Heroine in Netflix new show I Am Not Okay With This struggles with growing-up issues - and superpowers

Actress Sophia Lillis (above) as Sydney, the main protagonist of Netflix's new young adult superhero series I Am Not Okay With This. PHOTO: NETFLIX

If the showrunner of Netflix's new series I Am Not Okay With This seems inclined towards the young adult (YA) genre - that is because he is.

For Jonathan Entwistle, his new series, based on a comic book by American author Charles Forsman, marks his second YA outing with Netflix. He previously helmed The End Of The F***ing World (2017-2019), also based on a graphic novel by Forsman.

The 35-year-old British director says from Los Angeles, in a joint phone interview with regional media: "There's just something super interesting about (adolescence). Everything is the most dramatic it can ever be, seemingly small things take on a bigger meaning in high school - everything is life and death. Once you grow up you realise you can live with a lot of those things but not when you're younger."

I Am Not Okay With This, which premiered on Netflix last Wednesday (Feb 26), is a comedy-drama about a teenage girl named Sydney who realises that she has superpowers all while dealing with the complexities of growing up. The character has drawn comparisons with the teenage girl characters of Alyssa of The End Of The F***ing World, and Eleven from Stranger Things (2016-present).

The new series also shares producers with Stranger Things.

Entwistle says: "There's naturally a bit of overlap in Sydney with Alyssa and Eleven. Sydney doesn't want her superpowers, Alyssa would probably want it if she had it and for Eleven her story is about unlocking something in her past. Syd is quieter than Alyssa and more thoughtful."

Entwistle admits that the original conception of Sydney resembled Alyssa more but the casting of 18-year-old actress Sophia Lillis changed his plans.

"She brought something vulnerable to Syd, like she is haunted by her superpowers so we changed the script and wrote the character to her strengths," he says.

He adds that he made his young cast watch movies directed by late American filmmaker John Hughes - whose works include classic teen movies like The Breakfast Club (1985), Ferris Bueller's Day Off (1986) and Pretty in Pink (1986).

"A lot of the kids in the cast, who are 16 to 18 years old have not seen them and I wanted them to see how teen ensembles can work and how it can be applied to a superhero story," he explains.

Entwistle is determined to portray a different type of superhero origin series with I Am Not Okay With This - setting the series in suburban Pennsylvania.

He says: "In a lot of superhero origin stories, we see a lot of cities like New York. I wanted a kind of backdrop that is a little downtrodden, very industrial.

"And I wanted the story to show how a kid with superpowers deals with it when a Professor X (from the X-men series) or a Dumbledore (from the Harry Potter series) doesn't show up and guide you through it."

The show does not shy away from tough topics like mental health and sexuality - the series is set a year after Sydney's father's death by suicide and she also nurses a crush on her female best friend.

He says: "The whole show is an allegory for growing up. It's confusing until you understand what it means to be an adult and how teens get through their day and work things out."

- I Am Not Okay With This is available on Netflix

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