Little Fires Everywhere is the hit Hulu drama, making waves around the world with its dramatic twists and a powerful storyline. Based on the bestselling book by Celeste Ng, it tells the story of a family and town full of secrets and tension. Its breakout star Megan Stott plays Izzy Richardson, the outcast of her family and town, struggling with friendships, high school and a lack of acceptance of her sexuality. I got to catch up with Megan to talk about playing Izzy, working on set, what fueled her acting and her upcoming goals and dreams.
Megan played Izzy with depth, sensitivity and masterful skill. While speaking with Megan, I found that the great detail that she included in her portrayal of Izzy does not differ from the great care she showed to thoughtfully discussing topics such as music, social justice and her background. The way that Megan spoke starkly contrasted the way Izzy did – a mark of her ability as an actress. Megan’s voice was bubbly, full of excitement and much lighter in tone than Izzy’s. Megan Stott is the next big starlet you will soon be seeing everywhere across your screens.
Editor’s Note: This interview has been edited for clarity and length and may contain spoilers from the book and tv-show Little Fires Everywhere.
What was it like going to a staged high school that mimics a “classic” high school?
I went to school for a period of time when I was younger, but since I’m older, it’s been different. I do online public school. I can either go in when it’s not quarantine, or I study online. I thought it was very interesting to see the actual school and how big it was. When I used to go to school, I thought it was huge, but when I saw the Shaker Heights High School it was huge and it was beautiful. There were tons and tons of kids, and I bet that it wasn’t even half of them… I was amazed by it and tried to talk to a lot of the extras and see how their high school experience was.
What was it like filming on the Shaker Heights set?
We didn’t actually film in Ohio, we filmed in LA. It was interesting because I really wanted to go to Ohio and see the environment and how people were acting. The producers and Liz [Liz Tigelaar is the showrunner] went to Shaker Heights, Ohio so I was able to learn about it from their photos and what they had to say about it, which was very helpful. I did a lot of research about Shaker Heights to see what it was all about and make sure I was getting the right perspective about the community.
How did you prepare for and get into character for the role of Izzy?
Izzy is very different from myself so I did a lot of research and before getting on set, I listened to music. I would kind of rock out in the car and listen to Alanis Morissette, My Chemical Romance, that kind of thing. I probably listened to My Chemical Romance the most out of all of them, because it was so dark and interesting. I also thought about how she is feeling and what should be going on with me before a scene. Once I put her clothes on, it all fell into place…
Hair and clothing played a pretty big part in Izzy’s character. Did you have a favorite costume?
Yeah, my favorite costume is right before the concert scene. She is wearing this entirely black outfit. She has this adorable suit vest on and a black tank top, accessorized with a choker. She got her makeup done and she’s wearing these very tall, dark Doc Martens that go to her knees. And it’s probably one of my favorite outfits because it was sick! I also have another one, which was closer to myself, and it’s the green homecoming dress. I love that dress and I wanted to keep it so badly.
With the scene right after at the concert scene where Izzy wrote on her face in marker, how did you do that scene?
I wish I could have used eyeliner, but we had to work around the process to make sure that it was good. I think that scene was just tons of fun, and I thought that it was tons of fun to be able to have that marker on my face because it was a moment for Izzy, where she rebelled against her parents in a more publicized way, instead of just doing it at home or with her hair. It was a publicized event where I am doing something for myself because this is who I am and you can’t stop that.
Shifting a little bit towards the book, which I think you’d read, did any particular part of the book influence your acting as Izzy?
Yeah, it did. When I read the book I noticed that she has a lot of anger, but at the same time she has this deep love…it’s something that not everybody saw. And I really tried to play into that, when she had the [heartfelt] moments with her father or where it might have been a little softer than what she normally acted [like]. I rode with those moments and made sure that those were implemented into the scenes that I was doing on set because she’s a sweet girl, she really is. On the outside, she’s a rock, but once she opens up. you see that she’s really just a teddy bear to certain people.
How did you get in touch with the darkness that Izzy felt?
