Interview by Michael J. Lee, Executive Editor for
April 15, 2020

Since our last interview with her, Liana Liberato has kept busy diversifying her filmography, making a foray into television as a series regular on Hulu's supernatural mystery thriller Light as a Feather, and putting a pair of distinctly different movie roles on the books: first as a young woman who unexpectedly becomes besties with her beau's ex in the relationship comedy Banana Split, alongside longtime friend and actress/screenwriter Hannah Marks; then as the provocative new girl with a secret past relocating to a small town in 1960s Oklahoma in the drama To the Stars, opposite Kara Hayward.

With people around the world self-quarantining and practicing social distancing during the current COVID-19 pandemic, we had the opportunity to catch up with Liana by phone. In this exclusive interview, she talks about working on Banana Split, To the Stars, and Light as a Feather, recounting her good fortune and the relationships fostered on all three projects. She also confirms her involvement in the long-delayed film adaptation of Hush, Hush, assuring fans that it is still very much in the works.

To the Stars and Banana Split are now available on digital, while both seasons of Light as a Feather can be streamed on Hulu. Since we last spoke, you've kept busy with a myriad of genres, including comedy with Banana Split, drama with To the Stars, and horror/mystery with Light as a Feather. How did those projects line up in relation to each other, and how did you feel about having such a mix of diverse roles?

LIANA: It's funny, whenever I was doing [one] project, I didn't know what my next project was. So when I was filming Banana Split, I didn't know that my next job was going to be, like, a period piece. [laughs] For me, I just gravitate towards stories that I enjoy reading, and that I want to like be a part of, and once that job is over, it's behind me and I just go and I focus on what else I'm gravitating towards. But I do think that it lands me in some very versatile projects, so that's really fun for me. I mean, it is true, these stories were all so incredibly different. I remember right when I finished To the Stars, I signed on to the first season of Light as a Feather. And literally two days before I started filming Light as a Feather, I actually had to fly back to Oklahoma and do re-shoots for To the Stars. And so there was a quick moment where I was like, "Oh my gosh, I'm in this 1960s gown right now, and tomorrow I'm going to have brown hair and I'm going to be talking about Instagram!" [laughs] And so that was a very interesting perspective. But it's fun, it's a fun challenge.

Given that you share so many scenes with them, what sort of preparation and bonding process did you go through with Hannah Marks for Banana Split and Kara Hayward for To the Stars?

I was very fortunate with Hannah Marks because it's a semi-autobiographical story for her, and also, she wrote it. And I've known Hannah for over 15 years, so the experience that she had that was similar to the story of Banana Split, I actually witnessed it as I repeated it. [laughs] And so I sort of kind of got an inside look of Hannah's experience writing it and going through it. And we have a very strong bond, and she's one of my closest friends, and first friends in LA. So it was very seamless and very easy for Hannah and I to be onscreen together and to collaborate. And then with Kara, I met her one time before we started filming. And she is such a light and so talented, and sort of has this underlying thread of [her character] Iris in her--like, she's so earnest and genuine and quirky. And I did feel, in a way, kind of protective and maternal over Kara. And so that also was a very seamless relationship. And, you know, we did have a lot of young women on set--we had Madisen Beaty and Sophi Bairley and Lauren Stephenson, and we all were in the exact same hotel for a month and a half together. And we got along so well and had so much fun, and I think that helps with the bonding experience of it all as well.

When we spoke for 1 Mile to You, you described yourself as "the least athletic person you'll ever meet." And yet your character Maggie in To the Stars has a pretty mean throwing arm, and even teaches Iris how to nail a target. Was that all movie magic, or did you actually develop a decent pitch?

[laughs] It's still true, I still am very much not athletic at all. For 1 Mile to You, my character was supposed to be a runner, and I tried to run like a mile yesterday, and I thought I was going to die. I couldn't do it! [laughs] Now throwing, on the other hand...Probably a little movie magic, but I don't know what it is, I have, like, a really strange gift of throwing in the exact place I need to throw. So that helped a little bit! It could be in my genetics--my mom was a softball player, so maybe I had this weird placebo effect on set, where I was like, "Oh yeah, I can do this, let me try it!" And so maybe something possessed me on those days. But when I wasn't on camera and a rock needed to hit a specific target...I hate to say this, but that was not me throwing. But I'm glad it looked like it!

I know your career started on television with guest roles, but Light as a Feather was your first shot at being a lead on a series, where you're staying with a character over the course of multiple seasons. What did you think of that opportunity, and did you adjust pretty well to life on that type of project?

It was really, really fun! As you said, I never really [was] a regular on a television show until Light as a Feather, and I think there was a part of me that was a little scared about being, for lack of a better word, "stuck" on a show. Because you just never know what you're going to get when you sign on--you don't know who you're going to be surrounded with every day, and you're sort of taking a leap of faith. And I think I was really nervous. And I truly had absolutely nothing to worry about. I created such a family on that set, and it was everything I hoped and dreamed of, and I would do it all over again in a heartbeat. I want to do another TV show so bad now because of the experience that I had on that show. And as an actor, it's our job to fall in love with characters, and so it was really fun for me to get to live in a role for as long as I did, because we don't really get that type of privilege when we're doing movies--you know, we're living with a character for maybe a month or two. And with TV, you get that call after you finish season one, and they're like, "Yeah, you get to do it all over again!" And you're like, "Oh my gosh, now what's going to happen to the character?" And when you're filming, sometimes you don't know where your character's going to go, or what's going to happen. Like, in season two, I had no idea that I was about to go play two characters. And so that was kind of surprising. [laughs]

Having portrayed McKenna on that show for so long, did you at least get to take something of hers home with you as a memento? Maybe her potato chip necklace?

[laughs] Oh my God! I remember seeing that necklace for the first time, and I was like, "Wow, that is a piece of art right there!" I did not take that with me, [but] I did really like McKenna's clothes, though, so I did steal a few items of clothing. There's a sweatshirty type of thing that I wear for, like, the last two episodes. And I don't know why, I was so sick of it when I wore it on the show, but I decided to take it with me. I don't know why I did that, but I like it!

Season two of Light as a Feather ended in such a way that it could be taken as either a cliffhanger or a finale. Should we expect a season three?

I think unfortunately, we will not be having a third season. But I do hope that our cast is able to reunite in some way, because we got along so well. And, you know, that really was the heartbreaking part of it--not being able to see them every day. But I think that everybody is so talented on that show, and they're going to be working forever. So I'm excited to see what all of us get to do in the future.

Speaking of which, what might be coming up in your own future?

There's a project that I've been signed on to that's been in the works for a while, and it's really about finding the right home for it--a movie called Hush, Hush. It's a very acclaimed and loved book, a franchise. And it's been taking a while to get off the ground, but I truly think it's because it's such a precious book, and we want to make sure it's in the right home. So we're in the process of working on that. And hopefully just reading a bunch of scripts and signing on to something else again!

Well, hopefully life gets back to normal, and we'll be talking to you about it sooner rather than later. Thanks for another interview, it's been a pleasure, as always!

Yes, you too! It's so awesome to get to talk to you again, stay safe out there!

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