We don’t like to throw around the word “adorkable” without extreme cause, but as I Am Not Okay with This‘ best friend/”Mister Miyagi” (and perhaps more) Stanley Barber, Wyatt Oleff is adorkable personified. He is mesmerizing on screen in the groundbreaking and extremely bingeable Netflix series that’s based on the graphic novel by Charles Forsman. In our phone interview (which, coincidentally, took place the same day we chatted with his co-star, Sofia Bryant), the multi-talented Oleff is incredibly kind and generous, and is the kind of person that would wear this mark with pride.
We could all use a friend like Stan (long live the Stanley Cinematic Universe!) and certainly a friend like Oleff. Here is a condensed and edited version of our conversation with the fascinating Wyatt Oleff. (*WARNING: SPOILERS AHEAD*)
Brief Take: I adore this show so much and I think Stanley is just the best, obviously the best dresser too. What drew you to the project?
Wyatt Oleff: I got the audition for it, went in and only a week later I found out I got the part because they were struggling to find who they wanted to play Stanley. It was only three weeks out from filming, which is not common, if you didn’t know. And so we had to prepare really quickly to move to Pittsburgh for a couple of months. It was kind of a rush into the project, so there wasn’t [chuckles] a lot of time to think, but the first scene that we filmed was the one in which…it’s actually the teaser trailer that came out, the first video clip of it, in which I roll up in the car. [chuckles] Yeah! That was our first scene and I think by the end of that, everyone was like: “Yeah!!!” [chuckles] “This is going to be fun.” [laughs] And the rest of the summer was such a blast to work on it and it was immensely exciting, and I was just excited to start a new project [giggles] before we even started and everything that happened during it really helped just support those expectations.
BT: There were 3 Sophias….
WO: [laughs] Yeah! I remember seeing in the breakdown for the show and the email for the audition, it was like ‘Sophia Lillis as Sydney’, and I was like [chuckles] “oh, that’s cool, I’m auditioning for her show!” And then ‘Sofia Bryant as Dina’, it was like “Uhhhh…..okay?” It was weird. And then, all of a sudden, Sophia Tatum comes out of nowhere and now we have three Sophias, so I have nicknames for all of them, well, not for Sophia Lillis because I’ve always called her “Sophia Lillis”, or Sophia, just Sophia, and so it’s just weird for me to call her something else. [laughs] Let’s see…we’ve got Sophia and we’ve got So-B, because Sofia Bryant, and then [sighs] I sometimes call her So-3-a, I refer to her as that sometimes, because she’s the third Sophia to be cast, so So-3-a. But there’s not an order to them, really, it’s just the order in which they were cast, yes. [chuckles] It makes sense for me.
BT: I love watching all of your scene work with Sophia Lillis in all your projects together. Have you seen all of the cute YouTube videos of the two of you together?
WO: Well, I was actually there for most of them, so [chuckles] yes I have! But not exactly the YouTube videos which you’re talking about. [laughs]
BT: When I talked with Sophia a few weeks ago, she said that you’re really funny. What do you like best about working with her?
WO: That’s nice of her. Usually…I mean, she usually looks at me like I’m stupid whenever I say something, so that’s nice [chuckles], but I think the thing that I like best about working with her is that I trust her so much. I’ve known her for almost four years now and I worked with her on It and It Chapter Two and already having that close relationship allows us to be comfortable together. When we’re doing those scenes, it’s like we trust one another and it’s really easy to act with her, and she’s obviously incredible. I think that she’s one of the best actors I know, so being able to work with her at her side and keep up with her is…I think that I’m pretty lucky.
BT: So let’s talk about that big ending of episode seven.
