Entertainment

Sophia Lillis As Young Amy Adams' in 'Sharp Objects' Is The Show's Breakout Star

sophia lillis
Design: Jason Hoffman/Thrillist; Photo: Pierre Suu/Getty Images Entertainment

If you need someone to play the young version of a redheaded Hollywood star, 16-year-old Sophia Lillis should be your go-to. In HBO's Sharp Objects, she appears in dreamlike flashbacks of Wind Gap, Missouri as Amy Adams' Camille Preaker, minus some years. With barely any dialogue, Lillis lends quiet insight into her older counterpart's psyche. As an audience, we watch as she goes from roller skating free-spirit to broken individual, devastated by the loss of her sister and rejected by her nasty mother.

You likely recognize Lillis from 2017's Stephen King adaptation IT where she played Beverly Marsh, the lone girl among the group of kids terrorized by the malevolent force that takes the form of the sewer-dwelling clown Pennywise. She'll be back for IT: Chapter Two, which jumps ahead in time of focus on the adult Losers' Club. Her counterpart will be Jessica Chastain.

So what's it like to be the teen doppelganger for some of the most talented actresses working in TV and film today? Lillis hopped on the phone with Thrillist to chat.

Thrillist: Had anyone told you before you got this part that you looked like Amy Adams?
Sophia Lillis:
Actually, yeah, I've been told that. When we were thinking of older versions for IT, we were thinking either Amy Adams or Jessica Chastain may have looked like me, but Jessica Chastain fit more.

Tell me a little bit about how you got your role in Sharp Objects.
Lillis:
I did a lot of Skype with the director, [Jean-Marc Vallée]. I actually even visited him and talked to him during tea or something. He's such a nice guy. He just reviewed everything that's going to happen because it's kind of a very serious, serious role. He had to see if I knew what I had to do and he was trying to find out if I was OK with it.

Was any element especially intimidating?
Lillis:
After having these conversations with Jean-Marc, nothing really seemed too intimidating. Having time to converse with him, I kind of felt more at ease about the whole thing. He made me feel more prepared for everything.

Was there any unease before then? There are elements of the character that have to do with self-harm and sexual assault.
Lillis:
When I first auditioned for it, I read the book and already knew what I had to do. The one thing that I felt a little nervous to do was I really wanted to do it right if I ever got the part. I wanted to portray it in a realistic way.

What was the filming experience like?
Lillis:
 [Jean-Marc's] a very funny guy. He's very eccentric. He has lots of ideas so he's like, "Why don't you do this?" Or, "I've got an idea, why don't you do this instead?" He gave himself and gave me a lot of opportunities and choices. Working with him helped me a lot so I can learn different things about the character. So working with him was a different experience, but it was definitely something I wish I could do again because it was lots of fun.

What about the fact that you don't have many lines throughout the series?
Lillis:
It was definitely a lot of internal feeling and thinking. You have to really know the character and then really know what she's thinking at this moment and what she's doing at this moment and why she's doing the things that she's doing. It was mainly her and the relationship with her mom and her other family and kind of the way she acts out and why she does it. The scenes I had to do were a lot of her relationship with her sister and how much she loved her, and what she thinks about her mother, and how much she wants her mom to love her in a certain way. It was less of speaking and talking with people and conversing. It was just a lot of very internal thoughts and feelings.

sophia lillis sharp objects
HBO

Did you get a chance to talk to Amy at all about Camille?
Lillis:
I unfortunately didn't really get a lot of time to speak with her, especially because we're the same person. She's doing a lot. She's very busy. She's in a lot of scenes. I never really got to talk to her a lot. I did kind of see bits and pieces to see how she acts. I kind of related everything to that too.

Were you watching her on set? Or were you going back through her filmography?
Lillis:
A little bit of both actually. I did go through the movies that she was in. I didn't really get to see a lot but the scenes that I did get to see of her acting, I tried to use that too.

Between playing Camille and Bev, you've been playing characters that are dealing with massive trauma. How do you handle that? Did IT prepare you for Sharp Objects?
Lillis:
They do go through this trauma, but the main difference about them is how they react to that. Bev kind of encloses herself in and she doesn't really let anyone in. That's kind of like Camille, but Camille has a more self-destructive kind of personality. Bev gained friends, but Camille was losing everybody. The way she lashed out was very self-inflicted and less on others and more of herself, which is kind of what you had to keep in mind with her character. I have experience with these kind of characters. They are kind of the only roles that I get, but that's good because I have a lot of experience with that. I get to learn different things about the families and how they react and why they react and it keeps you open-minded about this kind of stuff.

When you're playing them, does it get to you personally at all or are you able to detach?
Lillis:
I get to detach in a way. In real life I have a very, very supportive, nice family. It is a little especially hard at first to relate to the character, but I always try to find some relation with the character so it's easier for me to kind of be the character even though I have a very, very nice family. So it is a little hard. That's what I mainly try to do. I try to find something about myself as the character and try to be in their shoes and try to find out what would I do and then what would Camille do.

I presume Nancy Drew, who you're playing in a new film, is a little cheerier.
Lillis:
Yes, Nancy Drew is definitely not like that, which is good. I enjoy having these characters, but it was kind of a refreshing moment to be Nancy Drew and that was fun. On set people were nice and the role was very sweet and so different.

Jessica Chastain posted an amazing composite of your faces on Instagram. What was coming back to the IT set like?
Lillis:
It was really funny meeting the adult versions and looking at the kids and kind of seeing how similar they are which is really fun. In real life, they talk the same way, they act the same way. It was really funny to kind of see both of them together in the same room. I did talk a little with Jessica Chastain. God, she's such a nice person. We talked a little bit about what we thought about the script and what we think about the role and how to portray it. We talked to each other a little bit about that. But, yeah, besides that I always just had dinner with her with the other kids too. It was a fun experience.

Was there anything you noticed specifically about how you and Jessica were alike?
Lillis:
She definitely looks a lot like me. But I mostly heard from other people telling me like, "Oh, you have the same mannerisms as her. You kind of have the same tics and the way you speak is kind of similar." I didn't really notice it that much. But after they told me I looked back and I was like, "Oh wait, you're right. She does."

What does it feel like playing the younger versions of these Oscar-nominated actresses?
Lillis:
I'm very honored. I'm surprised I got here. I don't know how that happened. I'm very happy that I get to have a chance to work with them to actually be their younger self. It's kind of hard to fathom I get to actually do something like this.

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Esther Zuckerman is a senior entertainment writer at Thrillist. Follow her on Twitter @ezwrites.