Author Celeste Ng’s Little Fires Everywhere was nothing more than a captivating fiction novel 2 years ago, but will soon be brought to life on the big screen exploring motherhood, secrecy, and judgment.
The Knockturnal sits down with co-stars Jordan Elsass, Lexi Underwood, Gavin Lewis, Megan Stott, and Jade Pettyjohn to talk 90s fashion, new tv moms, and being an outsider.
The Knockturnal: You’re playing kids in the 90s but you guys weren’t born yet during this time period, 1997. How was that for you? How about you Lexi?
Lexi Underwood: I’ve always been so infatuated with 90s culture. Aaliyah is one of my biggest role models. I just love her and actually, during my very first fitting, I told Lyn Paolo our costume designer, “I’m finally being able to live out my dreams of being a 90s teenager.” It was just so fun and I actually created a playlist for Pearl full of 90s hits and things that I thought she would listen to. She’s obsessed with Spice Girls and we have a super fun Spice Girls moment in the show. I just loved being able to film in a show that is set in the 90s. It was fantastic.
The Knockturnal: I bet. And the fashion!
Lexi Underwood: Right!
The Knockturnal: I was jealous. I can be honest about that.
Lexi Underwood: I wanted to take home all those clothes.
The Knockturnal: I know!
Lexi Underwood: I’m so jealous of Pearl’s wardrobe.
The Knockturnal: I feel you. How about you Jordan? How did it feel to play a kid in the 90s?
Jordan Elsass: Incredible. My brother is a millennial, he grew up in the 90s. So seeing some of the music he would listen to, I was like, ‘What is this?’ Hearing it and then creating- like Lexi said, creating a playlist for my character which is something I often do to sort of get in that mood. Throw on the AirPods before a scene and yeah it was really really cool and the fashion as well. I was rockin’ Polo and the Rugby’s and the straight fit jeans which I wear in real life. I prefer straight fit to skinny or slim.
The Knockturnal: Obviously.
Jordan Elsass: It was fun. It was really really fun.
The Knockturnal: How about you Gavin?
Gavin Lewis: Yeah I realized pretty quickly I knew little to nothing about the 90s being born in 2003.
The Knockturnal: Yeah I don’t know if you were even a thought at that time.
Gavin Lewis: Yeah and so it was really fun and like these 2, I found a lot of music. Nirvana was a big point for Moody and then I started listening to a bunch like Blink-182, Nine Inch Nails. All of these bands I heard on the radio but never really got into. It was a ton of fun. Period is always fun like the costumes, the big baggy pants. It was very comfortable wardrobe. It was a lot of fun.
The Knockturnal: And how was it being a son or daughter to a new mom? Did that bond come easy?
Lexi Underwood: As soon as Ms. Kerry and I met, we instantly connected. We actually met before we even got started on the show. We met at a live taping for a pilot that she was producing and as soon as she saw me, she just ran up to me and she hugged me and called me her daughter. And then I went home and cried because she’s actually one of the actors that inspired me to become an actor. Growing up, I’m from D.C. and at the time when I was growing up, there wasn’t too much representation on television and so to turn on the TV and see a strong female that looked like me that wasn’t playing a broken character, she was playing a boss. Olivia Pope is the true Queen till this day. It was just so inspiring and it made me think, ‘Wow. If she’s doing it then maybe I have a future in this atmosphere.’ We instantly bonded and she’s just so gracious, so kind. She’s like the best pretend mom ever.
The Knockturnal: Yeah I bet she is. I believe it. She seems so sweet.
Lexi Underwood: She is.
The Knockturnal: How about you Jordan? You are a son to a new mom, Reese.
Jordan Elsass: Reese, yeah. Yeah, yeah. It was a little different from Lexi’s experience because the first day, starstruck.
The Knockturnal: Of course you were!
Jordan Elsass: And so it took a little time to bond but once that bond started to formulate boom. Just really there and I’m sure Gavin would say the same she’s so kind, she’s so giving whether it’s in real life or in scenes, she keeps it consistent, professional, never had a bad day. Amazing actress. I mean ridiculous. I was just watching her and some of the really intense scenes especially towards the finale and stuff, watching her perform was mind-blowing. I’d be sitting there and I’d just be like, ‘That’s Reese Witherspoon and I’m here and woah this is really happening.’
The Knockturnal: And for you? How was it?
Gavin Lewis: Yeah she’s such a nice person as well, very funny telling jokes and such a giving scene partner. It was fantastic to work off of her. The better your scene partner is the more fun your job is because- changing your reads and giving you so much to work with. It was really incredible.
The Knockturnal: In this series, Izzy is the black sheep of the family. She’s the outsider. And I wanted to know if you guys have ever felt like an outsider and what do you do in that situation? How do you feel?
Lexi Underwood: I think anybody just growing up I think everybody has had that moment where they have felt like they don’t necessarily belong which I think is something that every single teen in this show is struggling with. Even with April and the Izzy storyline, it’s really just trying to find yourself and find out who you truly are and finding your voice.