WO: Well, I believe that it was close to the end of the shoot, so it was kind of fitting for us to do the finale near the end of the shoot, so…it was a lot. It…I don’t even know where to begin, I guess that at the start of Homecoming, I think that we were in that gym for about a week filming all of Homecoming. [laughs] They spent so much time making sure that everything ended up working perfectly for the head explosion, that it’s ridiculous how…and the poor extras that were so excited to be there were like…”Oh my God!” They had no idea what to expect. Like they obviously knew that his head was going to blow up, and so that’s what they were doing, but basically they crafted a prop body without a head and had all of Brad’s clothes on them and so they had that and then a balloon above it. And then when they popped it, the blood just went “pssschewww!” everywhere. I wasn’t there for it, unfortunately, but I saw the outtakes of it and it was just [laughs loudly] it is absolutely insane, but it’s completely worth it. I hope that everyone who has seen it already has had that shock that everyone in the crowd did when it exploded, because that’s pretty intense. [laughs]
BT: Did you have a favourite scene to shoot?
WO: Ooooohhh…that’s a strong opinion. I believe Jonathan’s (Entwistle) favourite things to shoot were the stuff in the bowling alley and Homecoming, so for me, personally, the most fun that I had was probably in the bowling alley because I loved that space, and there were a lot of fun scenes to shoot there. So it was all of that, but I don’t know, I feel like the scenes with all of us were also really fun to shoot because everyone gets along really well and being able to work with everyone is just a treat.
BT: What did you and Sofia Bryant bond over? With Rich, she said it was Peaky Blinders. I hear that with you two it was a certain food item.
WO: Oh yes, absolutely, they keep talking about that! [laughs] I feel like everyone bonded over different stuff. I obviously already knew Sophia Lillis, that’s pretty much not anything new, but Sofia Bryant and I, you’re actually right, the first thing which we bonded over was bread. We both are big bread lovers and so they brought these…I don’t even know what kind of bread it was, but it was [chuckles] really good, and we were both eating it and we were like: “This is really good!” and every day for lunch, when they would bring the good bread, we would go up to each other and be like “[gasps] They have the good bread today!” and that was our thing with bread, so hopefully we soon go to the world’s top bread bakery.
BT: And it’s so sweet that you came to support Sophia Lillis at her premiere of Gretel and Hansel.
WO: I mean all of us (The Losers Club) came to that, everyone who was in town who was able to come to that. We just love supporting each other in whatever we do. I know that a couple of my friends or a couple of people from It are going to hopefully come to the premiere of the show and we just love supporting each other.
BT: Tell me about filming the beginning of the ‘Stan By Me’ episode with you getting ready to the Prefab Sprout song.
WO: Yeah, when I first read it in the script, I’m was like: “Oh! This is going to be fun to film”. And as a matter of fact, it was, but I remember talking with Jonathan (Entwhistle) and I was like: “So what song are you thinking of using?”, because there was a song in the script, but usually when they put a song in the script, unless it’s like Guardians of the Galaxy in which that fits into the narrative, it’s like they change the song, and they’re like: “The scene is supposed to go to a song like this and if we can’t get the licensing, then we’ll change it, whatever”. And so I was like: “What are you thinking?” and Jonathan was like: [in a pronounced English accent] “Well I like this song, it’s called ‘The King of Rock n’ Roll’, so if you can do that one…”. Well, he didn’t say it like that, that sounds very direct and stuff, but it was more like, he played it for me and it was like: “Wow, this…this sucks. Oh my God!” And I was so upset [chuckles] about having to learn that song, just like [sighs] at first I really despised that song, I was like: “This is the stupidest song that I have ever heard in my life”, which obviously fit Stanley as a character…but I hate having to learn it, but then I repeatedly had to learn it. So [chuckles] by the time I had it memorized, I was like: “Okay, this song’s pretty good!” and [laughs] I saw what Jonathan was going for, and we get on set and stuff, and it’s just like: “Here we go!” And they played that song so many times and [chuckles] somehow, I never got sick of it. It was a lot of…it’s like a workout, it was a workout. What’s funny is that Sophia Lillis was there on set that day, so [laughs] with me just doing stuff and my Mom recorded some of the footage and Sophia looked at it and was like: “Was that choreographed?”. [laughs] And fun fact, none of it was choreographed. I kind of did whatever, and I don’t know, I just thought that was funny because to me it doesn’t look choreographed, it just looks really random. [laughs] So, yeah, I don’t know, but I just got to act like an idiot in front of a bunch of people, so honestly, sounds like my speciality.
