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Sophia Lillis is an "It" girl: an interview

Dec. 20, 2017
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Sophia Lillis is a high school student from New York City who also happens to be in the new Stephen King film, It. At only 15, she is working on huge projects with some of the biggest actors of this time. Still, she doesn’t seem fazed, saying that she manages to balance her social life and work. That’s especially impressive since many adults can’t do that, let alone a 15-year-old working actress.

I got the chance to talk with Sophia over the summer about acting, It, and what she likes to do when she isn’t on set. Sophia is such a talented young actress and is still incredibly humble and smart. With really cool projects coming up, she is definitely an It girl.

When did you start acting and how did you get into it?

I started acting, I think, when I was seven. Well, I was helping my step father for this film class a while ago and he needed someone to be in his student film. I reluctantly volunteered. I never really had a choice, but after I did it, I actually enjoyed it. I got signed up for an acting class and I’ve been doing it for a while now. One of the teachers I had in my acting class recommended me for this NYU film, The Lipstick Stain. That helped me to do other NYU films and led me to 37 and led me to all of the different stuff I’ve worked on. It brought me here!

Do you relate to Beverly’s character or story?

She is definitely someone I aspire to be. Her strength, her way of facing her fears, is something I’ve always wanted to have. When I read about her, I kind of got the sense that she was someone I could definitely look up to. I would be happy if I had any similarity to her.

How did you prepare for the role? Did you watch the TV movie or read the book?

I skimmed through the book and picked a few parts that either had Beverly in it or Beverly and the group. So I could kind of have an idea of who she is and her relationships. That helped me get into the role.

You are the only girl in the "Losers Club". Were you nervous to be the only girl in a cast of boys?

No, I was never really intimidated. We are all still young so there was never any difference between us. They called me the androgynous kid. They were very nice to me. The crew members, everybody, was so nice to work with. I totally forgot that there was this difference in gender. Nothing hostile, nothing bad.

Are you close with the boys?

Yes! We are very close. We got along together really well considering it was based in the eighties. So we didn’t use phones often, we were outside playing around and that actually led us to become very close. We still keep in touch. We have multiple group chats. And we still try to get together once in a while.

How long were you filming It?

Around three months. It was summer vacation and I was out of school. It was kind of like a summer camp.

Do you go to high school? Do you ever find it difficult to balance work and school?

I do! I go to a public high school in Times Square in Manhattan. It’s definitely a little difficult, but the school that I am in now is very open and very considerate. So they always send me my work and make sure I am on track. It was definitely hard to start with and it’s a hard thing to get used to, but once I got used to it, it has been good.

Do you go to a performing arts high school and study acting?

Yes I am! It is definitely good to learn while I am getting a lot of experience because of my acting career and my acting school in general. It is definitely a positive thing.

Has work and travel affected your social and personal life? Has being successful and famous affected you?

Well I wouldn’t say famous, thank you though! The whole school is very supportive, but it is definitely hard to hang out with my friends, so I try to do it as often as possible. I am definitely a little busy, but they are very nice and I always talk to them. It’s good, but it is a little hard.

When you were filming It, did you interact with Bill Skarsgard at all? Was it scary seeing him all dressed up as a clown?

Not really. We actually weren’t allowed to see him until we actually had a scene with him. So our fear would be raw and real. He’s a really nice guy so it was actually kind of funny looking at him. I mean, it was clown makeup on, but with his normal clothes. The first time I saw him, he was drinking water out of a straw because he couldn’t get his makeup messed up. He was just really nice to us, it was a good thing.

Are they including adults in the movie? Because the book is in two parts.

There are two parts, so it is all kids in the first movie and in the second part it is going to be all adults.

Bev has a really sad backstory. How did you prepare for that? How did you learn about that? Did the director help you with it?

I’m used to roles like that. I don’t know why, but there’s this pattern where I’ve always gotten these roles where there is something wrong with my family. My mom is either dead or abusive or my father is either dead or abusive. It’s so strange. My mom is right next to me and she’s a very nice person, I would think. There is nothing wrong with my family. I kind of have experience with that.

Are you working on anything currently, now that It is over?

Yes I am working on this HBO series. I’m a younger version of Amy Adams who is in the series. It is based on a novel called Sharp Objects and I’m working on it right now. It’s really fun. It’s actually a funny story—I have to wear a prosthetic nose because my nose is somewhat different than Amy Adams’. So now I have to have this fake nose on my face—it’s great.

Is it weird looking at yourself and not seeing you in the mirror?

It is! It is really strange seeing this different nose and it is so hot outside so I’m always sweating. It’s always coming off.

What is Sharp Objects about?

It is kind of hard to explain. My character is this girl with a mother who has Munchausen’s, and my sister is also a victim of this. I am kind of this tomboyish, rebellious kid. I was kind of unaffected by my mother, while my sister was slowly getting sicker and sicker and then she dies. I go through this horrible time. I become self destructive and I start cutting. But, yeah, it’s about the adult version, and she is trying to solve a murder mystery. She has to go home to her mother and live with her, and kind of relive her youth. She has dreams and flashbacks of her younger self and her life there. It is kind of a hard role to play. But it goes along with the pattern of the other roles.

Do you have a favorite part about acting?

Well, I definitely enjoy acting. I love becoming the other person. It is thrilling and exciting. I learn so much from it. It has changed my life. I get to see new people, see new places. It is so fun and exciting. I’ll always continue doing this for the rest of my life, hopefully.

Do you have a dream role?

Maybe something comedy-wise, off the pattern, maybe something with a supportive, functioning family. That is probably a little boring! Something with Bill Murray. He is someone I have always looked up to. It would be nice to work with him.

What is your favorite thing to do when you aren’t acting?

I love to draw. I’m doing it right now actually. Well, I was. But I like doing that. I always say I would do it as a hobby because I already have a job. But it is definitely something secondary to acting that I enjoy.

Photography, styling, and set design by Valheria Rocha. Assistance provided by Savana Ogburn and Hailey Brown.

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