Teen Vogue article

‘I Am Not Okay With This’ Star Sophia Lillis Talks Netflix Show

“This is what I think high school is like—you know, besides the supernatural.”


Photography by Emman Montalvan

Sophia Lillis is a technicolor dream in a plaid trouser-and-shirt ensemble, a jaunty newsboy cap sitting atop her bright auburn hair. Throughout our conversation, her luminescent eyes widen with excitement often. Sitting here in the Beverly Hills sunshine at The London Hotel, one thing is immediately apparent: Lillis is truly an actress.

The warm, inviting grin I’m greeted with is a far cry from the characters she’s taken on most recently. As Beverly Marsh, she survives in the horror classic revivals It and It: Chapter Two, and as a young Amy Adams in the psychological thriller series Sharp Objects, she carves a space for herself as a conduit for characters who carry the burden of trauma through the storylines they experience. Her latest project, the comic-inspired series, I Am Not Okay With This, draws from previous Netflix successes in similar genres.

In Sophia’s’ starring role as Sydney Novak in I Am Not Okay With This, she plays a teen attempting to survive high school in the wake of her father’s suicide. Her mother is an additional source of conflict, through her barbed criticisms of Sydney, we see a human, imperfect expression of her own grief. Add to this the added responsibility of taking on more caretaking of her younger brother, a budding confusion and awareness about her sexuality and it’s easy to see why an increasingly chaotic and violent manifestation of early telekinetic superpowers is just another facet in the tumultuous life of Sydney.

For Sophia, the emergence of Sydney’s superpowers exists alongside the other events of her life, in the same world. “I feel like all of that is just one of her many, many troubles in her process of growing up. That’s what it’s like growing up, figuring out who you are, and what you want to be and who you like, who don’t like and all that sort of stuff, all meshes together and [her superpowers] are just one of them. It’s just about Sydney trying to grow up,” Sophia tells Teen Vogue.

In the universe of I Am Not Okay With This, it’s refreshing to see a problem like disappointing your overworked, grieving mother by forgetting to bring home the groceries, existing next to, say, exploding that grocery store with your telekinetic powers, carry the same level of importance. It’s a reality that’s much closer to what anyone might actually experience and feel if confronted with the supernatural. How is this impacting the people I love and care about? Is a much more immediate, authentic question than deciding if you’re going to be a supervillain, a hero, or beginning some kind of quest.

It’s this element that Lillis loved so much about portraying Sydney. “I loved her. She’s had all this thrown at her and I always feel so bad for her because she always tries to do her best and get through it by herself, and it’s inspiring, Sophia says.“Even though it never goes the way she wants it to, I really relate to her. And that’s how I act in that sense, what I put of myself in that character, that’s me if that was in her place.”

Sydney’s relationship with her power itself is similarly realistic, as she realizes how her emotional triggers, control and lack of control of her anger, set off the largely unwanted explosions of power she experiences. “That kind of anger was something that she couldn’t really control. She always says ‘I don’t know why I’m angry all the time,’ and ‘I’m trying so hard to control it.’ It’s what makes her more human. It’s something that’s just a part of her grieving process, just a lot of denial and a lot of suppressed anger that she doesn’t want to put on other people,” Sophia says.

With I Am Not Okay With This, identity, the usual (but not at all easy) questions of figuring out who you are, your likes, your dislikes, your sexuality, all carry the weight of real-life seriousness, with equally realistic moments of lightness, humor, and vulnerability. For Sydney, her superpowers are another part of this, bringing clarity, opening up of new friendships, and sparking self-realizations as she grows into her power.

“It’s something that I really wanted to portray because it’s a show that I wish I had before I started high school,” Sophia says. This is what I think high school is like—you know, besides the supernatural.”

SOURCE: TeenVogue.com

Posted by Veronique on March 4th, 2020
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