- Sixteen-year-old Wyatt Oleff plays high schooler Stanley Barber on Netflix's new show "I Am Not Okay With This."
- "I think it's really lucky that we're able to represent our own age at this time," Oleff told Insider over the phone. "You don't see that a lot."
- Oleff also said working with his "It" costar Sophia Lillis was an honor ("she's one of the best actors who is my age") and how he was "freely acting like an idiot" while dancing during his audition for Stan.
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Sixteen-year-old Wyatt Oleff costars on Netflix's new series "I Am Not Okay With This," cocreated by Jonathan Entwhistle and Christy Hall.
He plays Stanley Barber, a junior at a smalltown high school who befriends Sydney Novak (played by Sophia Lillis) just as she's discovering that she has telekinetic superpowers.
"I think it's really lucky that we're able to represent our own age at this time," Oleff told Insider in a recent interview. "You don't see that a lot. It's changing to the point where people are like, 'OK, we know this 30-year-old is not 18.' You can't do 'Grease.'"
Insider caught up with the teen actor to talk about everything from reunited onscreen with Lillis (who he calls "one of the standouts from 'It'") and how his audition caught him off-guard when he was asked to improvise a pivotal dance scene. Keep reading for our full interview.
Kim Renfro: What was your audition for Stanley Barber like?
Wyatt Oleff: Interestingly enough, my audition process was fairly short. It was a pretty basic — I went into the room for the audition just with the casting director and did the bowling alley scene [with Syd's power-testing] and one of the ones in the car. After I was done with those, they were like, "So Stanley likes to dance a lot. Can you just look in the mirror and pretend you're getting ready for a dance or just do whatever, like dance and stuff?"And so that's what I did [laughing].
By that point, Sophia was already cast, and I was part of the last set of people to be auditioned. From what I've heard people say, [they had auditioned] like a thousand other kids and sometimes adults as well. They were trying to go over 18 for the longest time. But finally, when they let people under 18 do it, that's when I got a chance to go in and luckily I landed the role.
Renfro: It's so common for people in their 20s to be playing high school students, but you and Sophia Lillis are actually the same age as Stan and Syd.
Oleff: What's funny is that Sophia and I are the same age as the characters, but Rich [Ellis] is 25 [years old] playing presumably around 18, and Sofia Bryant is 19 playing probably also around 17 which is a little closer. It's interesting to have that contrast of the older people playing younger and people also playing their age.
I think it all works well together because I feel like a lot of people think that I look older than I actually am. Like when I go to the dentist and they're like, "Oh, what school do you go to?" and I'm like, "This school." They always say, "Oh, uh not college?"
I don't know what it feels like to be a 25-year-old playing 18, but I think it's really lucky that we're able to represent our own age at this time. You don't see that a lot.
It's changing to the point where people are like, "OK, we know this 30-year-old is not 18." You can't do "Grease" anymore. I think people are starting to realize that they should probably cast people that are actually the age that they're saying.
Renfro: What was it like for you working with Sophia Lillis again after "It"?
Oleff: We didn't have a lot of scenes together in "It," but behind the scenes we all bonded. That was one of the best summers in my life. So working with anyone from there again is such a pleasure.
And having more screen-time with Sophia and being able to act with her more was such an interesting experience because she was one of the standouts from the original "It." I think she's fantastic. I think she's one of the best actors who is my age or around my age. So being able to act alongside her is a huge honor, and I think she's absolutely incredible in what she does.
We almost play our roles in real life. I just poke her and like, she's like, "Why?" [laughing] I feel like it's a good reflection of real life with the dynamic there.
Renfro: I really like the dynamic in this show in particular because I think as we start to see so many stories about women's superheroes, having someone like Stan who was just a supportive and affirming guy feels meaningful. It's part of establishing what it means to have a young-woman-focused story with a supportive male cast.
