Liza Soberano is making her Hollywood debut! The actress is one of the biggest stars in the Philippines, and has just recently made her first American film — starring in Zelda Williams‘ Lisa Frankenstein as Taffy, starring alongside Cole Sprouse and Kathryn Newton. We sat down with the 26-year-old star, who spoke about being a Hollywood “rookie,” her character Taffy and why she felt like an “a–hole” while filming *that* PG-13 scene!
Keep reading for our exclusive Q&A with Liza.
Liza: Honestly, it’s been pretty challenging. Obviously, there’s a lot of discomfort in leaving an industry or even a country in general that you’ve grown up in and moving to a new environment where you’re a fish out of water [and] nobody knows you. I’m starting from scratch and everything, and it’s like I worked for so many years in the Philippines building my career up and gaining momentum and doing all these films and everything where it’s gotten to a certain point where I didn’t even have to audition for certain films anymore and stuff like that.
Now, going into Hollywood, I’m starting as a rookie again, and I actually really, really love it. I love the independence. I love that I have to work hard to become successful here, and that’s the type of person I am. I just really love working. I love working hard and I love kind of proving people wrong. So, this whole transition or this whole journey has been kind of difficult because a lot of people have been saying in the Philippines, some actresses have tried to do it, some actresses that were homegrown, but they had never really had the opportunity to do so because they were so busy and whatnot. So, everything just kind of fell into place for me. And yeah, it’s been quite a wild journey for me. It’s been so much fun. It’s been difficult, but more than anything it’s been fulfilling.
J-14: I heard that the director, Zelda Williams, personally reached out to you to audition for the role. So, what was your initial reaction to that?
Liza: So what happened was, I had a dinner with her and my managers, and it was more of a follow-up, a getting to know kind of dinner. And it was like serendipitous because the day that we had that dinner, was the same day Lisa Frankenstein got greenlit for her. And so while we were having dinner, she was just talking about Lisa Frankenstein. And then midway [through] she’s like, ‘Oh yeah, I just remembered I’m still casting for one of the characters.’ And she was like, ‘I think you’d be great. You should audition for it.’ And I was like, ‘Me? Why me?’ I felt a little embarrassed, I was like, ‘Are you saying this because I’m here having dinner with you, or do you actually want me to audition?’ And then she kind of was just pushing me to have more self-confidence and really believe in myself.
Then a few months later, I finally had the opportunity to take a look at the script and I instantly fell in love. And before auditioning, I actually reached out to Zelda and I was like, ‘What are you guys expecting from me? And then she was like, ‘To just be yourself.’ So I filmed the audition tape and then two days later I got called.
J-14: You played Taffy so well. You kind of think she’s the typical popular mean girl, but she’s super funny and is totally a girl’s girl. How did you pull that balance off?
Liza: Well, there was a lot of conversations with Zelda for sure, and I had to read the script three or four times before we started filming because I just wanted to make sure that I was on the same page as everybody else. And I truly understood my characters, my character, her psyche, her goals, her dreams, her aspirations, whatever. And so while we were filming, I was mostly feeding off of the energy that the other characters were giving me, such as Lisa and Janet.
That’s where you kind of see in moments where Taffy is a little blunt and says things that she shouldn’t really be saying. I feel like that comes from just growing up around Janet, hearing Janet talk about people in a certain way — Taffy kind of just picked that up, not knowing that some of the things you’re saying is kind of mean. But the reason why she kind of gets away with it is because she’s just so genuine and just so sweet about everything. And so even when she’s saying things like ‘You could have a boyfriend maybe with really bad skin’ or something, you can’t really take offense to that because she says it so genuinely. And I feel like I drew more from who I am as the person to show that earnestness and genuineness in Taffy.
J-14: Do you have any favorite or funny behind-the-scenes stories of working with your costars?
Liza: Yes. So the day that we got to film the scene where Henry [Eikenberry]‘s thing gets chopped off, I’m not sure if you’ve seen the film already, but that was the first time that me, Kathryn, Cole and Henry were all in one scene together. I think that was the most memorable just because the four of us were all there. It was so much fun because we were having a lot of conversations behind the scenes, but the scene itself, it was very technical. There was a lot going on. You have the prosthetics, you have the art department and the emotions that the characters are dealing with in the scene. It’s a pretty intense scene. But despite that, we were still able to relax and have fun behind the scene. There was no real pressure, even though this is probably one of the most important scenes in the movie.
And so I would say that was the most memorable. Also, Catherine kept on messing up her line and she kept on breaking character while we were filming that scene. And my character just had to have so much empathy and kind of guilt for her in that moment. And so I was actually crying and whenever she would break character, I would just be like this and still crying and she’s like, look at Liza, I’m so embarrassed. I’m so unprofessional. She would say that the whole time and I would still not break character. I didn’t want to lose it. And then I had to say sorry to everyone after because I was, I felt like I was being an asshole on set, just really staying in character. She was like, no, you were being professional. And I was like, thank you. Thank you for giving me that.
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