by Jan-Willem Dikkers
“WHEN YOU WORK ON A FILM, THERE’S A LOT AT STAKE. THE DIRECTOR’S VISION, THE OTHER ACTORS, A LOT OF MONEY. I JUST WANT TO DO A GOOD JOB AND NOT LET EVERYONE DOWN.”
Actor Sophia Lillis stars in the highly anticipated film rendition of Stephen King’s acclaimed sci-fi novel It. She is currently working on the forthcoming HBO series Sharp Objects, starring Amy Adams.
How did you get started as an actor?
When I was seven, my stepfather took a film class and had to make a short film. He used me in it. I was dressed as a colonial barmaid and I had to drag this red wagon all around the city, including into Times Square. There was a bust of Virgil, the Roman poet, in the wagon and I was supposed to be Beatrice from Dante’s Inferno. I didn’t know what it meant back then. I still don’t know…I think it’s metaphorical. You can see it if you look up “Virgil’s Day Off.” After that, he suggested I take acting classes and I started going to the Lee Strasberg School in Manhattan. I was in a few of their productions, like playing Winthrop in The Music Man. One of my teachers there recommended me to an NYU graduate student for her pre-thesis project. Her name was Dagny Looper and she put me in her short film, The Lipstick Film, which showed in several festivals. I did a few short films and one full-length film before auditioning for It.
What inspires you?
Fear of failure. When you work on a film there’s a lot at stake. The director’s vision, the other actors, a lot of money. I just want to do a good job and not let everyone down.
How is it working with so many adults as a young actor?
I like working with adults. They are more experienced. It’s also maybe a bit intimidating. With the kids, we were all on the same level and we try and connect as actors mostly. With adults, there’s more new territory, more things to try and learn.
How was it working with Finn Wolfhard from Stranger Things?
It’s hard to say since we didn’t have any one-on-ones. We were always working in an ensemble with the five other Losers, so there was always this group dynamic. He ad-libs a lot. He likes to play with the dialogue. So there’s this energy of making it up as we went along rather than just going along with what the script says. It could get kind of crazy sometimes.
How would you describe your style?
It’s pretty casual. My brother and I still share a closet, although my mother has promised we’ll be getting our own this summer. So sometimes I just grab his shirts. Especially his t-shirts. I love gigantic sweaters.
Do you recall your first favorite T-shirt?
I had a blue t-shirt with a whale on it. I don’t know why but I wore it a lot. I think it was soft. When I first got my haircut, when I was 9 or 10, there was this guy at the ice cream store that used to call me “whale boy.” Not because I was fat – I was pretty skinny – but because he, like everybody else, thought I was a boy. I still get mistaken for a boy sometimes. The flight attendant on my last flight to LA kept calling me sir.
What’s next for you?
I just started working on an HBO series called Sharp Objects playing the younger version of the main character, who is played by Amy Adams. It is directed by Jean-Marc Vallée, who directed Big Little Lies and Dallas Buyers Club.
New York born actor Sophia Lillis stars in the 2017 film adaption of Stephen King’s famous sci-fi novel It. She has starred in A Midsummer Night’s Dream (2014) and the short film The Lipstick Stain (2013). She can be also seen in the forthcoming HBO drama series Sharp Objects, starring Amy Adams and based on the book by Gillian Flynn.