Syfy’s Astrid & Lilly Stars Celebrate Curvy Young Women Slaying & Saving the World
Astrid & Lily Save the World’s Jana Morrison and Samantha Aucoin discuss what rocks about fighting monsters in Syfy’s new supernatural series.
WARNING: The following contains spoilers for Astrid & Lilly Save the World Season 1, Episode 1, which aired on Jan. 26 on Syfy.
There have been plenty of stories in pop culture that feature high schoolers going up against supernatural forces, from the iconic series Buffy the Vampire Slayer to The Magicians. Syfy adds a new entry to this canon with Astrid & Lilly Save the World, which debuted on Jan. 26. As the title suggests, Astrid (Jana Morrison) and Lilly (Samantha Aucoin) are in charge of saving the world. The two best friends are outcasts at their high school, and after a ritual goes wrong, it’s on them to combat the monsters targeting their classmates and community.
Along with their journey to combat monsters, they’ll battle all the insecurities that come with being a teenager. In honor of Astric & Lilly Save the World’s series premiere, Morrison and Aucoin sat with CBR to talk about their time on the show, their uplifting friendship, and how their roles felt empowering in this exclusive interview.
CBR: What originally appealed to you about the show as well as your respective characters?
Jana Morrison: I think what really attracted me to the show was having two bigger women — one of color — being heroes. That’s what really attracted me to the show. My character is a confident, smart, sciencey human who believes in herself — sometimes doesn’t — but for the most part, is confident in herself. That really enticed me to play this character.
Samantha Aucoin: Similar for me, as well. What really drew me into this show and to these characters was that body neutrality message that is engraved in it. Getting to play an oversized woman as an oversized woman. I loved that representation, and I love that the show has a lot of different representations for many things. That automatically drew me in, and my character, she’s very vulnerable. She’s insecure, especially with her physical insecurities, but just with her personality. She’s insecure, and she doesn’t stand up for herself. She’s got her best friend to help her out with that. I love the dynamic between the two. We have these two beautiful, teenage girls who have this amazing relationship with each other. They really uplift each other, and there’s no toxicity between the two, which I thought was really refreshing. I love that we get to be a part of that.
Morrison: Yeah, me too. I was actually gonna mention that our relationship really enticed me too. They’re two women who uplift each other, and are each other’s cheerleaders when the other one is feeling down. It’s so important to me. I love that in my own life.
Speaking about that friendship, what was it like getting to work with each other to bring this friendship to life?
Morrison: To have a person to be on this journey with was really special, and I needed your support.
Aucoin: And I needed yours.
Morrison: We had each other, and we’re just going through the same thing. Thankfully, we love each other.
Aucoin: Yeah, we did. We just clicked, and there’s a lot of trust. There had to be a lot of trust, and thankfully, there is. I feel forever grateful.
Morrison: I think we get a kick out of each other.
As you guys were touching on, this show deals a lot with self-esteem, self-confidence, bullying. What topics were you most excited to tackle, and why are those so important to you?
Aucoin: You touched on a couple, like the self-esteem topics. Especially for my character, she deals with those physical insecurities. She feels like an outcast. We both do, and I feel for Lilly, she has really big insecurity with what she can wear, fitting into the clothes, and having that mentality that you need to be the one to fit the clothes, not the clothes need to fit you. So that was something I was so happy I got to tackle because that’s an insecurity I’ve been struggling with for my whole life. Getting to relive that insecurity on screen and getting to work from it, and learn from it, was so important to me because I feel like in high school, I needed this show. I needed these topics that we’re talking about. I needed to see this representation. If I were in high school, that would have been amazing for me. I’m just so happy we get to do this, and we get to have that representation for those girls, like in high school or for anyone, honestly. Anyone who feels like an outcast.
Morrison: Ditto. I couldn’t have said it better myself.
Along with these more grounded topics, you guys are facing a lot of monsters, a lot of horror elements. What were some of the challenges, or what was really exciting about when battling and going up against these horror special effects in the show? What are you excited to see in the final version?
Morrison: I’m just excited to see every single monster. I haven’t seen anything besides what we physically saw when you’re acting with them. I feel like one of the things that really surprised me about special effects — I’ve never done a show with special effects or tangible goo — it just took longer for those scenes to film because there’s a lot of elements. We got to clean up after. We got to reset, so that really surprised me because a lot of like the shows on TV right now have a lot of special effects, so I’m like, “How long did that take?” But what really did excite me was working with the goo and getting my hands dirty.
Aucoin: They made these like really realistic organs. Even though they weren’t really shown on camera, we still had to go in and feel these organs, and they were all slimy.
Morrison: It made it really real.
Also, with all these horror elements, there’s a lot of humor to this show. What was it like finding that balance between the humor and the horror?
Morrison: For me, I just took the humor seriously. I know there were funny parts, and those play because [series writers] Betsy Van Stone and Noelle Stehman’s writing is amazing. I didn’t need to add anything. I just needed to believe and play the truth.
