interview by JANA LETONJA

Actress Izzy G recently starred opposite Riley Keough and Lily Gladstone in Hulu’s series ‘Under the Bridge’. Prior to that, Izzy is best know for her roles on Netflix’s ‘AJ’ and the ‘Queen with RuPaul’.

Izzy, you just starred on Hulu’s series ‘Under the Bridge’, based on a true story about a 14-year-old girl murdered by her peers in 1997. How did you get cast on this series and what drew you to audition for it?
I had gotten the role through the audition process. One of the first things that I noticed was, of course, the writing and how unbelievably brilliant it was. Then when I started to dive more into the true story, going down the rabbit hole of research, I connected to Reena. A friend of mine, at the time, was going through a very similar situation to Reena. Not as bad of course, but the same issues that drove the bullying for Reena, also drove the bullying for my friend. So, for me it wasn’t just about telling Reena Virk’s story, it was also about telling my close friend’s story, as well as many others out there who could relate to her. I really wanted to do Reena’s story justice and to create awareness, which hopefully leads to change. 

In the series, you portrayed Kelly, one of the young teens who murdered Reena, the other young girl. How did you prepare for such a heavy role, both mentally and physically?
There was a lot that went into Kelly. There was a lot of time, energy, emotions. It was quite difficult to dive into her. One of the things I prepped with was research, going down the rabbit hole, finding out what I could about her, using the information Quinn and Samir gave me to ground her. One of the most difficult things with Kelly was humanizing her. I mean, how can you? What I realised is that there is no humanising Kelly, there’s just trying to understand her and what motivates her.

Physically, aside from the hair and shaving my eyebrows, I seriously focused on her mannerisms, the way she covered her hands with her sleeves, her slouch, her stare, the way she walked with her arms over her stomach or a bag covering it. So, my prep was doing everything I could to embody it all into the Kelly I was playing. 

What did you find the most challenging about portraying Kelly?
One of the most difficult things was to try to make her into a full-fledged three-dimensional person instead of just ‘Killer Kelly’. I really did focus on playing, and I will forever say this, a very troubled and very disturbed 15-year-old girl, doing my best not to judge myself in order give Reena’s story the respect it deserves.  

Which episode or scene did you find the hardest to film and why?
There were so many that were so difficult in their own way. The train scene was cold and a big emotional and brutal day. The court scene was a big emotionally exhausting day and I am so blessed to have had Kevin and our amazing cast and crew throughout that. 

The under the bridge scene of course. Tika had said something beautiful, “I think for a lot of us when we were rehearsing, the heaviness didn’t feel the same as when we were there in that moment.”, and I think that was true for a lot of scenes. I am unbelievably grateful for the support I had throughout the show. And the grocery store scene with Archie, seeing the pain on her face crushed me. 

How did this role change your outlook on aggression and crime among the teenage generation?
It definitely made me even more aware. My parents have taught me that you always want to be aware. Not fearful, but definitely aware. It is sad though because one of the main aspects of our show is hurting people and that is not to ever excuse the brutality. There are plenty of hurt people who don’t do what Kelly and others like her have done. 

The question then becomes, and I don’t have the answer, “How do we create a world where there are less hurt people or at least know the signs and then take action to prevent tragic events like this from happening?”

In what capacity do you think social media plays a role in the actions of teenagers today? 
A big role. I think social media is detrimental to teens. Of course, that’s very hypocritical of me to say since I have social media, but truly it is. My parents check in with me constantly about it. 

People compare themselves to one another non-stop. People hide behind their screens and say messed up things they would never say in real life, anonymously and without repercussions. Not just that, but we’re dehumanizing each other. A big negative of social media is that you only see what someone wants you to see, some crazy idea of perfection. It almost makes me feel like that’s all anyone cares about nowadays. 

I feel like it can feed negativity so easily, but it can also help. Social media is also an amazing learning tool. I’ve cooked some pretty cool meals that I learned from Instagram, learned about issues I wasn’t aware of, and it can be great for families and friends to keep up with each other. 

My thoughts are that it’s okay to have it, but not live on it or judge your life based on what other people want you to think their life is. Read a book every once in a while, take a walk around your neighbourhood, go somewhere in the nature, disconnect for a bit. That’s all you need sometimes and there’s no shame in that. 

How do you think social media would have impacted this real life story back in 1997?
Honestly, I have no clue. It was a very different time with a very different group of people. There’s no telling if the outcome of what happened would be better or worse, but I do know that it’s still happening. While we were filming in Vancouver, a very similar situation happened. 

How did you get into acting in the first place?
My mom is an actor and my dad’s a director, so I grew up in the business. When I was four, I had just watched my mom do an audition and I told her l want to be an actor, and she was like “No, be a lawyer”. She just wanted me to have a voice and be able to really have an opinion and an understanding before I went into acting. So, when I was eight, I adamantly said “Mom, I want to act.” 

My parents went through all these scenarios to make sure I understood what that meant. Things like, “You know that wedding you were going to be a flower girl in? Can’t. You’re filming”. “That sleepover all your friends will be at? Can’t. Got an audition”. Pretty much anything they could think of that was important to an eight-year-old social girl, they threw at me. And most importantly, they made sure I understood that any project I would be doing is somebody’s baby.  That once I was on it, I couldn’t quit if I didn’t like it or not give it my all, even if I was tired. My parents instilled that work ethic. 

So, I started auditioning and booking small roles at first. Then I got my amazing manager and lawyers, which led to ‘AJ’ and the ‘Queen with RuPaul’, which I’m forever grateful for. We are a forever family. Then ‘B Positive’ after that and now, ‘Under the Bridge’. 

When you’re not auditioning or on set, how do you like spending your days off?
I do school, hang out with close friends, I love painting, cooking, and playing music on my guitar and piano. I’m totally into plants right now too. Outside of acting, I’m pretty much a normal teenager. 

What is coming up next for you? Can you share anything about your exciting upcoming projects?
Honestly, I’m just waiting to see what I connect with. There are so many people I’d love to work with. The list is too long to write, but I would really love to work with Damien Chazelle. His films are absolutely brilliant and I love the music he uses. I grew up in New Orleans, so music is a big part of who I am, and I really connect with his work.

all photography ANDIE JANE