Well, that was a lot more complicated than just getting into her. I think, in order to get into that dark place you have to mentally… You have to become the character. You have to say, ‘I am Izzy. I am this person,’ and I had to think about what Elena says to Izzy. I had to think about those harsh words, about whatever hurt Izzy emotionally, about the betrayal of April and her siblings. Basically, to get into that deep anger and sadness, I had to go through everything that was written and put it all into my mind, and then I would be there.
What was it like portraying a queer character, especially during an era that was a lot more closed-minded than today?
It was very interesting, because I learned a lot more than I actually thought I would have, and it was beautiful to see. I was probably struck most by the social injustices and what these kids and adults had to say. I knew there was discrimination that was prevalent in the ‘90s, but I never realized how horrible it actually was. I think we’ve come a long way and I am glad that times have improved so much. Gay people are coming out and being more accepted, and everyone is just realizing these people are just no different from everybody else. I think I’m a lot more educated about things [after the show]… And it’s important to educate yourself on LGBTQ rights and their community. It was amazing to learn about this, especially with Liz, since I was able to ask her so many questions and have some real insight.
Could you walk me through the process of getting cast in this role, since this is one of your first really big roles?
For this one, I heard that it was being picked up, like the year beforehand. I looked out for it the entire time, and I told my agent, ‘Look out for this one.’ Eventually, they got me an audition and the scene that we did was one of the dinners from episode one. I absolutely loved it, and I fell in love with [Izzy]. Each audition I got to meet more people: I got to meet David Rubin, Liz and Lynn. I just felt like this is the place that I am supposed to be.
Everyone was so nice and what truly stood out to me was that there was a dog in their office. It was a little, white labradoodle and he would sit there all day – he was so adorable. I think during the casting process I wasn’t as nervous as I normally am because I felt that I was in the place that I was supposed to be.
How did you feel on your first day on set?
The first day on set I was a little nervous because I was meeting Reese, Kerry, all of the casting directors and everyone else…But once I met them, it was like a dream come true. I got to know everybody and eventually, we became a family. It was an incredible opportunity to have met all of these wonderful people and have acted with such incredible actors.
When you were on set with everybody, did it ever feel like you were in a real high school or in a real homecoming? Did you ever get to enjoy those moments, or was the pressure always on for you?
No, we got to have a lot of fun on set! When we would have a break, they’d still play the music and we would dance together and talk to each other. Especially during homecoming scenes, I felt like I was in an actual homecoming. It was a lot of fun! We did a few scenes multiple times, but you know, it was exciting being able to be in this homecoming. Especially for Izzy, it was something that was really important for her, since it was a moment of realization for her. I loved it and we took a lot of photos. Backstage, we’d all be laughing our butts off and it was, overall, a lot of fun.
What was it like acting on a show that was taking place in the ‘90s? Did you ever feel like you were kind of back in time?
Yeah, it did! I loved everything about it. The rooms – I loved Izzy’s room especially because it’s so ‘90s and it’s very extreme. Being able to see what a room would actually look like in the ‘90s was very cool for me, because I’d never known about that. I was able to learn more about the ‘90s and I got to ask my parents and everyone on set about their experiences.
For Izzy’s character, there was a lot of music involved, and you mentioned listening to My Chemical Romance to prepare for the role and I saw that you’re a singer. Did you use music to get into character?
I would listen to a lot of music. Right before I got on set I would listen to music and right when I came in, I would listen to music. It was one of those things that really helped me if I wasn’t as connected as I normally was that day. It was something that I could lean back on. And since Izzy plays the violin, it was a lot of fun for me to get back into that and learn about it again. It is a beautiful instrument but takes a lot of practice. You have to know the instrument like your heart, so Izzy having that kind of connection to music really helped me in new ways because I am a very musical person and music is very important to me.
Did you have to actually play the violin?
Yeah, I had to learn all the songs, which was a lot of fun. I missed playing the violin for a while, but when I was younger I didn’t have the patience to play it – not many people do. It was so much fun to learn about it again, especially to learn it in a short amount of time. It was tasking and complicated, but you know what? That’s what life’s all about!
