Liza Soberano Brings Sweetness and Laughs to Lisa Frankenstein
An exclusive Q&A with actress Liza Soberano.
Lisa Frankenstein, directed by Zelda Williams and written by Diablo Cody, brings back the fun of '80s horror-comedies. Lisa Swallows (Kathryn Newton) is an awkward teen who can’t seem to connect with anyone, especially not with her sweet new stepsister Taffy (Liza Soberano), or her less-than-sweet stepmother Janet (Carla Gugino). It's not until a 19th-century corpse (Cole Sprouse) is reanimated by a freak storm that Lisa meets her real soul mate.
Soberano, one of the Philippines’ most exciting young stars, makes her US feature debut in the film with an innovative and amusing makeover of the popular girl slash cheerleader character. “Liza had such a firm grasp on Taffy’s incredible, hilarious sweetness that it helped blunt what otherwise could’ve been cruel lines and choices,” Williams says in the production notes.
We spoke with Soberano about creating Taffy, learning about '80s culture, and what makes the film so fun.
How did you get involved in playing Taffy?
It all started during this one dinner that I had with Zelda Williams. She’s a friend of my management group, so they thought it would be a good idea to introduce the two of us, and I was looking for friends in LA. The day I met her was the day that Lisa Frankenstein got greenlit. She told me she was still looking for an actor for one of the characters and thought I should audition. I was like, "Why me?" She responded, "Why not you?" I was just really shy and embarrassed that she even thought that I suited the character.
On the page, Taffy could be a sort of mean girl, but you really changed that.
When I was reading the script, I could tell that she was that typical perfect girl-next-door type who's also kind of mean on the inside. The deeper I got into the character, however, I realized that she is really quite genuine and has an earnest approach to how she relates to Lisa. I felt that Taffy genuinely just wanted to have a sister and make Lisa feel like she was part of the family. When I was going back and forth with Zelda before I auditioned, I asked her what exactly she saw in me that made her think of Taffy. She told me that it’s the fact that I’m very earnest. I played with that idea. Taffy may be a little ditzy, but she has a genuine heart.
How would you characterize her relationship with Lisa and her mother, Janet?
Before the movie takes place, Lisa and Taffy had just become stepsisters. So, they're just starting to build a rapport with each other. Lisa is shut off because of the way that Janet is to her, and maybe she thinks that Taffy is the same way; her wanting people to think she is nice is all for show. But really, Taffy just wants to bring Lisa out of her comfort zone and make her part of the family. As to Janet, her mother, I think Taffy just wants to please Janet. She is probably exactly like Janet in some ways, but she also just wants people to love her. One of Taffy’s characteristics that resonated with me is that she's a people pleaser, but it's coming from a place of genuinely being kind.
Were you given films to watch to connect to the film’s '80s lineage?
To be able to understand all of the '80s references, I asked Zelda to recommend a few films. Zelda told me to watch Ferris Bueller's Day Off because she wanted me to be like Ferris Bueller's girlfriend in the movie. I watched Heathers and Beetlejuice in preparation for filming.
Were you a fan of those '80s horror films?
I wouldn't say I was a fan of the genre; I didn't know about these films before starting this production, but the tone of Lisa Frankenstein is something that I really like as a viewer. Making this film gave me a newfound love for this genre.
What do you hope people take away from the film?
I hope that the audience goes home having had fun, feeling like they had a great time being nostalgic about the '80s.
This interview has been edited and condensed for clarity.