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Interview: Grace Kaufman Talks ‘The Sky is Everywhere’

The Sky is Everywhere is Apple’s latest original film. The drama is a coming-of-age story centering on 17-year-old Lennie Walker (Grace Kaufman), who suddenly loses her sister Bailey. Her family, grandmother Fiona (Cherry Jones) and uncle Big (Jason Segel) encourage her to take the necessary steps to mourn her sister. 

This particular film is not your run-of-the-mill teen story. Lennie is a musical prodigy with a wild imagination, adding a layer to how the teen expresses her big emotions. To show how the teen expresses and contextualizes her grief, director Josephine Decker leans on magical realism among the redwood trees of Northern California.

While Lennie’s loss is very specific, how she describes grief might touch a generation of teens who have lost so much over the last two years. “Everybody has been dealing with all kinds of losses, so I hope people can see bits and pieces of themselves and their experiences that are unique in their own feelings,” said actress Grace Kaufman, who plays Lennie.  

Grace Kaufman sat down with AwardsRadar to speak about tackling grief, working with Cherry Jones, and more. 

Niki Cruz: In The Sky is Everywhere, there’s magical realism involved, and it deals with the heavy subject matter of a teen losing her sister. What was your initial reaction to the script?

Grace Kaufman: Reading the script was the first time I learned the entire story, and I got to know Lennie a bit more and understood her journey a bit better. They sent the script to me, and I sat and read the entire thing in 2 hours and ended up a puddle of tears on my couch. I so desperately wanted to be a part of this film. I see so much of myself in Lennie. I feel like she’s a universally relatable character to so many based on what she’s going through. I was also fascinated by the beautiful imagery through magical realism.

NC: There are so many ways to interpret and tell stories about grief. I love that this film goes back to grief as an architecture which is a unique way to tackle it. 

GK: It’s true. The poetry that Lenni writes throughout the movie is quite literally written in that way. It’s also through her imagination and narration, which is so unique and special. I love that it gives this visual to what she’s feeling. I feel like it elevates the story, and I hope audiences can feel those things even deeper.

NC: One of the stages of grief the film tackles is the numbing feeling. How do you figure out what that looks like on the outside?

KC: The most interesting part about grief is that it’s so unique to each person and felt and manifested so differently. There’s no right way to grieve, so it was great to apply what I thought it would be for Lennie. I had to go inward and find things within myself that I had gone through personally to connect and intertwine with her [experience]. It got to a point where I was like, “Where does Lennie end and Grace begin again?” I felt like I understood her, especially being a teenage girl amid a global pandemic. There’s been so much confusion, isolation, and uncertainty. I had taken a lot of those feelings and applied them to her. 

 NC: I hope teens watch this because they’ve experienced so much in two years — a global pandemic racial tensions, all with the added factor of isolation. There’s so much loss.

GK: Totally, and the film is a coming-of-age story about a woman, too. I hope young women can see a bit of themselves in Lennie. Stories like these are so important, and I don’t see enough of them out there, so I’m really happy this is coming out for people to see. I spoke to Havana (Rose Liu), who plays Bailey, and she also brought up a good point. She said it’s for young people, but it’s for everyone. You can take a character like Gram, and put yourself in her shoes, and imagine what she’s going through. She’s losing a granddaughter but has this other granddaughter and is trying to figure out how to nurture her and make her feel seen while juggling immense grief.

NC: Your scenes with Cherry [Jones] are great. Particularly the confrontation scene. I felt that! That must have been tough to play. 

GK: That was a very special day getting to be so close with Cherry, feed off of her energy, take in all I could, and learn. I really think of her as this grandmother figure in my life now, and I feel so fortunate for that. She’s such an incredible woman and is so inspiring. It was an honor to get to work with her. I felt so connected that day with her. All the cameras disappeared, and I was just talking and crying and laughing with her. It makes me emotional to talk about it. I fully forgot we were making a movie. Oh man, I’ve been getting so emotional in my interviews today!

NC: Well, to leave you on a lighter note. The other thing I loved about this film is the sisterly bond. How was it to form that bond? It’s okay if you cry by the way; it’s a human response!

GK: [Laughs] Yeah, I just might again, but it’s happy tears. Working with Havana was so wonderful. She’s a beautiful light that I felt so close to. She and I just felt so connected during filming. She and I had talked a little bit when she got the role. Right off the bat, [before filming] we met up for the first time to grab something to eat to get to know each other a little bit better. I saw Havannah walking up the block, and we just ran at each other. We just started jumping and screaming. I still think of her as a big sister to me. The bond felt so real, and I’m so happy that manifested on the screen.

The Sky is Everywhere is currently available on Apple+

[This interview has been edited for length and clarity] 

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Written by Niki Cruz

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