One of the breakout stars of Little Fires Everywhere — the Hulu adaptation of Celeste Ng's novel of the same name centered on how the arrival of a stranger, Mia (Kerry Washington), upends the lives of the affluent Richardson family in an Ohio suburb in the 1990s — is Megan Stott.
The actress (Second Star to the Right, So Shook) may only be 16, but she has received praise for her performance as Izzy Richardson. Izzy's journey, of a queer young person coming to terms with her sexuality and dealing with bullies, is one that is still rare to see on television. And Stott infuses the character with bravery, believability, and heart.
Below, Stott talks with The Advocate about how she prepared for the groundbreaking role. In addition, she discusses bullying, the importance of LGBTQ characters like Izzy, working with Washington and Reese Witherspoon — who plays her mother, Elena — and what a world on fire can learn from Little Fires Everywhere.
The Advocate: Your performance as Izzy is just amazing. How did you prepare for this role?
Megan Stott: I did a lot of prep work for this role. I felt like Izzy’s story needed to be told with truth and justice. One of my inspirations for Izzy was her music. Every day I would listen to Alanis Morissette, Billie Eilish, and My Chemical Romance. It helped me get into Izzy’s headspace before I was on set.
I also would journal as Izzy before and after scenes. This way I could reflect back on how she felt about things that were happening to her and how they affected her. Doing this helped me stay in touch with her emotions and maintain her depth. I would read the journal before going on set. I was just another layer to her skin.
You weren’t born until the 21st century. In learning about the world of Little Fires Everywhere, what struck you as the major differences between '90s culture and today?
I felt like there was so much freedom as a kid to just go and roam and no one worried about when you would return home. There was also reprieve from feeling tied to the cell phone and social media. Car phones that looked like they were contained in a large bag. Race, sexuality, and multiculturalism seemed to be a debate that was going on. In the art world, it seemed like what is portrayed by Mia is a complete refusal to commit to any one medium. Art is an outward expression however that may come. I loved the Doc Martens and much of the clothing styles that Izzy wore with the chokers and layers. That was a lot of fun!
LGBTQ rights — and visibility — have come a long way since the '90s and Ellen’s coming-out. What did you learn about queer culture then versus now?
I was probably most struck by the social injustices that these kids and even adults had to face. I know that this was more prevalent in the '90s; I just never realized it was that bad. I hope that it has improved in today’s time. There are so many wonderful people that have come out and allowed people to see into their lives. These individuals have bravely opened the door to their culture and in doing so have allowed us to become educated. I feel like we live in a time where we have such open access to resources and organizations to help now. It is so important to be educated on this community and culture. I have seen and felt the struggles and hardships that the LGBTQ community has had to deal with and probably still do to some degree today.
Bullying, unfortunately, still exists in schools. Have you ever had to deal with a bully who targeted you or a friend?
Bullying is something that is still very prevalent in today's time. Many measures have been put in place to help prevent it; however, it is still part of things. I personally dealt with bullying during the end of elementary school and [the] beginning of middle school. When you are bullied you know [you] can tell when someone else is. I was popular but then, one year, this girl just seemed to have it out for me and things escalated over the year. I know how it feels to have someone hurt you emotionally or physically and how that can affect your self-worth. I was lucky and had parents that strongly advocated for me and helped me to understand that I am not defined by another’s impression of me or their personal issue. After my parents became involved, she was no longer in any of the same classes or hallways. Eventually, I wrote a song about what happened. It was very therapeutic, and that is actually how I started songwriting. I just want people to be aware of what they say and do.
I also hope that Izzy’s story reveals the struggles and signs of a teen who is being bullied. Everyone is aware it is wrong, but it continues to occur. I think there are many forms of bullying for all sorts of reasons, and generally the bully is being bullied themselves, maybe in their home, or they have some other issues they may be dealing with. Inclusiveness is very important in the community in order to prevent the situation Izzy endured. I think it is important to have these conversations looking forward.
It’s still rare to see the stories of queer youth on-screen — particularly with Izzy, whose story stretches back to middle school. What does it mean to you to bring this representation to the Izzys of the real world?
It meant a lot to me to be able to show the truth of the struggles and injustices Izzy endured through her eyes; the process of her finding herself and growing to love herself. As teens, we try out so many things to please our parents and our peers. We are trying to learn about what defines and shapes us. I think we need space to be able to investigate our feelings, and I hope it will cause people to look deeper into themselves. I am so happy I was given this opportunity to play Izzy and show the world how special and beautiful her soul is.
Have you had any meaningful fan responses on social media or otherwise that you’d like to share?
I have gotten many people saying how Izzy’s story directly impacts them and they love her story and the way it relates to them. I love hearing stories of what they have dealt with and how she speaks to them.
Little Fires Everywhere deals directly with privilege (or the lack of it) and how it impacts intersectional groups like women, people of color, and LGBTQ people. What do you believe viewers today can learn about privilege from this fictional world?
Privilege comes in many ways with many different faces. I think LFE touches upon some of the many different layers of privilege, from the simple to the profound. One end of the spectrum is when Mia expects Lexie to wash out her cup for once. It's so simple but so important to recognize it is still privilege. Lexie hasn't had to do that before or had the expectation of chores.
A more powerful example that comes to mind is when Mia tells Elena that she didn’t make good choices, she had good choices. That line in particular really struck me. Your different experiences shape your understanding, and it is very common for people to not even realize the privilege they have benefited from. I hope viewers come away from this show with a more conscious awareness of the privilege that exists in our society.
There’s no shortage of fires in the world today. What lessons can the show give us about dealing with a crisis?
I hope to teach people that it doesn’t have to be chaotic. If we stay calm and communicate, we can learn from our experiences and be a better example to others. I think that people will be able to see the differences and similarities of the '90s and today — each generation has their crisis. Just like today, we are dealing with our own. It’s about how we respond to the fire, not how big the fire is, and to not allow it to consume us. We are a strong, independent people who have the willpower to get through any and all things.
What have you learned from performing with acting powerhouses like Reese Witherspoon and Kerry Washington?
Working with both Reese and Kerry has been so inspirational. Each of them taught me so many things just from watching them work. For Reese, I noticed that she puts her all into everything she does and switches things up on every take, giving the director a lot to work with. Kerry taught me that each person in a room is important. They can help elevate a scene. They can push you in the right direction. I loved working with both of them, and I hope to someday work with them again.
Both of them have also become serious Hollywood producers. How do their careers inspire you in envisioning your own future?
I love that they are both producers and women that have taken their careers into a position that they can dictate. To get to see them do what they love but also be able to control some of what's going on and have a voice in the process inspires me. I would love to be able to produce something of my own or be a part of a project where I can do that one day.
What’s next for you?
I have an upcoming film with Netflix called Yes Day with Jennifer Garner and Jenna Ortega. Stay home and stay safe everyone! :)
New episodes of Little Fires Everywhere drop on Hulu Wednesdays at 12 midnight Eastern / 9 p.m. Pacific Time. Watch the trailer below.