Her coming of age story is heartbreakingly portrayed by Megan Stott who calls me from her lockdown location of Arkansa, a Southern state in the USA, to talk powerfully about how she dealt with bullying in her own life and the lessons she learned from her co-stars Reese Witherspoon and Kerry Washington…
At the centre of Amazon Prime Video’s latest exclusive show, Little Fires Everywhere, is the 14-year-old Izzy who is struggling to understand her sexuality after falling in love with her High School friend, April, negotiating school bullies and her over-bearing image obsessed mother, Elena, played by the formidable, Reese Witherspoon.
Izzy is a very rich and complex character, what has Izzy taught you about yourself?
I think towards the end she got a little more confident, because I learned to be more confident in my work because in the beginning I wasn’t. I was a little indecisive, I was new to this whole being on set thing and I wanted to do my very best as I had so many teachers around me.
I learned how to assert myself in situations, to make sure that I felt comfortable and to make sure that everyone else felt comfortable as well. Especially when April and I had our scenes together, I always wanted to make sure that she felt comfortable, so we tried to have a lot of communication.
As this is your first big on screen role, how was it going onto set for the first time?
When I went on set I was really, really nervous because it was my first time on a huge set. I was a bit overwhelmed at first, but then everyone was so kind and I got to know everybody’s names which is really hard to do as there is like 200 people on set. I had so much fun with the teams, and all the kids. And Reese and Kerry were absolutely phenomenal – working with them is something that actors of any age would be desperate to do.
Working with Reese Witherspoon and Kerry Washington must have been a real lesson. What advice to you take from them?
For me Reese’s vibe was really very motherly. It reminded me of my own mom because Reese is from the South, which I absolutely loved. I totally understand how she acts and the way she does certain things so I felt very comfortable around her. She was so genuine and she came in with the brightest smile on set, which I absolutely loved.
For Kerry, I didn’t get to meet her until the table read. But I really got to know her, she was so kind and she always wanted us to feel comfortable. Reese taught me so much from taking switches to making sure that you try and use what the director says, but also put in your own kind of twist to a scene.
Then for Kerry, she just always wanted to push you in the right direction and make sure that you were putting just as much effort in as the other person, so that they would have a good take and so would you. She was so generous so if we were in the middle of her scene and she thought one of us was doing better, she’d say, ‘turn the camera around, start from the beginning, don’t cut!’
It’s so amazing to have a queer character centre stage in a drama like this, it’s so important for people to feel seen. What was the experience of playing a queer character like for you?
I think we have learned a lot. I think our generation has grown so much from the time period that Little Fires is set in, in the 90s. We have grown so much, cultural things have happened, people are more accepted as they are, people are able to come out and share their stories. I feel like it’s such a beautiful moment that I got to kind of experience to feel what it was like to be in the shoes of a kid in the 90s who is questioning her sexuality and isn’t sure, and has these relationships with these women.
But I think that so many people don’t really understand some of the things that happen and I think that in order for people to see that you kind of do have to portray it on television, you have to portray it on the social media outlets because you want people to love and accept you for who you are.
I asked a lot of questions for Lynn (Shelton, director) and Liz Tigelaar (producer). Especially Liz because she is married to a beautiful, wonderful woman and so I was able to ask her so many questions about her teenage years, and what it was like for her, what she was going through and how did she realised that she was bisexual, how she went about that and how she went about telling her parents.
Being able to have people around me to experience that was really helpful. I think that you have to put yourself in the shoes of other people in order to fully understand what they’re going through, what feeling and who they are.
What kind of things did you have in common with her?
She goes through a lot of difficult things and she was bullied, unfortunately. She was very sad about many, many different things and I think that’s something that I can relate to because when I was younger, I went through bullying for a couple of years and I understood how that felt. I know how it feels to be outcast as the girl who isn’t the same as everybody else.
How much do you think seeing Izzy go through this experience of bullying would have helped you, if you had this TV show when you were younger?
I think it would have helped me a lot. I wish when I was younger, there were shows like these, because I remember not wanting to tell my mom because I’d come home crying and thinking that something was wrong with me, because of what this girl was saying or what she was doing. I felt like nobody could understand what was happening and I didn’t understand why it was happening either.
You need to tell your parents, you need to have communication because they can help solve that problem. For me in the end, my mom did help me tremendously because she was like, ‘why are you coming home crying every single day?’
In the end, the communication was the best thing that helped me because I was able to get out of that situation. I feel like a lot of kids feel afraid to tell their parents because they think they might get in trouble. I don’t think kids get in trouble for being bullied because it’s something that happens to everybody, and most of the time it’s not even their fault.
With playing a character who is having such a tough time mentally how did you look after your own well being?
I would wear pink every single solitary day that I could, any day that I wasn’t on set. I’d listen to happy music. I tried to be as positive as possible. I tried to really ignore the darker side of Izzy because that’s something that is really difficult to be in that head space for a long amount of time. I changed my bedroom, actually, to pink, so everything in my bedroom in LA is pink.
Do you think playing this character has helped you come to terms what happened to you when you were bullied?
I did get over it a long time ago because I actually wrote a song about it, because I was really upset about it and I didn’t know how to get over it. The song is basically about friends, like you think they’re your friends, and then sometimes they turn on you and then they break down the castle that you’ve built in your head.
I remember being on set sometimes and I remember reading the lines with my mom and sometimes I just start crying because it was something that it hurt. It hurt a lot.
You always have those feelings, you always have those emotions, but you eventually get over them or you think that you do. For me, it did help. It did help a lot and it helped me realise that everybody is going through it and that I can help in some way.