It’s not to late to get caught up on the YA supernatural drama series that is I Am Not Okay with This. Jonathan Entwistle‘s latest adaptation of Charles Forsman‘s comics is available to binge on Netflix now. It stars Sophia Lillis as Sydney, a misunderstood teenager who’s grappling with some very personal trauma in her family life, the heightened drama of high school relationships, and the unexpected emergence of uncontrollable superpowers. Accompanying her on this perilous journey of self-discovery are boy next door Stanley (Wyatt Oleff) and best friend Dina (Sofia Bryant).
And it’s Bryant we caught up with as part of our visit to the Pittsburgh-based set of the Netflix series during production last year; be sure to check out our interviews with Entwistle, Lillis, and Oleff here. Bryant gave us a peek into her character and what makes her tick, from musical inspirations, to romantic entanglements, and complicated friendships. She also talked about the differences between Dina’s story in the comics and in the live-action series, as well as how Entwistle’s direct on set allowed for an open, collaborative experience. All that and more follows below:
I just want to get a better sense of your character. I know you play Sidney’s best friend, but how do you guys complement each other? Are you kind of like yin and yang in that sense?
Sofia Bryant: Yeah, I do kind of close in some spots for Sydney. I mean Dina is a very effervescent kind of bad-ass best friend, older sister, almost to her. I think they kind of are like yin and yang, you could put it that way. They kind of fill in each other’s gaps a little bit.
In the comic Dina has her own interesting, traumatic storyline. Are we going to see any of that in the first season? How did you feel about what happens to her in the comic?
Sofia Bryant: Oh my God, I was like you poor girl. I think the show does a really good job of bringing in some of that same energy, but you’ll definitely have to wait and see what exactly goes down. It’s definitely worth the wait because some shit goes down; it’s so sick.
What can you tell us about your experience so far with Jonathan’s directing style?
Sofia Bryant: He’s awesome. He understands us outside of our characters so well, he knows how we work ,and just how we work together. He knows our inside jokes, which is fun and he’s so creative with how he sees everything and even Justin the cinematographer. They’ve done such a good job with making our set feel like it’s been lived in. And the whole feeling of the show is that it’s very retro, it’s very vintage and it’s so timeless, which is the same about Pittsburgh. It’s great that we’re filming here, so they’ve done a really good job, I feel of letting that show.
We’ve seen so many coming-of-age stories centered on young women. What do you think made this show, and particularly this character of Sydney, different than the rest?
Sofia Bryant: This show isn’t a show about superpowers or superheroes. It’s first a show about humans and really just the trials and tribulations of a girl growing up in Pittsburgh going to high school, who comes to find that she has superpowers on top of everything else and it’s this huge overwhelming metaphor for what high school is like for most teenagers. I think it centers around that first and that’s what makes it so relatable, at least for me. High school coming-of-age story.
How do you relate to her personally?
Sofia Bryant: I think the show does such a good job with explaining and showing the hardships of growing up in high school and even if you’re out of high school, if you’re a young adult. It really covers situations that people really go through, whether you’ve actually experienced them or whether they’re a metaphor for what could happen to someone. That’s kind of like what the superpowers are. They’re almost a metaphor for how hard high school can be and how hard growing up is. It’s just this other thing you have to deal with.
What does it mean to you as a young performer getting to star in a Netflix series? What do you hope that they can bring to your career?
Sofia Bryant: I am so excited.
The Instagram follower counts are getting a lot bigger. Your prepared for a little following, right?
Sofia Bryant: No, but aside from that, I’m really excited about working with Sophia and Wyatt because they’re just so fun and they… I can’t even explain it. The jokes we have already, of course I want that and sure if my Instagram count is going to go up, that’s swell, dude. But just the good time that comes with being able to do something that I love, that’s what… I mean, it sounds so… everyone freaking says this, but it doesn’t feel like work because I’m having fun and I’m excited to wake up every morning and come here and be like, yes, I get to pretend to be this girl that’s super-popular or isn’t super-popular. Just getting to pretend.
