The world has fallen in love with Paula, Dorothea, and Deirdre, the three adorable grandmas who overcame their generational fears of weed and got high in a viral video that’s amassed more than 7 million views since it landed on the internet on Wednesday. The delightful footage shows them getting high for the first time ever, coming at a time when Americans are increasingly in favor of weed legalization, New York City is reforming its measures for weed-related offenses, and the push for medical pot is gaining momentum by the day. ANIMAL spoke with Mike Gaston, the director behind the viral video. Gaston is in the process of releasing a follow-up video, which interviews the women, sober, and explores the stigmas that prevented them from ever trying cannabis before. The following interview has been edited for clarity and length.
ANIMAL: What inspired you to make this video?
Mike Gaston: One of the things that we noticed was that the whole national debate surrounding the legalization of marijuana was still very big, and we thought, what better way to get people to reflect on some of the absurdities surrounding U.S. legacy laws around marijuana?
Where did you find the grandmas?
[Finding grandmas who had never smoked weed] was the hardest part of this whole thing. The first thing we thought was, “Let’s call our grandmas.” Well, it turns out that all of our grandmas have smoked weed. Then we’re like, “So, let’s ask our friends’ grandmas.” They too have smoked weed. After asking tons of peoples’ grandmothers whether or not they had smoked weed, we finally had go to a talent agency. Even then it was difficult! We’d meet grandmas who’d claimed they’d never smoked weed, but after just a little bit of grilling, it was clear that they had, but like 40 years before.
We finally got two grandmas that were perfect, who had never smoked weed before. The third one was actually the mom of one of the directors of [a talent agency], because it was so hard finding someone who never smoked weed. It was really difficult. The one in the middle was also probably the most apprehensive. Towards the end, she was like, “I dunno…” I don’t think it was really the effect of the weed as much as it was the stigma surrounding it from people of her generation. Blaine [Lundy, producer and weed expert] actually called her and was like, “Listen, we’re a real company, there are going to be a lot of people there, we have EMTs, we just want to make it a fun, safe environment. If you smoke once and that’s all you want to do, that’s it.” I mean, she took several hits off the bong and then she went at the vaporizer a couple of times, too. I was really impressed with her.
What kind of weed were they smoking?
The weed, the name of it is Lavender. When we were looking at it, we were like, “Let’s find something that they can ease into, not the type of thing we’re going to give them and they’re going to freak out.” Here’s the thing: If they had never drank alcohol before, I wouldn’t have made them do a ton of shots all at once, either, you know? Let’s let them feel it and be happy, and that’s about it.
What was in the vaporizer?
Just ground up weed.
Did you have a favorite grandma?
It’s so hard to have favorites. All three of those grandmas were awesome. But I have to say that my surprise favorite was Paula. She’s the one who everyone thinks was already the big pot head; the one on the left who kind of took charge. Because she was really, really quiet and nervous beforehand. But as soon as the cameras were on and she took her first hit, she just kind of ran the show. Those three ladies were analogs for the Golden Girls. Paula was definitely our Dorothy.
How much did they end up smoking?
I’m not sure of the exact amount, but not a huge amount. They each took more than a few bong hits. They went at the vaporizer. We actually bought a fair amount of weed, but we didn’t use any of the joints we got because they didn’t want to smoke any joints. They were really concerned about coughing really hard.
Do you think a video like this can change attitudes and stigmas surrounding weed?
When we made it, it wasn’t because we really had a political statement to make. But I will say that what we wanted to do was just have people reflect on those stigmas and kind of take a look on it honestly. Are we being concerned about the right thing? Having totally average, normal grandmas smoking weed for the first time and witnessing what they went through and kind of seeing how incredibly tame and fun it was, it does make you rethink some stuff. Honestly, people write think pieces about this. I would love to hear what other people have to say after watching this video.
A lot of people say that weed is a gateway drug. Do you know if the grandmas went on to do harder drugs that night?
[Laughter] No, no. It was pretty funny, because I’m working on the edits of the pre-pot interview, where we ask them why they’ve never smoked weed before. It was funny to hear their expectations of what it would be like. Dorothea actually expected that she was going to see colors, and the other ladies were like, “Are you sure you’re not thinking about acid? You might be in the wrong room.”
We did ask them afterwards if they’d ever do it again. Paula was purely a yes, Deirdre was kind of on the fence, and I think that was really depending on what the situation would be like. Dorothea, the one in the middle, actually said that it would be unlikely that she would do it again because it’s not what she expected.
Oh, that’s interesting.
She actually expected it would be more like an acid high.
Right, which is kind of a throwback to reefer madness or decades of propaganda.
Oh, absolutely. One of the reasons they never did it is because they were told it was the gateway drug. But then she goes, “We know that’s not true anymore.”
Are you shocked that it’s reached more than 6 million views in less than 24 hours?
Yeah, it’s one of those things where we shot this and I was like, “Oh I think this is going to do well,” but when you’re in a shoot, you can never tell if the fun in the shoot is going to translate to the edit. I remember that after the shoot, I tell one of the grandmas, “I’m pretty sure this is going to end up on Jezebel.” I forgot that I was talking to grandmas. They were all like, “Jezebel? I don’t know if I want to be on a site called Jezebel!”
It was pretty incredible. Dorothea — who I let her know yesterday that she’s everywhere now — she goes, “My granddaughter just told me that the video went viral,” and she was excited. “If I had known it was going to be like this…feel free to use my name now.”
(Photos: Mike Gaston)