Twenty years from now, it isn’t out of the question that Sophia Lillis will be the heavy favorite to win an Oscar or a Tony, with countless publications writing profiles on the actress, noting how she got her big break in 2017 and became Hollywood’s new “it” actor. That future remains to be seen, but as of right now, Lillis is a Brooklyn-born, 15-year-old actor just months away from her first major Hollywood premiere, the highly-anticipated adaptation of Stephen King’s classic novel, IT.
The film follows a group of misfit children known 'The Losers’ Club' as they defend themselves against an other-worldly, fear-feeding monster. One of the most notable members of The Losers’ Club is Beverly Marsh, a likable but complex character who serves a romantic fixture for some of the boys and has also been the recipient of severe physical and emotional abuse by the hands of her father.
Beverly is role one that many young actors may not have the emotional range or dexterity to accurately bring to life. But there’s no question that Lillis will be able to pull it off in this adaptation.
[Beverly and I] are similar I think in the way we move through life— one thing at a time and try not to let it get us bogged down,” Lillis said. “I think of myself as a realist. And I think she is too.”
Lillis has read parts of the novel and wanted to interpret the character in her own, saying that she was appealed by Beverly’s strength.
“How she could withstand so much in her life and still keep going on. I don’t think the way I interpreted Bev is much different from the character in the book. At least I hope not.”
Prior to It, Lillis has starred in projects like Julie Taymor’s colorful and imaginative adaptation of A Midsummer Night’s Dream and 37, a film focusing on fictional accounts of neighbors who witnessed the murder of Kitty Genovese in 1964.
“I think it’s all about being part of a collaborative piece of art…the act of creating art is very important to me. It doesn’t feel like a job,” Lillis said. “For new projects, I look at the writing, I look for something new, maybe a little strange but not the same old thing.”
Lillis’ own life has been far from the same old thing. She currently attends a public high school in Times Square and loves city life. While Lillis says she’d be interested in living off the coast of Maine, intrigued by location’s serene nature, the artistic community and array of restaurants, she’d probably miss the hustle and bustle of New York after a while.
“There’s so much here, you never get bored. The city constantly changes. It’s a lot like acting—being in a new movie, being a new character, I guess. I also love all the restaurants—the food is amazing. Also, it’s the city of opportunity. Especially for an actor.”
It is immensely difficult, though, for actors to land meaningful roles in projects that speak to them. There are projects that Lillis wished she had landed in the past, but said she has put those behind her and hasn’t dwelled on them.
“I do my best but sometimes casting or the director has another idea in mind. There was a project over the summer I really loved and after getting called back they went with someone else. I was disappointed because I really felt a connection with the character but you just move on. And other great characters come along that you never would have imagined.”
While Lillis has loved working on darker projects, she said she’d be interested in doing “something completely different for a change” like starring in a comedy. The actress would also love a chance to make a return to the theatre.
“It’s a different type of acting. It’s a thrill to be on stage. You don’t have multiple takes, you have one time to get it right. And you are in front of an audience in real time, creating something for them.”
Lillis has also spent time on piano, singing, dance and photography, but her main creative passion outside of acting is drawing. “I draw all the time. If I don’t have a notebook with me, I’ll draw on a napkin or just my hand. I would love to study art and be a better artist. I hope to spend more time working with watercolors this summer.”
It can be difficult for a young actor to balance the demand of running to auditions with completing essays and studying for finals. In the light of her growing fame, Lillis’ friends and family have showed her steadfast support and helped keep her humble.
“My friends just make fun of me. I love them. My mother is with me all the time. All my family supports me and is excited for me. I can’t imagine what it would be like without my family backing me up.”
One of Lillis’ co-stars in It is Finn Wolfhard, an actor who became an overnight sensation in 2016 for his role of Mike Wheeler in Stranger Things. Lillis and her cast mates have considered the possibility of a similar situation happening to them with this movie.
“I have thought about that—I think all of us have,” Lillis said. “I don’t know how I’m going to feel but I hope that I will be happy that other people appreciate the film and like my performance.”
Photography by Hibbard Nash
Written by Justin Sedgwick
Styled by Samantha Fletcher
Makeup by David Tibolla
for Exclusive Artists Management