Aucoin: The comedy in the show is very much situational comedy, sometimes physical comedy, but it’s not slapstick comedy. I feel like that’s the best comedy is when you don’t have to try. You don’t have to push. You just have to believe in what you’re saying and believe in what’s actually happening. That can be funny in itself when it’s set up the right way.
Another thing I want to ask you guys is you talked about how fun it was to play with the goo, for instance. What were some of your favorite memories from working on set for this production?
Morrison: Honestly, my favorite memory was the very first day. My very first scene was with all of the teams that are in the show, and I was nervous. Everybody was so supportive and saying like, “You don’t have to be nervous. Don’t worry about it. We got a lot of takes to do so. You’ll get this. It’s your first day. You got this girl.”
Aucoin: I think my favorite memory on set was another scene where it was all of us, the whole cast. For the most part, it was the party. There’s a scene where we’re at a party in the first episode, and that was such a fun scene to shoot because we had all these background people, but we also had the core cast. We got to chill in this massive, beautiful house and get to play games together in between takes and stuff. It was so much fun. It was really a real bonding experience.
Morrison: To relive a high school party, couldn’t get better.
Touching on your the rest of the cast. What was your favorite character dynamic to explore in the show?
Morrison: I think one of my favorite dynamics besides us is the relationship between my mother and me. She’s very religious in the show. Astrid is really questioning that religion, and that’s something I’m dealing with in my own life. Using what I have in those scenes together with the amazing Geri Hall, who plays my mother, it was beautiful to play that. I hope people can relate to it. I had a really beautiful time working with her and exploring that relationship.
Aucoin: I feel like my favorite dynamic besides us was the dynamic between Lilly and Candace, played by Julia Doyle. Candace was this ex-best friend of Lilly’s. There are a lot of backstories there. There’s a lot of history. It was always really fun getting to play with Candace or play with Julia because there was a lot that’s being said, but there’s a lot you have to read between the lines. That was always really fun, getting to play being so vulnerable with someone who got their [guard] up to you. I would go from having this loving fun relationship with Astrid, and then I’d have a scene with Candace, and it was like a completely different side of Lilly that you don’t get to see with Astrid.
We’ve talked about how these characters are so empowering. For both of you, was there a moment during filming where you felt completely empowered, and if so what moment was that?
Morrison: Definitely when we slay. I would have never imagined that I could do that in my real life. Now I feel like I am able to slay, if necessary.
Aucoin: I agree. One other moment for me where I felt really empowered is when Lilly doesn’t really want to wear shorts. She’s feeling really self-conscious, and then at the end of the episode, she gets to strut down the hallway by herself wearing these short shorts. That was so empowering for me because I would never have worn short-shorts the high school. That was something that I never even would have done. It would never have even crossed my mind. It’s like, “Why would I ever do that to myself?” Getting to do that as Lilly was so empowering. I was like, “Yes, I can do that.” I can sit in the shorts, and it doesn’t matter. I look great. My body is beautiful, so it was such an empowering moment for me.
As we know, Astrid and Lilly, they’re out to save the world, so what makes Astrid and Lilly the heroes the world needs today?
Morrison: We are people you would see on the street. I’m a person of color. We’re both of curvy figures and luscious figures. There are so many people out in the world like us that aren’t seen on media all the time. I feel like that’s changing. We are there to help change that a little more.
We’ve talked about how you hope this resonates with viewers, whether they are teenagers or even if they’re older. What do you hope these viewers take away at the end of the day, after watching the show?
Morrison: I hope they take away that it doesn’t matter what you look like. You can be a hero. Body neutrality is a thing, and it should be a thing. It should be really prevalent in our society. You don’t have to look a certain way to be loved and to be accepted.
Aucoin: Very much that.
We’ve talked about what’s been empowering, what’s been exciting onset, so what were some of the biggest challenges for both of you when it came to approaching this project?
Morrison: I think one of the biggest challenges for me was there are 10 episodes. That means there are a lot of pages in each episode with a lot of lines. We’re the leads of the show. That’s a lot of pressure. So to be able to time manage the whole day, even my time at home, trying to get my mental health in order, trying to get my rest. That was a challenge because I’d never done that before. Also acting at 3:00 am as if it’s like 12:00 pm was definitely a learning curve for me trying to figure out what I need to do for myself to be on point.
Aucoin: I would say for me, my character is vulnerable. She wears her heart on her sleeve. That’s something I don’t do, or I used to not be able to do. I think when I had to do those more vulnerable scenes, that was such a challenge for me because I’m not used to being so vulnerable, especially in front of a bunch of people… That was definitely a challenge and a learning curve, but I’m forever grateful for it. I feel like now I can take away that I can be vulnerable. I can be somewhat of an open book, and it’s okay to do that.