Was it easy to kind of forge that chemistry with Sophia and Wyatt?
Sofia Bryant: They were super open with me the first day and I found it easy to talk to them. Sophia and I are both from New York, so we kind of bonded over that almost instantly.
The things I think New Yorkers do. Where are you from?
Sofia Bryant: Places we go to in New York, things we do, shows we watch. That was a huge deal.
Sofia Bryant: Oh my gosh. I mean Fraggle Rock, literally super old shit. I love Fraggle Rock and Jim Henson can literally hop in my playlist okay.
Netflix, too, Dark Crystal.
Sofia Bryant: We so bonded over Dark Crystal. They’re awesome.
Have you all talked about which super powers you’d like to have if you actually could have them in a real world?
Sofia Bryant: I mean, I’ve talked to everyone about this. Oh gosh, what kind of superpower? One?
Let’s keep it to one. Make it tougher on you.
Sofia Bryant: Oh my gosh. Teleportation.
That’s a good one.
Sofia Bryant: I wouldn’t have to pay for tickets to go anywhere and I’d never be late.
Where’s the first place you’d teleport to?
Sofia Bryant: Probably Finland. That’s where I have family. I mean it’s such an underrated place. I love it there.
We were talking to Jonathan. Obviously, music is such a key part of his process, so I’m curious, did it become essential for you? Did you have a playlist for your character? Did he provide you a playlist for your character?
Sofia Bryant: No, he didn’t provide me with a playlists but what’s funny is that because of the style, it kind of follows a John Hughes teen film. I just love John Hughes anyway. Back home, I listened to a lot of what someone might call older music.
From the 80s?
Sofia Bryant: Yeah…not old. I was able to go through my own little playlist.
What are some songs that you’ve pulled?
Sofia Bryant: Oh my gosh. See, this is the thing, when I’m asked about names of songs, I can’t remember. Well a song that’s been stuck in my head actually, that I could totally see playing in the show… “We Built This City”, a good little… I mean whenever I hear that song, I think of a great montage. Right?
Sofia Bryant: I mean, come on, why am I forgetting names right now? But any good 80s/90s summer pool party playlists. That’s pretty much with any singer I can’t remember.
As a John Hughes fan, did you appreciate all of the Easter eggs and things that are thrown into the series?
Sofia Bryant: Insanely, I appreciated it times 10. It’s something that I always wanted to be part of and getting to kind of dip my toe in it and feel that and know that I’m part of a project that’s really focusing on bringing that vibe, makes me so excited. So excited. I love waking up and coming here.
How’d you go about finding the look for your character? Do you collaborate with Costume? Could you do your own thing?
Sofia Bryant: Funny story, I woke up a Thursday morning; 3:00 AM cut myself some bangs and I was like, I look really quirky right now. I really love this. Then I got this news about Dina and I was like, dude, this girl so has bangs and did I just do this? Is this an omen, is this a sign?
How’d you know she had bangs?
Sofia Bryant: I just read her description and this girl, she has cool girl bangs.
Sofia Bryant: I almost kind of drove with that. I was like you know what? I’m Dina. Dina looks like me. I can totally see her looking like me. I saw her as a best friend I’ve had or a sister. I took her under my wing and I took some of her and then I gave some of her to me and we just kind of melded together.
I think the look is here and that’s kind of the aspect that I’m bringing from myself to Dina. Along with other things, but I kind of took her and I was like, you look like this girl. Look, she gave me what she had to give me.
You mentioned John Hughes a lot, honestly, Forsman’s style is not quite John Hughes. It’s a little bit darker. How did you blend together and how would you describe the tone that you guys are creating on site here?
