Grace Kaufman says she turned into a “ball of tears” the first time she the script for The Sky Is Everywhere, adapted by author Jandy Nelson from her beloved 2010 young adult novel The Sky Is Everywhere.
Kaufman, 19, stars as 17-year-old Lennie Walker in the Apple TV+ film directed by Josephine Decker, with co-stars including Jacques Colimon as Joe Fontaine, Pico Alexander as Toby Shaw, Havana Rose Liu as Bailey, Cherry Jones as Gram, and Jason Segel as Big.
Though the young star had never read the book before, just one read through the script took her on the wild ride of emotions that her character, Lennie, goes through: from the sudden loss of her older sister, Bailey, to navigating a confusing love triangle, all while trying to figure out who she really is without Bailey by her side.
“I had been auditioning for a couple of months. They sent me the full script to read, and I kind of sat down thinking, ‘Okay, maybe I’ll read a little bit today, and then maybe I’ll finish it tomorrow,’ and I ended up sitting and reading the entire thing in two hours just in a ball of tears,” she said. “So right off the bat, I was like, ‘Oh, I would really, really love to be a part of this project.'”
After she landed the role of Lennie, she read Nelson’s book and fell in love with it, too. But her on-set experience with Decker gave her the creative freedom to inject some of herself into her character.
“Working with Josephine [Decker] was just such a privilege because she’s totally an actor whisperer,” Kaufman said. “She’s so connected to the actors she’s working with and she’s just such a great guide. I was able to incorporate bits and pieces of myself into it that I just felt like I personally related to on a lot of deep, deep levels, and she created this space that was so comfortable.”
She adds: “We had full rein to explore creatively and add elements that we wanted to and we didn’t feel scared to do that, or like that there would be judgment, because it was just like this totally welcoming, just safe space to just like be creative and be free with that, which was so special.”
She also began to feel a real sense of family with her on-screen guardians, Cherry Jones, who plays her grandmother, Gram, and Jason Segel, who plays her uncle, Big.
“Cherry just very quickly became this grandmother figure to me and we all just were so mesmerized by her kindness,” Kaufman said. “She was just so grounded. All of us followed her on the set like she was the mama duck and we’re little ducklings. We’re just like, ‘Cherry, we love you. Teach us everything you know.'”
“Jason is hilarious,” she said of Segel. “He just brought such a light-hearted, chill energy to set, and his presence was just such a funny one. I remember my very first day of filming, I had a scene with him — it was just me and him — and it was the very first scene up and I was a little nervous just because it was the start of the whole shoot, and I was just like, it’s a lot of pressure. Here we go.
“But he really just made me feel so comfortable and just made me laugh and had me just get out of my head… he also kind of became this uncle figure for me, and it was just so sweet. He’s the best. We’d walk onto set and he’d be like, ”Sup fuckers? What’s going on, how are you?'” she laughed. “He’s just an amazing guy and such a talented, funny actor.”
The Sky Is Everywhere is now streaming on Apple TV+. Main Image: Grace Kaufman as Lennie Walker surrounded by roses in The Sky Is Everywhere courtesy of Apple TV+.