Oleff: Absolutely, yeah. I think you make a really good point there, and I think Stanley just likes Sydney for who she is and the superpowers just come on top of that. Being supportive of your friends no matter who they are is really important. So Stanley plays a pretty nice role in terms of just loving his friends.
Obviously the superpowers are something that makes him like Syd even more because he's a nerd. This is his dream come true. Everything is perfect and aligned for him, and she's having none of it, and it plays out in a pretty fun way.
Renfro: I'm guessing the dance scene that they had you do in your audition was the opening of episode four, "Stan By Me"?
Oleff: Yeah, pretty similar. I didn't really know exactly what to expect going in when I filmed that. But for the audition, I think there was something in the breakdown [of his character] about Stanley dancing, but I didn't think they were going to make me dance in the audition.
I'm glad I can turn off all senses of caring what other people think. Because that's pretty much what I did, not only for the audition but filming that scene as well. I was freely acting like an idiot — which is something you don't get to do a lot, especially on a show like this. So hopefully people think it's fun.
Renfro: Tell me more about what it was like filming on set that day. Did you just get completely sick of that song ("The King of Rock 'n' Roll" by Prefab Sprout) by the end of the day?
Oleff: Oh my God, you don't even know. The first time I heard that song, Jonathan [Entwhistle] was like, "This is the song we're going to use for your dance scene." And I was like, "OK, let's hear it." And then he puts it on and I immediately hated it. I was like, "This sucks. I cannot do this."
I put it off until the week before I had to learn it. Then I started listening to it and was like, "Wait, this song's awesome." By the time we got to filming it, I wasn't really sick of it. Now I'm indifferent to it. We've gone through a rocky relationship. Like, if I hear it, I'll sing along to it. It's a good song. It's ridiculous. But that fits Stanley's character perfectly.
That's something Jonathan does so well. His choices for music just are spot on. Every song in that soundtrack is there for a reason. He knows exactly what he wants. I didn't trust him at first, but then I saw his vision after awhile and I respect him a lot.
Renfro: In the production notes it says Jonathan Entwhistle asked you and your costars to watch John Hughes movies and shows like "My So Called Life" and "Dawson's Creek" ahead of filming. Were you already a fan of those things, or did you discover anything new?
Oleff: Everyone knows, I mean, I hope everyone knows who John Hughes is. I think everyone who's alive right now has seen "Breakfast Club." Everyone at least knows that John Hughes vibe.
But I think Jonathan may have lied to you. I don't remember ever watching any John Hughes movies before filming. He either just suggested it, or maybe recommended it and I didn't listen. But we all knew who John John Hughes was. I mean, I hadn't even seen [his other show] "The End of the Fxxxing World" by then [laughing] so I had no clue what Jonathan was doing, but I completely trusted him.
Renfro: Have you watched any of "The End of the Fxxxing World" since then?
Oleff: I watched season one and I made it halfway through season two. Will I finish it? I don't know. I just like not watching it because then I'd keep telling Jonathan that I haven't seen it yet [laughing].
Renfro: Do you have a favorite Stan outfit?
Oleff: The costumes are outstanding. I'm going to totally agree on that. That's one of my favorite parts of the show. Everyone wears such cool things. [Sighs] I feel like everything Stanley Barber wears is pretty fantastic. His first look in episode one with the Eagles shirt is one of my favorites.
As well as the bowling alley uniform. I think it's very simple, but it's very effective. I love the name embroidered on it — I want that shirt very badly. I don't have it, but you know, we can dream. And the blue suit! Absolutely fantastic. If you could wrap Stanley up in a costume, that would be it.
Renfro: Blue suit with an Enya T-shirt underneath.
Oleff: I used to fall asleep to Enya! I used to put it on before bed and then I'd fall asleep to Enya, so it was like a full-circle thing.
This interview has been edited and condensed for clarity.
Disclosure: Mathias Döpfner, CEO of Business Insider’s parent company, Axel Springer, is a Netflix board member.
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