Jordan Elsass: I would say I think it’s interesting- I don’t know if you guys would agree with this but growing up around kids that had different professions from me and pursuing acting, they faced really difficult problems that I had never faced and I faced problems that they never faced and so it was hard to relate to them. So sometimes I felt a little left out from certain things. I couldn’t get tattoos, certain stuff like that that are problems that are not a big deal but they were also kind of different. I have to live my life a little differently and I think anybody will be able to relate to some of the problems you see in this show whether its Izzy or any of the characters. And even though its a different time period and era, I think it’s going to be really impactful on a lot of kids our age.
The Knockturnal: You are playing kids in the 90s who were teenagers, but you guys weren’t even born at that time! How was that for you?
Megan Stott: It was very different. There was a lot of style changes, especially for Izzy. She wore a lot of dark colors and she wore a lot of Doc Martens. They were platformed and had a lot of laces. They were very interesting. Especially the music from that time is very different from today and you had to understand tv shows. I didn’t because I didn’t watch tv but they did. They had to learn Real World.
Jade Pettyjohn: Yeah I didn’t know what Real World was. I am a huge music nerd and I love movies so there was somethings I was familiar with and style is recycled. So you see a lot of 90s trends today. But there are other things like Real World and pagers and also just viewpoints and mentalities culturally that we don’t really have today. That was a really interesting thing to dive into.
The Knocturnal: Yeah a completely different time. It’s like looking back in time. Megan, your character Izzy. She was the black sheep and the outsider throughout the series. Have you guys ever been an outsider or felt like one and how do you handle that?
Megan Stott: When I was younger, I was bullied for a couple of years because I was small and I had a really hard time going through that and I remember I would go home and cry and I’d be like, ‘Everybody is so mean to me and I don’t understand this. I just want to make friends.’ And I started to understand later in life that these people were going through things of their own and you don’t know what’s happening on the other side. You don’t know what this person is going through but at the same time, you shouldn’t let those things affect you because no matter what, you’re beautiful the way you are, you’re intelligent, you’re smart. And even if somebody is rude or mean or disrespectful or anything like that, you shouldn’t have to change yourself to meet their expectations because you are not them. You are yourself and you deserve to be loved and be who you really are.
The Knockturnal: Yeah, absolutely I agree. Did you want to add to that?
Jade Pettyjohn: I think that everyone feels like an outsider at some point in their lives and that’s because people are different. What I love about this show is that it shows that this picture-perfect family, this one size fits all idea of how someone should live their life just doesn’t exist and it’s not true. When someone puts so much emphasis and value on holding onto this perfection that doesn’t exist, so many detrimental things can happen and occur from that. What I love about this show is that it shows that and spotlights that and I think that people can relate to that. That’s just something that we’ve all gone through in so many different ways and so many different avenues.
The Knockturnal: Yeah absolutely. I definitely related to it and we look completely different from different places, but we’ve all gone through the same things. The moms, Reese and Kerry are amazing, we know.
Megan Stott: Yes!
The Knockturnal: How was it being a daughter to someone like Reese and developing that mother-daughter bond?
Megan Stott: I think it was really special because I think we all have individual relationships with these people and maybe some of them are stronger because we have more scenes with Mia or Elena. And I think they are such strong and powerful executives and they have so much influence on the industry and you get to work with these incredible people who have been doing this since they were 10 and on and you’re that age. They’re your mentor and they teach you everything you need to know. For a first job, it’s magical. Even if it’s not your first job, just getting to work with these 2 individuals in such a female-powered executive and producing team, it’s very inspiring to see all these women coming together and being so loving. They really cared about our days.
Jade Pettyjohn: Yeah those women are like the epitome of leaders and what it means to be a good human being and so you get this insight and master class as actors but also being a woman now and being a good person. Both of them are so strong and so brilliant. So you learn so much just being in their space. They’re incredible and you learn so much from that.
The Knockturnal: I bet. Is there anyone else you dream of working with?
Jade Pettyjohn: There are so many incredible artists out there.
The Knockturnal: I know! It’s so hard.
Megan Stott: So hard to choose. For me, it’s just- I want to be with people who really care about the story and express their love and affection for people around them. I just hope that whoever I work with in the future is kind and they understand what people are going through and I think no matter who it is, we’re all going to be grateful that we’re doing this job that not many people get to do. I think it’s just important that no matter who you come in contact with, their amazing no matter what. Seriously.
Jade Pettyjohn: So many passionate storytellers right now. It’s such an exciting time to be an artist. There’s so many people I’d love to work with. I’d love to work with Ava Duvernay. I think she’s incredible, I love what she’s making. I love Tom Hanks, I love Emma Stone, Margott Robbie. There’s so many incredible…
The Knockturnal: The list goes on and on.
Jade Pettyjohn: It goes on and on. I won’t turn down any of those things but it’s an exciting time to be an artist. There are some passionate people out there.
Little Fires Everywhere premieres on Hulu March 18th.