It’s not everyday that an actor finds the opportunity to star in a blockbuster film alongside the likes of Charlize Theron, Kerry Washington, and Michelle Yeoh at the ripe age of 20. It’s even more rare that those heavy hitter co-stars are the supporting acts to their lead role. Actress and singer Sophia Anne Caruso is living that scenario with the upcoming movie The School for Good and Evil. The Netflix film, released in mid-October, is based on the beloved young adult novel by Soman Chainani, and is shaping up to be a defining role for Caruso’s screen career, despite it being one of her first. A natural-born stage actress, Caruso won a Theatre World Award for originating the role of Lydia Deetz in Broadway’s Beetlejuice, and starred that same year in David Bowie’s Lazarus, one of her proudest moments to date in a decade in which she has swept theatergoers off their feet. It’s clear in catching up with Sophia Anne Caruso that her relative newness to the world of the big screen never fazed her. The second she walks on set, clad in her elaborate costumes, acting comes naturally. Expanding into original music as well with a debut album on the horizon, her songs occupy a distinct indie space between rock, pop, and jazz.
Read the full interview from “The REBEL Issue” below.
You’ve been acting since you were nine years old. What got you interested in the world of acting and theater? Was your family in the industry?
My family is completely out of the industry, though I was raised in such an artistically plentiful home. My mom owned an antique store, and she’s always encouraged me to write, paint, dance, and sing as loud as I want. She taught me the beauty in the details and let me skip school to watch the PBS Arts channel or help her make jewelry. I watched ballets and performances from PBS, and I fell in love. I was enamored by the energy of performing live. I was fascinated by the women trapped in the TV box and the way that films eternally capture them. My mom would drop me off at the local theater, and that’s where I started performing as a child. I was so hungry to do it, and I can’t thank my mom enough for indulging me and nurturing my passion.
How do you think that starting so young has impacted your professional career?
It’s a double-edged sword; an incredibly difficult industry, and it’s not all glamor and fame. It’s rejection, disappointment, and a whole host of other things that take their toll on the psyche. I was dealing with all those feelings at a young age, but I was also learning the value of hard work, making sacrifices for what you love, and never giving up.
Looking back, what productions that you worked on are you most proud of?
I’ve always been choosy about what projects I do. I try to choose projects that inspire me and fulfill me. I would say my top favorites would be Lazarus, David Bowie’s show, The Nether, a very dark play I chewed on in 2014, and of course, The School For Good And Evil.
Your career initially focused on stage productions. Since then, you’ve redirected your career towards TV and film roles. Can you share why you chose to transition to screen roles and any challenges you had to overcome to do so?
My experience has deep roots in live performance! I’ve done film and TV throughout my career between theater projects, but now I’m running full speed towards the world of film. It’s a whole different beast, and I love both mediums. The challenges I’ve faced are more industry-related than performance-related. Hollywood faces are hard to compete with. It’s far more vanity and aesthetics than raw performance and truth, which is what it’s like in theater, but I take pride in my imperfections and instead of seeing them as weaknesses, I use them to my advantage.
Can you tell us about your latest role as Sophie in the upcoming Netflix film The School for Good and Evil?
There’s so much to tell… making SGE has been a highlight of my career. It’s fantasy, so I let my imagination run wild. I got to tap into a more childlike creative mind, and Paul Feig, who directed it, made everyday fun. I got to make something massive, and I really enjoyed making it.
How did you prepare for the role and get into character?
As soon as the camera is rolling, I’m in it. Once I’m in costume and on set, I end up where I need to be naturally. Sometimes I’m working in front of a blue screen, but even then, I’m in it, and the transition from reality doesn’t feel like a hill to climb. Even in a fantasy film like SGE, where sometimes I need to close my eyes and take a breath before I go, I prefer to not get in my head. I’ve studied and analyzed the script ahead of time, but when it comes time to act, I prefer to keep things spontaneous and natural.
How do you relate to your character and her journey of self-discovery?
I think her journey is universally relatable. We all get caught up in our own desires and especially in this era of social media, people take more pride in their vanity and clout than who they really are as a person.
