Lexi Underwood stars in Hulu's adaptation Little Fires Everywhere as Pearl, and we're calling it now: she's one to watch. This past Fall, I chatted with the up-and-coming triple threat (the actress and musician is also an aspiring director) about what it was like working with Reese Witherspoon and Kerry Washington, who plays her mom in the Hulu series; the "surprises" fans of the book can expect; and how she's living out her "dreams of becoming a '90s teenager." Oh yeah, and she's here to set the record straight on just who taught Reese Witherspoon how to TikTok.
POPSUGAR: What first inspired you to go for this role?
Lexi Underwood: The main thing about the show that I absolutely love is that we have an all-female production team. The fact that we have two powerful women at the helm of the show, Kerry and Reese. And then you have Lauren Neustadter from Hello Sunshine and Pilar Savone from Simpson Street. And then we have two female directors, Nzingha Stewart and Lynn Shelton. And then an incredible visionary showrunner Liz Tigelaar. It's such an incredible experience to be able to learn from them. And it's very rare. It doesn't happen often when there's an all-female production team.
"I tell everybody that this is like my Hilary Duff moment."
But casting process-wise, if I'm going to be honest with you, I was not excited about my audition for the show. Because the day before I had lost a show and I was feeling really discouraged. I tell everybody that this is like my Hilary Duff moment for her Lizzie McGuire audition. I was feeling really discouraged. I was like, oh I don't, I don't want to go. I'm was basically about to quit acting, and my mom gave me the confidence and the reassurance to go in there and kill it.
PS: Did you enjoy the book?
LU: I did. I read it in two days. If you've read the book, it's such a compelling story. You don't want to put the book down. I loved it.
PS: Do you think that fans of the book are going to love the series?
LU: I hope so. As a fan of the book, I love the series, not to be biased or anything. But I love the series. Celeste Ng is a producer, she has visited set. She's very involved with the project as well, she's not letting anything go off the rails or anything crazy. There's definitely some surprises that aren't in the book, but I think that it brings an element of excitement.
PS: Were there any scenes that you felt were especially tricky to film?
LU: Yeah, Miss Kerry and I have a lot of arguments as the show starts to play out. Because the more and more that the season goes by, the more and more that Pearl and Mia's relationship gets a little bit rocky. My very first argument scene with Miss Kerry was a little tricky because, I mean, I've been watching Miss Kerry on television since I can't even remember, like Scandal. I don't know if I should have been watching Scandal at my age, but it was my favorite show, like a family thing.
To have to do a scene that intense with her for the first time was a bit tricky for me, but she gives it her all, she goes in and she's a very method actor. I appreciate that about her because it really gets me in the mindset and the mood. The more and more that I do these arguments, the more and more that I get accustomed to it, so I know what to expect. But the first time I was kind of thrown off, I was like whoa what's happening?! It was really intense.
PS: Have you gleaned any words of wisdom from her or from Reese?
LU: Yeah. Especially Miss Kerry, they've been helping me navigate this business a lot because this is my first time being a series regular. She'll give me some advice. I've asked for tips on directing because I want to be a director when I grow up as well.
Miss Reese has also mentored me through the process of Little Fires Everywhere. She has been kind and generous in giving advice as well as making me feel comfortable in scenes with her. Miss Reese is also so much fun on set.
SteVonté Hart (who plays Brian) and I helped Miss Reese set up her TikTok account, and during one of our night shoots, I taught her how to do the Woah.
PS: Is there anything about the whole '90s setting that's been really fun for you?
LU: Oh my gosh! I think this is my favorite era. I told Lyn Paolo in my very first fitting that just being a part of this show is going to help me live out my dreams of becoming a '90s teenager.
The wardrobe is so awesome. The chokers, a bunch of rings, we have mom jeans, we have boyfriend jeans, we have combat boots. Everything about this show I love because I love the '90s. And then we also get to listen to a bunch of '90s music on set.
PS: What's your favorite?
LU: "Wannabe" by the Spice Girls because it's the Spice Girls. It's such a classic.
PS: What do you feel is the biggest misconception about Gen Z?
LU: That we're not aware of what's happening around us, because I think that we're the most politically aware generation as of right now. We are the future. I mean you see people like Greta Thunberg, you see Emma Gonzalez. We're changing the narrative, we're changing the world right now.
"I'm just passionate about making the world a better place and making sure that everybody's treated equally and that we all have the right to choose and the right to live freely."
PS: Do you have a cause that you're really passionate about?
LU: I am really passionate about March For Our Lives. I'm really passionate about Black Lives Matter. I'm really passionate about women's rights and women's equality. I opened up my own production company for my 15th birthday last year. It's called Ultimate Dreamer Productions. My mom was like, do you want to do something for your 15th birthday? Do you want to piece together a project? And so I pieced together this thing called We the Voices of Gen Z, which is a roundtable discussion full of diverse Generation Z voices.
We're talking about really important issues about what's happening in the world right now. We talked about climate change, we talked about social injustice, we talked about gun control, we talked about abortion rights. What that looks like, a woman's rights to choose. LGBTQ rights.
I don't think that I have a specific cause that I'm passionate about. I think I'm just passionate about making the world a better place and making sure that everybody's treated equally and that we all have the right to choose and the right to live freely.
PS: What would you say to other young people who want to make a difference?
LU: Don't be hesitant. Don't ever think that your voice doesn't matter, because it does. If you stay silent, you're a part of the problem. We have to get out there. Even if you're not old enough to vote, tell people who are around you to vote, because it's going to make a difference.