As a very musical person, how does acting differ from music as a form of expression for you?
I think music is a way that a lot can be said without words. You can say whatever you want through your motions and what song you’re playing. Izzy, who plays the violin, uses her body a lot to express emotion. In some of those scenes, we cried because Izzy released so many emotions while playing the violin with all of her passion, anger and sadness.
Usually, TV shows have actresses who are much older play teenagers. What did it mean for you as someone who was closer to the character’s age, to get to portray somebody similar to your age?
I think it was nice because I was really able to get it – 13-14 years is not that far from 16-17. Being of an age that is closer to the character, I was able to relate because I had just gone through that. I had just gone through those pre-teen emotions and I felt like I was really able to connect with that. The feeling of not being accepted at school and wanting to fit in, and [trying to be] that daughter that your parents want… I think it helped me play Izzy in a genuine way, which portrayed to the audience that I really was 14-years-old.
Did you have any personal experiences with the themes that Izzy went through, like bullying, that informed your acting?
Yeah, when I was younger, for a couple of years, I was bullied. It was difficult – it really takes a toll on your emotional health and your mental health. I think to be able to experience that really helped with how I portrayed Izzy in the most genuine way possible because I have been through it all. I know that me being bullied as a child was not a fun thing, but it did tremendously help me connect to Izzy at a deeper, more emotional level.
For Izzy, the ending is very vague. What do you think happens to her?
You know, a lot of the time I say ‘it’s up to the audience.’ What I personally imagine her doing is that Izzy probably would stay away for maybe a week or two, for as long as she thought she could. I mean, she’s only 14 and she doesn’t have any money. She can’t get a real job. Eventually, she would have to go back to her parents or she would go to find Mia and then Mia would send her back home to her mother, after a month or so.
No matter what, I think she will eventually end up with her family again. They might have a better relationship, but I don’t think people can change. They can be more accepting, more understanding, but they will never change. Izzy does not have a lovey-dovey relationship with her mother, but I still think she would have tried to mend it. She loves her family no matter what and I don’t think anything’s going to change that. And she’s only 14, as I said.
Do you have any future goals or future projects that you’re really looking forward to? Are you looking at college and what’s your vision, if you do have one?
I’m graduating in December. So, I’m finishing school and then, I’m going to go to college, but I still want to act. Hopefully for me, it’s going to be acting and college at the same time, which I think will be a lot of fun, but difficult. In terms of acting, I’m looking at everything. I’m looking at different genres of movies and feature films and short shows. I’m fine with anything and I’m really looking forward to what the world has in store for my career…
After we wrapped Little Fires Everywhere I was able to get a feature film with Netflix called Yes Day, which was extremely exciting. It’s a little more myself and a little more girly, and overall, it was an incredible experience. Doing things that I am passionate about and being able to tell genuine stories – that’s probably my main goal.
Who are you playing on Yes Day?
I play Jenna Ortega’s [character’s] best friend, who is named Layla. We finished shooting that. The [release] date is to be determined.
Did you work with Jennifer Garner and some of the other big names of the cast that have been released?
Yeah, I worked with Jenna Ortega and Jennifer Garner. It was so much fun because it was a very lighthearted feature film.
How did it differ from Little Fires Everywhere and working on that?
Little Fires Everywhere is very dramatic and Yes Day really isn’t. There are some moments in there, [where] things happen, but it’s very light. I can’t say much more about it!
As an actress, what is the message you’re trying to spread?
The message I want to spread to others is to be yourself and never let people choose who you have to be in life…Don’t give up on your dreams, and if you want to be an actress, be an actress! It might take a while, I will say that, but it’s totally worth it. If you push yourself hard enough and do it for long enough, anything you want to do will eventually happen. I also think people need to know that everyone is different, and you don’t know what’s going on in their lives; you just have to be kind in your everyday life. That’s something I really want people to know.