Sarah Hyland Tells Us About XOXO & How To Play The "Innocent" One

Photo: Stefanie Keenan/Getty Images.
Sarah Hyland's busy schedule doesn't leave much time for attending music festivals, but her new movie XOXO took her to so many concerts she can't remember them all. "It brought a real authenticity to the film," Hyland said. "The energy that a real music festival brings is just unlike any other."

XOXO, which premieres on Netflix Friday, August 26th, capitalizes on that vigor. It's half coming-of-age story, half teen movie: six stories intersect at the fictional festival, and every character is at a crossroads in their lives. Hyland plays Krystal, whom she describes as the "innocent" of the ensemble. In the dizzying energy of XOXO's lineup, she's just trying to meet up with a crush she met on the internet.

Hollywood has struggled to produce a good EDM movie, and XOXO is Netflix's gamble to rectify that deficiency. The film, Hyland told Refinery29, is about the warmth of the dance community, and shows a new side to this familiar genre. There's plenty of hallucinogens to go around, but also a variety of experiences: because XOXO's crowd includes everyone from a wannabe DJ wunderkind to a jaded has-been, EDM isn't glamorized beyond recognition or turned into the frattiest version of the genre. As for Hyland's character Krystal, she goes to the fest to find a boy. But she stays because, in this music, she ends up finding a bolder version of herself.
How familiar were you with the culture of EDM before this movie?
“I wasn’t super familiar with the culture. I knew the basics but I’d never been to a rave before. The closest I had ever been to one was the Sahara tent at Coachella. I’ve always been a fan of EDM music so it was really exciting for me to be a part of this project and really learn about the culture.”

Talk to me about your character Krystal. What's she like?
“She represents everything pure. She’s the naiveté. She goes in with very high expectations to this music festival to meet this guy she’s been talking to online. She thinks he's The One. Things don’t really go as planned, and she kind of has to look within herself and put her phone down. She starts to really appreciate life for what it is instead of putting her happiness in others' [hands].”
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Photo: Courtesy of Netflix.
What attracted you to the part?
“The fact that she was so innocent. I think there’s this stereotype or stigma to the EDM culture that only one specific type of person can love it. What I really loved about Krystal is that she loves the music; she wanted to be there to meet this guy. But then she found herself falling in love with herself again instead of trying to fall in love with someone else."

Can you talk to me about shooting this? It seems like some of it was filmed at a real festival.
“Yeah, we shot at four different music festivals. It was such a crazy whirlwind — I don’t even remember which ones... I don’t think you can actually recreate that at all, no matter how much money you have to make it seem like that. I think that’s the best thing. I think the music festival is its own character.”

What was it like working with Christopher Louie, the director?
“He knows the ins and outs of EDM and that whole world, so he brought a really beautiful aesthetic. Music festivals can seem really chaotic and crazy. Not really cold, but aggressive. He made the culture feel as warm and loving as it really is.”

You mentioned Coachella earlier — do you go to a lot of music festivals?
“It’s hard with my schedule, so I’ve only ever been to Coachella. I’ve been multiple times. I love the fashion, but I go for the music. I want to just let go and be a free spirit, to get lost in music.”
Photo: Courtesy of Netflix.
What’s next for you after XOXO?
“I’m really excited for the world to XOXO. Other than that, I’m focusing on Modern Family — we just finished our third episode of season 8, so we’ve got 19 more to go.

"Who knows what I’m going to be doing next summer but I just did Dirty Dancing the Musical over this past summer. Pun intended: I had the time of my life. I got to somewhat learn how to play the ukulele, I learned the tango and the meringue and the salsa and the foxtrot. I used to be a very avid dancer so it was really nice to get back to my roots of dancing and singing and that was a lot of fun."

A lot of the things you're working on are projects based around music. What’s your own taste in music? What do you like to listen to?
“Oh, I’m such an eclectic. I love my show tunes. I love my EDM, things like Galantis and Calvin, Zedd, the Chainsmokers. DJ Snake is fucking awesome and so is Major Lazer. I like Rihanna and Drake and Carrie Underwood. I like Kelly Clarkson and John Mayer and Sara Bareilles. I love rock 'n' roll. I’m just a big music fan.”
This summer, we're celebrating the biggest movie season of the year with a new series called Blockbust-HER. We'll be looking at everything film-related from the female perspective, interviewing major players in the industry and discussing where Hollywood is doing right by women and where (all too often) it is failing them. And now...let's go to the movies!
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