Netflix's latest coming-of-age story with a spin of superpowers is out!
I Am Not Okay With This comes from the producers of Stranger Things and director Jonathan Entwistle of The End of The F***ing World. Another TV adaptation of the work of comic artist Charles Forsman, this new series tells the story of Sydney, a teenager whose struggles in her high school life, family, and friendships are topped with the budding superpowers that she has.
Sydney gets unexpected support from her weird neighbor Stanley Barber, and the two would create a remarkable yet complicated relationship in the show. Sydney and Stanley are played by Sophia Lillis and Wyatt Oleff respectively, who have also worked together in the film It as the young members of the Losers' Club, Beverly and Stan.
In a roundtable phone interview, the APAC press got to ask Sophia and Wyatt questions regarding their new show together. Check out the highlights below:
Question: For Sophia, director Jonathan Entwistle told us in an interview that when they saw you audition for Sydney, they actually changed the character based on your acting. Did you intentionally give it your own interpretation when you auditioned for the role?
Sophia: I wanted to add my own interpretation for Sydney because I always like to kind of make that character my own, in the sense that I want it to be closest to me as possible, because I like to put myself into character instead of trying to make me a whole different person. I like to relate to the character as much as possible.
So, during that audition process, it was mostly just me experimenting and trying new things and mainly trying to find who Sydney is and try to put myself into that character. Afterwards, after a few auditions, I did talk to Jonathan a lot and tried to see what his idea was and what he wanted for Sydney and try to work with him together.
So it's more or less of, I'm trying to make my own character by myself, [but I'm also collaborating] with Jonathan to try to come to a compromise.
Q: Sophia and Wyatt, this is not the first time that you worked together. How was your experience this time in shooting I Am Not Okay With This?
Sophia: It was really great working with Wyatt because while we did work together on It, we didn't really get to have a lot of scenes that actually just have the two of us together. So this time around, I really got to work with Wyatt, and I felt like that was really fun. What do you think Wyatt?
Wyatt: Yeah, I definitely agree with that. I feel like our characters weren't interacting much, and we played much different characters in It and I believe that having these characters that are pretty true to ourselves interact on screen was very seamless for us, so we had a lot of fun just working together, goofing around and stuff. So yeah, we're super happy to be working together.
Q: The show deals with mental health issues, peer pressure, and the general anxiety in high school. Being at that age, do these reflect your own experiences?
Wyatt: Well, I don't have any extreme mental health issues. I do believe that covering those topics is really important in our day and age. I feel like a lot of people go through those emotions. We [don't get] a lot of shows that capture that, especially before the 2010s, there wasn't a lot of representation of that on screen and I believe that with shows like ours, that kind [will be] represented in a way that people can relate to and somehow get through those emotions. So I believe it's really important, and being a teenager is not as good as High School Musical so just having that moment to connect to a real teenager on screen is also something I'm glad I'm a part of.
Sophia: I feel like Wyatt said that perfectly. I have nothing to add on to that.
Q: What do you think sets I Am Not Okay With This apart from other works that feature superpowered teens?
Wyatt: I feel like the main thing is, Jonathan Entwistle's style. He puts a lot of himself into his work, and if you've seen his previous show The End of the F***ing World, you'll definitely know what I'm talking about.
As well as his partner Justin Brown who did the Director of Photography, them together are such a unique combo and I believe that they really want to put a unique spin on this genre and sort of a deconstruction on it. So with their assistance and Christie Hall and the writing team, I think that we've created something that is a little darker than other things.
It's not everything's wrapped up in a bow is what I'm trying to say and I feel like not a lot of shows do that.
Sophia: I really like how this project has a bit of John Hughes into it. Honestly, I grew up with John Hughes and I love pretty much all of his films. And seeing this coming of age story, [which also has] this weird spin on having superpowers, it's just a funny thing to mash up together and I feel like watching it is something that I will always want to watch by myself, nevertheless be in it.
Q: We've been informed that director Jonathan Entwistle really encouraged all the actors to watch John Hughes movies, and we've seen a lot of homages to that in the show. How would you say I Am Not Okay With This reflect those and how do you think it's different, and how does it reflect the modern themes of the show?
Wyatt: There is a specific episode that I think everyone kind of credit for that John Hughes vibe which is episode five (Another Day in Paradise), when we're all in detention and such. Very Breakfast Club-like, but the difference here is that no one actually like each other, except for a few. Not everyone gets along. Yeah, it's kind of very real in the fact that these people just don't like each other. They're very separate from each other so I think that while we lean towards that we also try to distance ourselves from that, then make a unique story.
Sophia: Yeah, I'm kind of going along with Wyatt here. I feel like there is a lot of John Hughes elements into it, and though this may be subjective, this may be just me, I already feel like every episode has some sort of John Hughes element, but very satire. For instance, it's like you'll think it's going to be like the ending of what a John Hughes film will be like and something totally different happens, and everything goes wildly out of control. And suddenly the story changes, and it's not like a John Hughes film. I also feel like no John Hughes film has a girl with superpowers (laughs). So, it's kind of like John Hughes, but superpowers, and everything kind of goes wrong.
Q: For Sophia, Sydney is truly a remarkable character, being far from perfect. What do you love about her and what do you want your viewers to pick up from her?
Sophia: I try to put a lot of myself into the character, I think I said this earlier. I feel like each and every character has something everyone can relate to. And I feel like Sydney is very relatable in the sense that she tries to do her best and try so hard to fix things, and be a good person.
But there are times when nothing goes right and she may mess up but she still keeps this positive attitude, which is such a fun thing to watch and it's very heartwarming, and you really look up to her, weirdly. Even though she keeps messing up, it's something that everyone can really take away from that. Even though you may feel like you're doing things wrong or you feel like you keep messing up and you don't know how to get better, just keep on trying to stay up, keep a positive attitude, and everything may go well.
Q: Stanley and Sydney are going through a lot of things in their families and friendships, both separately and together. What advice could you give your respective characters?
Wyatt: Find solace in the people around you. I feel like Stanley often relies on himself for happiness which is great because he knows himself and he loves himself, but I think there's also something important in relying on other people. And having those people can comfort you when you need it. So Stanley, you should take solace in your friends.
Sophia: Actually I'm gonna go off that and use that for my own because I feel like throughout the story, throughout the show, you see Sydney getting help from other people, but at the same time, in a weird way she doesn't notice how lucky she is to have so many people in her life. She has all these troubles, but she suffers it alone.
You know so many people are trying to help her and Stanley's trying to be a part of her life, and Dina is trying to figure out what's going on. The whole entire time, everyone is trying to help but she still tried to work things out alone and I feel like she really needs to accept her friends and accept help from them. Then, she can actually overcome obstacles.
Homestream image courtesy of Netflix.