“It’s kinda like a Ladybird meets X-Men,” Sofia Bryant tells reporters from a production office somewhere in Pittsburgh on a sunny day in July 2019. Bryant is talking about her upcoming Netflix show, I Am Not Okay With This, now set to premiere Wednesday, February 26. “And it kinda has a John Hughes high school vibe,” Bryant, who plays budding cool girl Dina, continues.
Bryant’s co-star and on-screen BFF Sophia Lillis — who leads Okay as blue-collar superpowered 17-year-old Sydney — sees a different cinematic soul sister for their lo-fi science-fiction series. “It kind of reminded me a lot of Edge of Seventeen,” Lillis reveals in the same room a few minutes later, referencing 2016’s underrated Hailee Steinfeld-starring coming-of-age film. “Little bits of [Seventeen] reminded me of Sydney, with the main character trying to fit in and be normal at the same time.”
So, we investigated just how awesome IANOWT was halfway through shooting its first season in the Steel City — and what Sydney isn’t “okay with” in the first place. Keep reading for the best secrets from the set.
The casting of It co-stars Sophia Lillis & Wyatt Oleff
Executive producer Dan Levine admits it took so long to find the right Sydney, production experienced “a little bit of panic” about finding just the right actress. But, the EP adds, “the Stanley search was even harder.”
“We didn’t know what to do. Someone had the brilliant idea, they saw that they were actual friends in real life. and there’s a lot of stuff on social media with those two palling around,” Levine says. “It was just a brilliant lightning stroke, like, This is our Stanley.”
A new LGBTQ+ teen storyline
While the series’ cast can’t spoil what’s going on in Sydney’s romantic life just yet, Sofia Bryant is confident fans are going to be pleased with what they find. “What I really love is that the way we go around bringing in the LGBTQ+ [theme] and tying all of that into the show,” Bryant says “It’s done in such a thoughtful and sophisticated way that someone will really appreciate. It’s so wholesome.”
What isn’t Sydney okay with?
Sydney has to not be okay with something for her series’ title to make sense. Co-creator Jonathan Entwistle confirms the permanent thorn in his heroine’s side is the emergence of her pesky superpowers.
“Sydney is essentially a Chosen One right now, and she absolutely hates that,” Entwistle says.
Bryant agrees. “What is different about the show is that it’s not a show about superheroes. It’s a story about a girl going through the trials and tribulations of high school, growing up in Pittsburgh,” Bryant adds. “And then she comes to figure out she has these freaking powers on top of everything else she is already dealing with. That’s exactly how growing up is. You find out that this new thing is attacking your life and you’re like fuck.”
The IANOWT conspiracy
Entwistle confirms Sydney’s reticence to accept her abilities are only the first in a long list of vexing supernatural twists.
“There is, without going into too much detail, a much bigger under-the-surface conspiracy,” the director teases. “[It] goes back much, much further and has to do with the powers that then come to light for subsequent [possible] seasons.”
While Entwistle can’t tip too much of his hand about what “conspiracy” is hounding Sydney, he does admit the powers she hates so much may be coveted by someone else. “She and her powers being the most powerful will be used to somebody else’s gain and, or not, depending on where we go,” he continues about a still-unconfirmed season 2.
The shots to analyze
When asked which moments he is most excited for viewers to see, Entwistle responds: “The opening shot and the final shot of season 1.” Both moments are tentpoles in viewers understanding of Sydney’s powers and her still-mysterious future.
Oh… and there’s something extra for you ‘80s film buffs: “I just want to see how many John Hughes references people can pick out.”
The tchotchkes to look out for
Okay is a series that knows its characters down to the molecules. That’s why there are sweet stories behind the smallest items in their lives.
“There’s a little snowglobe and a ceramic model of the White House,” production designer Maya Sigel points out about the contents of Sydney’s room. “We just thought she probably hasn’t had a chance to travel much, but the few places she’s gone, she took a little momento back with her. She’s not a person who collects a lot of things, actually.”
Wyatt Oleff reveals his character, Stanley, a vibrant sore thumb in a town as overwhelmingly rust-colored as Okay’s homebase, has a similarly long history with his belongings. Take for example the Rubix cube you may spot in Stanley’s room. “I brought a Rubix cube to set, and I know how to solve it. I was just kind of doing it and [co-creators Jonathan and Christy Hall] were like, Woah, that’s cool,” Oleff says. So the throwback toy was written into the script.
“It shows you he’s bored with his life and he tries to have a lot of hobbies,” Oleff continues. “He’s just looking for the next phase of his life.”