Do you see Sophie as a rebellious character? Do you relate to her in any way?
She’s a total rebel! As the plot thickens, she really goes against the grain. She reinvents herself as something totally unheard of. She breaks the rules and she does everything her way!
You’re starring alongside Sofia Wylie, Charlize Theron, and Kerry Washington, which is quite a cast of talented women! What are some things you’ve learned from your fellow cast members?
It’s a dream team of women. We made a movie heavily centered on female friendship and the power of two girls coming together. Being on set with Sofia was exactly that. All the ladies bringing in that feminine power every day kept me alive and energized. We carried it on our backs for months and I am so proud of all of us.
Can you share any memorable experiences from being on set?
One day, Sofia Wylie and I ate lunch together on a blanket in the sun in this little village town where we were shooting. We were in costume, and it felt just like being Sophie and Agatha. I saw that our personal friendship felt so true to their relationship in Gavaldon, their home in the film. It was easy to create our bond on camera because it was already there off set. We had so many goofy moments, but that one moment just eating lunch with her in the sun pops into my head sometimes.
Can you tell us about your music? How would you describe your sound in your own words?
I love making music. A lot of my acting career has been intertwined with music, so I’ve enjoyed singing many different styles and genres. My personal music floats around in an indie world. Each song is unique and different. The only thing they have in common is my voice. I don’t want to put myself in a box of one genre because I sing pop, but I also sing rock and jazz.
What other musicians have had the greatest influence on you?
My list of influences is so long. I grew up listening to a broad catalog of artists and genres, especially jazz and rock.
What can we expect from your debut album, which is releasing soon? What themes can you share from it?
It’s all about everyday moments. I attach a lot of meaning to objects, places, and specific details. I can look at a floating dust in the sun and then suddenly, it has a whole life to me and I’m off to the races with a million thoughts that often seem to have rhythm and rhyme. These turn into my songs.
You’re also a poet – what inspires your poems, and how does your poetry complement your work as a performer?
I think my attention to detail and the meaning I place in objects, places, and really anything else sensory makes my emotions easily reachable. All I have to do is smell a familiar perfume and suddenly, I’m weeping because I’m not just reminded of someone, I’m completely transported to whatever I was experiencing or feeling at an earlier time. I don’t just think through my poetry, I feel it. It’s the same thing with a scene. I don’t want to go through the motions, I want to live them. When I sing, I don’t want to recite the song, I want to let my voice carry me there.
How would you define your personal style? Do you have any favorite designers?
I only wear vintage clothing for the most part. I like to accessorize with fine jewelry, especially antique pieces. I love pin-up looks and 1960s mod dresses. You can’t go wrong with a classic 1940s look, complimented by a designer handbag. I’m picky when it comes to modern and designer fashion.
Do you consider yourself a rebel?
“Rebel” has so many meanings, but I think so. I try to rebel with purpose, not because having an attitude is fun.
Who are some of your favorite historical rebels?
Billy Idol. He’s iconic. Whenever I hear the word “rebel,” I think of Billy’s song, “Rebel Yell”.
Are there other exciting projects on the horizon that you can share with us?
I’ve been working on a book of collected poems. I’ve also been playing with paints and pastels, and I’m doing some self-portraits! I love sewing clothes, and I’ve been making some customized lingerie using vintage elements. I’ve also been recording music. Each song of mine is its own story, from “Toys,” to “Goodbye,” to my newest single released last month, “Snow & Ice.” I have new music coming out later this year, and the best way I can describe it is that it has all the ingredients of a pop song, but with an edgy feel. It’s definitely more fun and upbeat than anything I’ve done before. It will automatically make you want to dance.
To read our print feature on Sophia Anne Caruso, pick up your copy of “The REBEL Issue” here.
Photography by Indira Cesarine for The Untitled Magazine
Make-up and Hair by Kristen Bacino
Styling by Ty-Ron Mayes
Styling Assistant Hannah Sobon
Photographed at The Untitled Space