find her listening to an audiobook while wandering around New York City or on Instagram @aashnamiharia.
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