Q&A: Netflix’s 'I Am Not Okay With This' Director Jonathan Entwistle

I Am Not Okay With This

Comedy, Drama
Netflix
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I Am Not Okay With This is the new Netflix show that blends the YA drama of The End of The F***ing World with supernatural elements.

The show comes from the producers of Stranger Things and from the director of The End of The F***ing World (TEOTFW) Jonathan Entwistle, and after fans of the two shows saw the first full trailer for this upcoming series, they were quick to describe it as something of a mix between the two TV series. And it's hard to disagree, because its main character, Sydney, has the moody teenage thoughts similar to those of TEOTFW's Alyssa; and at the same time exhibits telekinetic superpowers similar to the powers of Stranger Things' Eleven.

But the same teenage drama feel between TEOTFW and I Am Not Okay With This does not come as surprising, because besides having the same director, the show is also an adaptation of a graphic novel from Charles Forsman, the same creator of the comic book series from which TEOFTFW was based.

In a phone interview with  the media, we got to throw in some questions for director Jonathan Entwistle regarding his new show, including his thoughts on comparing Sydney with Alyssa and Eleven, and why he chooses to adapt Charles Forsman's works. Check out Jonathan's answers below.

Director Jonathan Entwistle sits with the cast of I Am Not Okay With This.
(Photo: Netflix)

Question: Some people who have seen the trailer are excited because they have the impression that Sydney is like a mix between the characters of Alyssa of TEOTFW and Eleven of Stranger Things, because she has superpowers. What can you say about this and what do you think sets Sydney apart from those two characters?

Jonathan Entwistle: I think both in those characters, there's definitely a little piece of them in Sydney. The thing that kind of separates Sydney from both of them is that she doesn't want superpowers to a degree. I feel like if you gave Alyssa superpowers she'd be like, "Oh yeah this is really cool." [But] to Sydney, she gets the superpower and she's like "Yeah, I'm really not okay with these powers."

And I think that Eleven is kind of similarly haunted by them, but her powers are about unlocking something in her past and in her history, and I think Sydney is just struggling to get through the day with these powers. So Sydney is definitely more thoughtful and takes more time [thinking] than Alyssa for sure. And I think that's really the biggest difference, she's a little bit quieter than Alyssa.

Photo: Netflix

Q: Sydney is such an unusual female character, so how did you find your female lead?

JE: We originally started writing the character to be considerably more like Alyssa. She was a little bit more loud and angry, and when we started to audition and we met Sophia, she brought something that was a little bit more vulnerable and it's more like she was being haunted by the superpowers.

When we then found her, we were able to kind of recreate the character to match her strength. So for me, it was very much like making sure that we were able to have this effect with her where she was losing control but she was somehow trying to maintain control. Sophia is really really good at that, and she was so good that when we met her, we changed the script to match that.
 

Q: This is the second work of Charles Forsman that you adapted into a TV series. What's with his works that attracts you to make live-action adaptations out of them?

JE: Charles' work is probably some of the most cinematic drawings I've ever seen in comic books. He's able, with a simple black line on a white paper, to tell a story that is just so simple that he gets right down to what do the people on the page want. And that is very much a cinematic drive when you are crafting a scene. What does each of these people want? And it can simply be five lines on a white sheet of paper, [yet it] can tell you so much.

There are very few artists who write and draw cinematically and that [is what] immediately drew me. It's very easy to adapt his work onto the screen because he does so much of the seamwork and the style in his drawings.

Photo: Netflix

Q: Would you consider I Am Not Okay With This more of a coming-of-age teenage story, or more of a superhero origin story?

JE: I would consider it probably, to be a little bit more of a teenage coming-of-age story in what's on screen. But I feel like the heart of it is being able to tell a superhero origin story through that lens rather than be telling a superhero show that feels like a coming-of-age movie, with a thread of origin story.
 

Q: Having done two YA shows for Netflix, what do you think is so special about adolescence?

JE: I think [there's] just something super interesting about that particular time where everything is the most dramatic [as] it can ever be. Seemingly very small things that can happen in your life take on a huge and bigger meaning when you're at high school. Everything is a gray area, and everything can be kind of "life and death," and once you grow up, you realize you can live with those things.

Photo: Netflix

Q: The show also deals with mental health, isolation, and peer pressure. How did you write the series in a way that both the young and adult audiences can relate to it?

JE: The whole show is a kind of allegory for what it means to grow up, and I think growing up is confusing until you learn to understand what it means to be an adult and what it means to live in the world. But in a way, losing that innocence is a confusing way of becoming an adult.

We wanted to look at things like depression and mental health in a way that wasn't going to be too prescriptive. I wanted to try and find a way that could [tackle what it feels] if you are dealing with ordinary things that can get you down, and you have this extra thing on top of that-- how do you get through your day?-- and what it means to get over things and work through them and take them on board in order to grow.

Photo: Netflix

Q: Was that warm vintage old school vibe of the show deliberate, and why did you decide to go with that kind of treatment?

JE: For me it's about making my work feel like it's of no time at all. I feel it's very important [that] in the future, I would like people to go back and look at my work and not be able to tell when it was made. If you go back to movies in the 90s, as in pre-technology movies, a movie like Lost in Translation or something like that, you cannot quite place when it was made, and I think that's very important for the show.

When you watch something, I don't want people to be going, "Oh my god, look at that Samsung Galaxy One that they're using, it's obviously a movie from 2005." And I feel that that's very important-- with us to lead with story and style first, to eradicate any of those things from it. And I also think that if you can't place [when it happened], you care more about learning when and how that world was created, just subconsciously.
 

Q: I Am Not Okay With This is not your usual coming-of-age show. What do you want your viewers to learn from this unique show?

JE: I want people to be able to take away the fact that not everything always goes to plan, and it's [about] how you deal with things when they don't go to plan. Something that was exciting about crafting the show is that we wanted to [portray] the idea of what does it mean when you're a kid with superpowers and Professor X does not show up to take you to his academy, or Dumbledore doesn't show up to [send] you to Hogwarts? What does it mean if you have to grow up with these things and there's nobody to guide you?

And I think it's important that you have to learn to lose control in order to gain control. And that's definitely something I want to explore with the story further.

Photo: Netflix

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I Am Not Okay With This stars Sophia Lillis, Wyatt Olleff, Richard Ellis, and Sofia Bryant. The show starts streaming on Netflix this February 26.

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Creator
Jonathan Entwistle & Christy Hall
Produced By
Netflix

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