CULTURE

You've Definitely Seen Uncle Frank’s Sophia Lillis Before

by Lynn Hirschberg
Photographed by Juergen Teller
Creative Partner: Dovile Drizyte
Styled by Sara Moonves

Sophia Lillis wears a Lanvin dress; Cartier bracelet and watch; Manolo Blahnik shoes.
Sophia Lillis wears a Lanvin dress; Cartier bracelet and watch; Manolo Blahnik shoes.

You might recognize Sophia Lillis from the Netflix series I Am Not Okay With This, or her turn as a young Amy Adams in Sharp Objects. Last year, the 19-year-old actress broke new ground as Beth Bledsoe in Alan Ball’s road-trip-slash-coming-of-age film, Uncle Frank. In her interview for W’s 2021 Best Performances portfolio, Lillis opens up about her fear of driving (like many native New Yorkers, she's still figuring it out), her favorite Halloween costume, and how working on It, the first big studio role she landed as a kid, felt like summer camp.

How old were you when you started acting?

Eight or 9. I started by acting in NYU thesis films. My first film was called The Lipstick Stain, and my character was living in a funeral home. I got used to being in a lot of depressing films.

Did you go to your high school prom, or were you working?

Because of Covid, I didn’t get a prom or a graduation. I wasn’t actually that hung up on it, though.

Were you a theatrical child?

I was dramatic. I wasn't a very open person. I was actually shy—still am, in a way. But I think acting helped me open up more.

Was there some particular film or performance that made you want to act?

My mom and stepfather loved old French and Italian films. And I used to watch this actress called Giulietta Masina in La Strada. I just loved her face and the way she reacted on camera. There was something different about her that I loved. I think that was the first time I ever really wanted to act.

Are you an only child?

No, I have a twin brother. He doesn’t act. He did one audition before, and he hated it. So he's gone on a different road than I have. I think that's just what twins do.

What was the first thing you booked that was not an NYU movie?

The first big studio film I booked was Stephen King’s It. It was a good experience, getting to work with kids my age, and I did it over the summer, out of school. So it was like a summer camp, but I was working.

With a scary clown. Were you scared of clowns before that movie?

No, I didn't really think too much about clowns. It wasn't really a part of my life. I didn't spend my past time thinking about clowns, but it certainly changed my experience with them. I can't really look at clowns the same way.

Are there any things you are afraid of?

I used to be really afraid of spiders. I'm also afraid of driving. Horrible at driving, but I want to learn. My New Year's resolution was to start practicing.

What was your favorite Halloween costume as a kid?

I was a pencil. My dad made the costume. I was wearing pink shoes for the eraser. I had a cone hat that looked like a point, and I had cardboard all around me. I couldn’t really move or ring a doorbell. I fell down lots and couldn’t get back up. My twin brother was a piece of paper—a math test, or something like that. He had problems written all over him.

Lillis wears a Chanel dress; Cartier bracelet and watch; Manolo Blahnik shoes.

Hair by Bryce Scarlett for Moroccan Oil at the Wall Group; makeup by Emi Kaneko for Fenty Beauty at Bryant Artists; manicure by Michelle Saunders. Produced by Emanuele Mascioni at MAI USA Inc.; local producers: Wes Olson and Meghan Gallagher at Connect the Dots; local production manager: Jane Oh at Connect the Dots; photo assistant: Trevor Pikhart; digital technician: Brad Lansill; retouching: Catalin Plesa at QuickFix; special projects editor: Allia Alliata di Montereale; fashion assistants: Sophia Martin, Alex Assil, Tara Boyette, India Reed, Abigail Jones; production assistants: Cameron King, Jeremy Sinclair, Alison Yardley, Kein Milledge; hair assistant: Christopher Farmer; makeup assistant: Rose Grace; tailor: Irina Tshartaryan at Susie’s Custom Designs, Inc.