“I think the outsiders are the most interesting,” claims Sophia Lillis when talking about her favorite type of characters. The young actress has already embodied outsiders in the films “It” and “It: Chapter Two”, as well as the coming-of-age series “I Am Not Okay With This.” Now Lillis takes on her most complex outsider role to date in writer/director Alan Ball’s “Uncle Frank.” As the actress explains, the possibilities posed by this kind of role make them “the most fun to play.” Watch the exclusive video interview above.
In this film from Amazon, Lillis portrays Beth. It’s the 1970’s in the South, and Beth feels distant from her family. The one person who understands her is Uncle Frank (Paul Bettany), the black sheep of the clan who lives an exotic-seeming life in New York City. Beth joins her role model in the city when she enrolls in college, but the pair are forced to take a long road trip home when the family patriarch passes away. On the road, the pair bond as they help one another grow.
Lillis admits that she has never been able to change herself in order to fit in with others. So, she used that real life experience to relate to Beth, who learns how to grow into a confident, unique individual over the course of the movie. While the actress loves Beth’s “interesting, quirky personality,” the character’s position as narrator presented some challenges. “It’s almost like a different style of acting,” describes Lillis, noting that narrators are often there to allow “the other actors to tell their story.”
If one of Beth’s primary traits is to observe, the person she soaks in the most is Frank. Lillis and Bettany create a thrilling dynamic on screen as Frank mentors and cares for Beth. “Our relationship was sort of similar,” admits Lillis of the performers’ real life interactions. “I looked up to him,” she says, and treated their scenes together as major learning experiences. “To work side by side with Paul Bettany… I kind of felt, you know, I have to kick it up!”
The actress was definitely able to turn up the acting chops in a particularly memorable scene near the film’s conclusion. Frank shocks Beth by turning to alcohol and depression when confronted by having to face demons from his past. Beth suddenly sees Frank in a realistic way, “instead of this glorified version of him.” She takes everything she’s learned from him regarding becoming your own person, and launches into a passionate plea for Frank to remember his own advice. “She was growing up,” explains Lillis of this pivotal moment, “I tried to grow up alongside her.”
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