BT: You’re a creative with your own YouTube channel and you’ve done some directing work as well. What inspires you?
WO: Well to be honest, in between It and It Chapter Two and also, I Am Not Okay with This, there was a lack of projects in which I was really interested, or getting, for that matter. I would audition for stuff and I would be like: “This is really cool”, and someone else would get the part. And that would happen all the time. But thanks to the push and pull that I have on my platform, like Instagram specifically, to be able to create my own story, well, not my own story, because I work with other people, but to create a story with people and to get that kind of experience behind a camera is something which I was always curious about, so being able to experiment with that and actually be able to create stuff is such a rewarding feeling, yeah! I would just say that creating content is what I most like to do and oftentimes it takes me a while to get inspired [chuckles] which is why I only upload on YouTube every two months. But I think that it’s important to flex your creative muscles, so being able to put yourself in positions in which you have to be creatively efficient and creative at the same time, it’s also a really good exercise in creating something you love and really important to me, yeah.
BT: Would you want to direct a feature or an episode of the show?
WO: [laughs] I would love to do either of those things, I think that would be a really interesting experience. I’ll hit Jonathan up on that. I think that he’ll say a hard no, but who knows? I will keep pushing and maybe he’ll let me direct an episode if I’m good with it, that would be funny.
BT: Maybe shadow him for a day…
WO: Oh yeah, absolutely! I’d just bother him and he would treat me like a fly, so I think that would go well.
BT: Tell me about your work with Teen Cancer America.
WO: Teen Cancer America is an organization that attempts to help people who are going through cancer treatments when they are teenagers and also adolescents and young adults. Because you know there’s hospitals for children and for elderly people, but there’s just nowhere in between. So it’s difficult for people who are at that age who are already just funky enough in the head already that there’s hormones and whatever, all of that fun stuff and on top of that, having to go through cancer, I think that bringing awareness to that is really important. Teen Cancer America attempts to change that, so working with an organization in which I can actively involve myself is pretty wonderful and yeah, I just think that it’s an important cause. I’m also starting relations with The Thirst Project, which is another organization that attempts to give water to people who don’t have it and they’re trying to end the water crisis and so yeah, I think that using your platform for good is always a good thing.
BT: Do you have a most memorable fan experience?
WO: I go to a lot of Comic-Cons, I do appearances there and stuff, and I’m always amazed by how many people first of all come and say hello and all that, but there’s a lot of repeat people who come from all over the place and I just couldn’t be more thankful to those people for supporting me so endlessly and just seeing me all the time, and it’s a blast seeing everyone. So every experience that I have ever had with those people who are so loyal and nice and just know me is pretty outstanding.
BT: Who are your role models as an actor and as a director?
WO: Great question! As an actor, I look up to someone like Sam Rockwell. I think he’s not always in the main character role and he usually plays someone who rounds out the cast in a really wonderful way. I think that he always plays such a powerful character, like in Three Billboards and Jojo Rabbit, I think that he does such an incredible job, and being that kind of actor who can do those kinds of roles is, to me, something which I want to aim for. But in directing, I would say, I feel like every director with whom I have worked has helped me realize where I’m at on my journey as a director, and know what I want to do when I create my own content or create my own stuff. I guess that every director who I’ve worked with is a role model of mine and some with whom I haven’t yet worked, like I think that Edgar Wright and Taika Waititi are incredible and Bong Joon-ho. I think that they all make incredible movies and I hope to someday craft something that’s even remotely close to their work. [laughs]
BT: Have you enjoyed seeing anything else recently?
WO: Yeah, I saw Parasite a while ago, in the same week that I saw Jojo Rabbit, and those are my two favourite movies of the past year, if you want to know what kind of movies that I like, and I couldn’t be happier that Parasite won Best Picture. I was pretty ecstatic. I was like: “Whoa!” I was blown away, I was really happy. Last year was a pretty great year for movies.
I Am Not Okay with This is currently streaming on Netflix. To learn more about the show (one of the best of the year!), click the highlighted links to read our interviews with Sophia Lillis and Sofia Bryant!