How ‘Little Fires Everywhere’ star Megan Stott is Burning up the Industry
Young and fiery, the actress speaks openly about being a teenager and portraying one on-screen, as well as memorable tips from her talented mentors — in an exclusive interview with V.
As the story-line continues to heat up each Wednesday — producers and co-stars Kerry Washington and Reese Witherspoon from the mini-series Little Fires Everywhere, are setting Hulu ablaze. However, at the epicenter of the igniting plot, is the development of 14-year-old Isabel Richardson, played by actor Megan Stott. In an exclusive interview with V, Megan hints there is much to look forward to in upcoming episodes.
Little Fires Everywhere is an adaptation from bestselling author Celeste Ng who set the story in her hometown of Shaker Heights. The narrative that unfolds is about Isabel’s mother, Elena Richardson (played by Reese Witherspoon), who thrives on both structure and her family. In stark contrast, a family-run by single mother Mia Warren (portrayed by Kerry Washington), threatens the foundation of Mrs. Richardson’s entire existence. As the Richardsons’ close friend enters a public dispute over adopting a Chinese-American baby, Elena and Mia begin to show their true colors. Between the custody battle, mother-daughter relationships are tested and enemies are formed. However, when a fire is intentionally set in Richardson’s home, the gossiping town can’t help but point fingers at the suspect.
Those fingers aimed at outcast Isabel— preferred to be called Izzy— Richardson. Within the first few minutes of the series, two questions are posed, “Where is Izzy? And if Izzy didn’t do this, who did?” While these allegations are just the beginning of the little fires sparking within her community, Izzy struggles to answer a personal question: Who am I?
Through the eyes of Megan Stott’s character, Little Fires Everywhere confronts the ugly truth about the difficulty of being a teenager. Everywhere things are growing — relationships with parents, friends, body parts, and peer pressure. As Izzy begins her freshman year of high school in 1997, her struggles of coming-to-age leaves no mercy.
Megan, who is not a ‘90s baby, effortlessly plays the role of one. In order to make the transformation into another decade, she began journaling about her character every day. The young actress saturated her ears with Alanis Morissette, My Chemical Romance, and even modern-day Billie Eilish. “I would listen right before we got on set, I would blare [the music] out of the car. I’d blare it, sing it at the top of my lungs, and it got me into that headspace.” After reviewing what she had written for the day, she eased into character. Making the transition as she slowly put on the clothing. At that point, “It felt like I was totally embodying [Izzy].”
Being the misfit to the perfect Richardson family, Izzy goes against the grain of her mother’s grand plan. Who is there left to be, when people don’t like who you already are? Although Izzy’s identity crisis is normal for a teen, it fuels conflict with the mother-daughter relationship. Even more noticeable, given the setting of the show — a modern-day Utopia — the Shaker Heights’ planned community is supposedly a dream come true. For instance, to avoid any stigmas associated with renting, duplexes are conveniently designed as if they are one. Furthermore, the town is noticeably diverse, known for providing a great education, and even enforces strict rules on how high the grass can get. The Ohio suburb is an idyllic bubble and the pressure of her town’s perfection causes Izzy to contemplate: to be who you are or who or a cookie-cutter resemblance of your parent? “Izzy just wants to be loved and accepted,” Stott adds.
“[Izzy’s] fashion style is outspoken,” mostly characterized by black colors, chokers, and cut off shorts. “She wears these clothes because it’s rebellious and nobody else like her wears these things.” Izzy’s style challenges the norm by wearing chunky Doc Martens every day, rocking a fun Drew Barrymore inspired haircut, and a backward hat. Megan reflects on the juxtaposition between Izzy’s imperfect style within her perfect Shaker community. It “[r]esembles what she’s going through at home and what she is dealing with.”
Portraying a teenager and being one herself, Megan shares honesty about navigating her own teenage years and balancing the life of an actress. She recognizes she is no expert, [but] “ I’m learning, I’m still new to this and I’m young, I think for teenagers there is a certain pressure…” This stress manifests itself in radically different ways for teenagers of the 21st century. As Izzy deals with real-life bullies, generation Z also battles virtual bullies.
At 16-years-old, it wasn’t until Little Fires Everywhere the actress finally committed to downloading Instagram. “I’m really good at Instagram. I’m kind of good with Facebook. I don’t really understand Twitter yet, that’s a whole other level,” she jokes. She finds it encouraging and helpful that young actors are so visible in her industry. In particular, Millie Bobby Brown, as well as other stars her age, serving as great examples. Stott points out, “You can learn a lot from them by looking at interviews, their comments, and posts. It’s been very helpful to know that there are other people who are like us [young actors].”
The series covers complex topics such as motherhood, sexuality, and race, but these serve as subcategories under the development of identity. “I think what we really want to do is start conversations between people” because there are so many dimensions to identity. Teenagers want a way to express themselves and if you don’t allow that… anybody would explode.
For Megan, self-expression began to foster at a much younger age. She told V, “When I was three, we would make stories and look at books, then play them out. We had an at-home stage and we would dress up and pretend to be actors when we were little. It was fun and we got many compliments.” Healthy reassurance from Megan’s inner-circle propelled her career in entertainment. Making the adjustment into acting via dance. “I did gymnastics, cheer, I did all of those things. Eventually, my teacher just told me — you love dancing, but you like performing better.”
Even as a confident actress, there is always room to grow — especially when your mentors are Kerry Washington and Reese Witherspoon. “Being able to see all these people working in the same room and writing together, sometimes I wanted to sit in on the writing… I didn’t want to intrude but I think it would have been such a cool experience.” In addition to co-producing, Washington and Witherspoon star in the limited Hulu series. Two of Hollywood’s most powerful actors came to an agreement that the booked sparked a conversation that the actors wanted to take part in telling. Serving as exceptional role models, the professionals offered unsolicited and noteworthy advice to their younger co-stars.
Megan recounts, “Kerry is such a wonderful and inspirational woman.” My favorite lesson she taught me was that ‘you have to bring your best to the table, whether you’re at home, acting with your friend, or acting in practice circles. Being able to do it when you’re not in coverage, always putting your best foot forward.’” The actress then describes her many day-dreams prior to her Little Fires Everywhere casting. Now, “Reese…that was such an iconic thing for me. I was able to work with the one person I had dreamed about [working with] my entire life.” Witherspoon left Megan with a piece of advice that, “[s]ometimes makes me cry because it is very true.” If the character ever feels distant, you just have to put yourself into the scene and everything else will fall into place… that is acting.”
The exceptional cast of Little Fires Everywhere doesn’t aim to answer the multi-level questions it poses, “but I think it helps us look at ourselves.” At the core, “It’s about how you perceive yourself versus how you really are.” The actress indicated that episodes 7 and 8 were her favorite, as fans are able to see a lot more of Izzy.
With a lot more life to live and goals to crush, you might see Megan Stott writing your next favorite song, starring in feature films, and perhaps in a Season 2 of Little Fires Everywhere. With fiery realizations and chilling plot twists yet to come, hopefully, viewers will find the answer to the question that started it all — did Izzy really start that fire?