To many, Jamie Lee Curtis is known as the “Scream Queen” — an honorary title the iconic Halloween actress leaned into with her role on the actual dark comedy TV series Scream Queens. Of course, Curtis is far more than the sum of her seminal slasher flicks. She’s also a mom, writer, activist, photographer, children’s book author, podcast producer, and lifelong fan of sleepaway camp. The latter two items on that ever-growing list are, in case you missed it, related. Today marks the premiere of the third (and final, *sob*) season of the scripted young adult Audible Original podcast Letters from Camp, which Curtis produces and stars in.
An engrossing mix of comedy and heartfelt coming-of-age themes, Letters From Camp takes place over a series of 2000s summers when a girl by the name of Mookie Hooper gets coerced by her mom into attending Camp Cartwright. As endearing as she is awkward at the start, Mookie turns camp into an excuse to sharpen her budding journalistic skills. Little does she know, she’ll uncover much more than mystery during her summers away from home.
Scary Mommy had the opportunity to chat with Curtis about the creation of this unique storytelling content for adolescents — and, as she tells it, it felt destined to come together from the start.
“About four years ago, I received a letter from one of my best friends in New York, Lisa Birnbach, and inside the envelope was another envelope. It was sealed and smaller, and it had ‘Jamie’ written in sort of child’s curly-q. I opened it up; it was an unsent letter from Boco C. Haft from her Kamp Kohut days,” shares Curtis. Haft, her goddaughter, was 12 at the time, writing to lament some drama she’d gotten into while at sleepaway camp.
Curtis immediately recognized the magic. She says, “[Boco] was, at this point, 26 and living in L.A. as a comedy writer. I called her up and said, ‘Boco, I got your letter from camp, and this is a show … We’re gonna do this show, and you’re going to write it.’ And that’s how it began.”
From there, the true industrious team spirit of summer camp seemed to take over, with everyone involved pitching in to make the production happen. “As soon as we understood who the characters were, we started reaching out to actors, and every single actor — every single actor — said yes to this from the first moment they got asked. It’s just the way this thing came together,” explains Jamie, calling the finished result “an absolute dream.”
It’s certainly a dream team. In addition to Haft writing and Curtis producing and playing Director Sue, the podcast stars Adam Sandler’s daughter Sunny Sandler as the voice of Mookie. Other all-star vocal performances over the course of the three seasons include Edi Patterson, Kirby Howell-Baptiste, Jake Gyllenhaal (another one of Curtis’ godchildren), Daniel Radcliffe, and Season 3 newcomer Jacob Tremblay.
And, well, that last addition throws our favorite socially awkward camper for a loop this year.
“[Mookie] gets bitten by the love bug when a new camper shows up, a young man named Tallahassee Goldman, played by Jacob Tremblay. Young Tallahassee Goldman catches not only Mookie’s eye, but all of the girls’ eyes, and he becomes the focus of their life,” says Curtis. “And, all those girls then start talking about all of their experiences.”
Although that chatter turns out to be a classic case of preteen girls posturing and trying to one-up each other, Mookie — who’s never had a boyfriend — begins to feel less than. It’s one of many relatable adolescent moments in the podcast centered on the oh-so-familiar emotional tightrope walk of growing up.
“We get to watch that happen as Mookie has to now wrestle with this idea of another opportunity that will take her away from camp and away from Tal. Or does she just lean in toward Tal? It’s just that beautiful conundrum that happens with first love, and it’s so sweet and lovely,” explains Curtis.
Season 3, like the two seasons before it, doesn’t shy away from discussing mature topics that affect preteens. From divorce to sexuality and gender, it’s all woven into the narrative.
“It’s important to talk about it within a safe space. I think that Letters From Camp touches on these issues in a very real and healthy way,” says Curtis. “We can’t make a show and fake our way through like nobody’s going to have feelings for anybody. Then it’s like a cartoon and just doesn’t have any heart and emotion. The reality is that the world is a much different place, and there are safe spaces for people to explore this stuff.”
Of course, parents today are acutely aware of one major difference between preteens now and preteens during Mookie’s 2000s era: social media. When asked how intentional it was for the podcast to be set prior to TikTok and other preteen-gripping platforms, Curtis doesn’t mince words.
“It was crucial. It was the only way we could do it. I have a fairly strong stance about social media and kids, and it’s dangerous,” she says, emphasizing, “We wanted to go back to the innocence of camp. We wanted to go back to the time when camp was an opportunity to try on new outfits, new hats, new personalities.”
In fact, that idea of explorative reinvention surfaced in a pretty special way early in the podcast’s production. When Audible contracted an artist to create illustrations for Letters From Camp, he felt inspired by the messaging. Reveals Curtis, “The first time he drew the camp logo, he — without anything from Boco and only based on the shows that were written — made the camp logo have the camp motto, ‘Be You.’ And that became then the rallying cry for the rest of the seasons, because that’s what camp is about: It’s an opportunity to be you! … There’s something so beautiful about that.”
Considering Letters From Camp has seen kids through two summers where many camps were shut down, Curtis hopes those who do get to go this year take full advantage of the freedom to be whoever they want to be.
“First of all, it’s a privilege to go to camp. There are a lot of kids living in a lot of cities who don’t get to go. That old-fashioned idea of going to sleepaway camp in the mountains is one filled with privilege, and for those of us who have had that opportunity, we’re lucky to have had it,” she tells us. “And going off to camp is a wonderful experience because you get this opportunity, as I said, to be a new version of you, to try on new things. And I think that’s what’s crucial.”
Curtis understands that not all children will get that opportunity. For parents of those kids, she suggests just doing your best to create camp-like adventures right at home. She knows people who’ve created their own version of summer camp by alternating whose house kids go to each week.
“You don’t have to have a campfire. You can still sing ‘The Cat Came Back.’ You can still sing ‘Boom Chicka Boom.’ There are recordings of kids’ camp songs. We can sleep outside! People forget that you don’t have to be in the mountains to sleep outside — just go in your backyard,” she says. “So, I do think for those who don’t get an opportunity to go to sleepaway camp, you can substitute it in your own communities.”
And, of course, you can always make Mookie, Director Sue, and the rest of the Camp Cartwright crew part of the fun. “There’s a show called Letters From Camp you can listen to as a group, and then you can talk about it and sing the same songs,” she hints with a smile. “It’s an auditory experience. It’s there for you.”
The third and final season of the Audible podcast ‘Letters From Camp’ is out, and Jamie Lee Curtis is opening up about the true beauty of playing Director Sue.Homepage, tweens & teens, TrendingScary Mommy