Sofia Bryant: It kind of gives the vibe of a Lady Bird meets X-Men, which is super, super cool. I’m really excited to realize that, but the whole high school vibe that you get, that’s very John Hughes. In the relationships that everyone has with each other… I mean the relationships. That’s what really brings in that John Hughes aesthetic. When you think high school in general, that’s kind of what I think. I immediately go to John Hughes, a cute Breakfast Club kind of relationship with him.
Obviously, you can’t give a lot of spoilers, but is there anything in particular that you’re really excited for people to see in the show when it does debut on Netflix?
Sofia Bryant: What I’m really excited about for sure, aside from all of the superpowers and everything, is the way that we talk about the LGBTQ community and how it tied into the show because I think it is a really important thing that’s coming up a lot now in a lot of shows. I think that the way we’re bringing it into the show is really nice and it’s a very sophisticated way… I think a lot of people will come to appreciate the way it’s tied into the show. That’s something that when I was first shooting, I was like, this is really thoughtful; the way that it was placed in the show. I like that people are getting to… I don’t think this is the word I want to use, but, recognition and the more relatable, the better. Everyone’s the same. I think that the show really helps you realize that we’re all the same. We’re all the same. We deal with our own whatevers. That’s life.
Do you think now’s a good time for the message that the show is leaning into?
Sofia Bryant: For sure. I mean more than ever, people need to realize that we’re all human beings literally all doing the same things every day. We all want the same things and I think it’s a great time for this show.
I think it’s important that it’s a show with a girl who has superpower abilities. It seems pretty authentic to the teenage experience and what teens are going through now.
Sofia Bryant: It is so relatable in the sense that there’s really just something for everyone on the show there. Everyone is going to find a good taste here and everyone’s going to be able to be like, I’m either dealing with this thing right now and I totally feel you or I dealt with that thing last year or I totally know someone like this. Oh my God, that’s so good. It’s really about humans first and that’s what I think is going to really drag people in this, that everyone is going to find themselves in this show or something.
Since this is set up as half-hour episodes, has that pacing changed in the way that things are done on set? We’re curious to see how that works with the story.
Sofia Bryant: I never feel like we’re moving too fast. Which I feel like we’re going at a really good pace and everyone totally understands what we’re doing when we’re doing it and no one’s ever rushed and there’s never a race to the finish line. I also feel like we do such a good job of fitting everything that we need to and still tell you the story to its fullest. We do a good job of saying everything we need to and you still really are moved. I’m moved when I do certain scenes and wow, this just took a turn.
Do you get a chance to add any original ideas of yours while you’re shooting the scenes? Do you get collaboration back and forth?
Sofia Bryant: Oh definitely. The awesome thing about Jonathan too, he understands that we’re kids playing kids and if Sophia and I are laughing on set because of something and it fits the scene. We just start shooting and if Wyatt has an idea and he’s like, hey Jonathan, what if we did this thing or what if I was doing this thing? He’s actually like, it was kind of clever… that kind of things. That’s what I also just love about this show is that I feel like I’m coming here and I’m really collaborating and that’s really great. I really identify with that.
What is your favorite thing about Dina?
Sofia Bryant: She really doesn’t want to see the bad in anyone. She really wants to like everyone and I think that’s why a lot of times Sydney likes her. If there’s one thing I could take from her, it’s that she likes everyone until she’s given a reason. That’s really lovable about her. She’s a very sweet girl.
How has relationship with Brad in the show?
Sofia Bryant: She’s head over heels over him. She’s like, Oh my God. Our relationship off set too, me and Rich [Ellis], it’s always jokes, always jokes. Dina and Brad, I think it’s so fitting because they’re just kind of a duo in a very weird, weird way. You’ll come to find that, of course, if you read the comic book you’ll… The dynamic, it’s weird but it works for a hot second.
Have they given you any hints as to what to expect for your character in season two beyond what you already know from the comic? If they give you any broad strokes or if they want to keep you focused just on season one.
Sofia Bryant: That’s another thing. I mean, we’ll just have to wait and see. I have to wait and see.