Lexi Underwood Interview: ‘Little Fires Everywhere’
Lexi Underwood got more from her Hulu limited series “Little Fires Everywhere” experience than just a juicy part working alongside Kerry Washington and Reese Witherspoon. The 16-year-old actress, who plays Mia Warren’s (Washington) daughter Pearl on the series, also learned how to stand up for herself and her needs as a performer. “They both taught me how to unapologetically take up space,” Underwood says of Washington and Witherspoon in an exclusive new interview with Gold Derby. “For me as a black artist in the industry especially, that meant the world to me.” Watch Underwood’s full interview with Gold Derby above.
Underwood fully invested in trying to accurately portray Mia’s daughter — so much so that she studied Washington’s mannerisms for hours on end. “For months I studied Miss Kerry’s work so I was watching ‘Scandal’ religiously, honestly anything that she’s done,” she explains. “I looked at myself in the mirror and I would just practice and study her mannerisms over and over again until I felt comfortable with it.” This kind of devotion to her craft is rare for someone who admittedly came close to quitting acting before landing the Hulu series. Underwood had recently lost a TV show pilot and wasn’t sure if the business was for her, but she became deeply invested in “Little Fires Everywhere,” reading the novel on which it was based in a day and creating Venn diagrams to figure out Pearl’s relationships with various characters.
Pearl is one of the most complex characters on “Little Fires Everywhere,” having a deep emotional bond with her nomadic single mother while also wishing for a more stable life. She develops a friendship with the wealthy Richardson family, particularly the matriarch, Elena (Witherspoon), who is renting out an apartment to Mia and Pearl. Pearl has strong relationships with both women, whose own dynamic goes from strained at best to pure spite. Pearl’s involvement with the Richardson family has earned a mixed reception from fans, but Underwood understands her desire for some semblance of stability. “Sometimes people do come after Pearl for immediately going to Elena and people accuse Pearl sometimes of trying to be white and getting so caught up in this white privilege that they stand for but I honestly think at the end of the day, they just stand for this life that Pearl has always craved for,” Underwood observes.
Doing “Little Fires Everywhere” was beyond valuable for Underwood, especially to work with great actresses like Washington and Witherspoon. Working with both of them, she notes that they weren’t just giving scene partners but they actually taught her how to conduct herself on-set in a way that gives value to her own artistry in shaping her character. “Coming to a set and being able to unapologetically be myself and unapologetically be a creative and not be afraid to step up to the table with my own ideas and if something did not feel right, to speak up and say it,” Underwood says of what she learned, “because at the end of the day, I’m the one that’s playing Pearl and if something written down on the page doesn’t seem authentic to the story and to what Pearl would do, to not be afraid to speak up and say something about it.”