In our Q&A series Last Call, we get down to the bottom of every last thing with some of our favorite celebs — from the last time they were starstruck to the last song they listened to. This week, Lyric Ross takes our call.
Lyric Ross voices Kat in “Wendell & Wild,” Netflix’s new social-commentary-studded stop-motion horror movie. The feature, which aired on Oct. 28, sees Ross’s Kat literally go to hell and back while also fighting corruption in her hometown and rocking a great punk-rock sense of style.
At just 19 years old, Ross — who you may recognize as Déjà Pearson from “This Is Us” — is a standout in “Wendell & Wild.” Her performance adds a singular sense of heart and angst to her character, who loses her parents and is sent to a Catholic foster home. There, she finds herself haunted by a couple of local demons who tell her that if she brings them out of hell, they’ll bring her parents back to life.
To get into character, Ross drew inspiration from people in her life. “I took from people who are very close to me and friends and family who have been through certain things in their past,” she tells POPSUGAR of preparing for the role. “They’ve been generous enough to give stories.” Starting out her career with such a big role in an animated feature was a challenge for Ross. “Many actors . . . do animation later in their careers, and at that point, they’re very comfortable with their voice,” Ross says. “And I had no idea how to do that. Imagination was a big thing for me in this process.”
“Wendell & Wild” required a lot of imagination for Ross. The movie is the brainchild of director Henry Selick, who had the idea to tell a story about two demons after observing his two young sons at home, per The New York Times. It started coming to life when Selick teamed up with horror icon Jordan Peele. At the time, though, Peele was still best known for his comedy routines with Keegan-Michael Key and worried that his then-forthcoming movie “Get Out” would damage the success of “Wendell & Wild” if it performed badly.
Five years later, Key and Peele reunited in “Wendell & Wild” to voice the movie’s titular demons. Despite appearing in many scenes alongside them, Ross says she actually didn’t get a chance to have a discussion with the duo until nearly four years after starting her work on the project. “I got to talk to them at the TIFF [Toronto International Film Festival] premiere, actually,” she shares. “That was the first time we really had conversations about this project, which is crazy.”
While the demons’ names appear in the film’s title, “Wendell & Wild” is truly Kat’s story. At its heart, it’s a tale about her grief and trauma embedded inside a story about capitalism — the main villains turn out not to be the demons but rather a pair of wealthy politicians who want to build a private prison over Kat’s hometown. Ross, for her part, empathizes with the demons. They “were living such a miserable life,” she says, “and in that sense, they would do anything and everything to get out of it, because they have dreams, too, just like anybody else.”
All of those stories exist inside a dazzlingly animated depiction of subterranean amusement parks, neon creepy crawlies, and possessed nuns, the leader of whom is voiced by a very convincing Angela Bassett. Essentially, “Wendell & Wild” has something for everyone, but Ross’s performance is the guiding force through it all.
Keep reading to see what Ross has to say about her last day on set, the music she’s been listening to, and more.
What was the last day working on “Wendell & Wild” like for you?
At that point, it had been a really long time since I had seen or talked to Henry [Selick], so it was just really good seeing him. We talked a little before our session, and he heard about some things I was working on at the time, [and we were] just catching up. We really didn’t have much to do in that session. I think it was maybe two or three lines that I had left of the whole project.
After we went through all of those, he wanted to show me a few clips that they had done of the movie. They played it, and it blew my mind. You really don’t know just how much tedious work goes into these types of films. Stop motion is so strategic, and that’s what makes it so beautiful. They put so much into it. If you really look at the details, you can’t get all of them in the first watch, which is so dope to me. Just looking at these scenes and being like, “Wow, I’m really a part of this. That’s me there,” was a wonderful moment for me.
What’s the last book that you read?
“Children of Blood and Bone” by Tomi Adeyemi.
What’s the last show you binge-watched?
What’s the last song or album you listened to?
“Matinee” by Smino. He’s the coolest artist.
When’s the last time you were starstruck?
The last time I was starstruck was in 2019. I don’t get starstruck like that very often, but I do remember that I was at the SAG Awards, actually. That was the time that I met Angela Bassett. I was frozen for a minute, and my mom was like, “Go up to her. Go to her.” I was like, “I know you are lying. I will never, I wouldn’t.” Eventually, I went up to her, and I couldn’t get my words together, and then I just started getting teary eyed and shaking. She just hugged me and was like, “You’re doing amazing,” and I was — my God, yeah. That was definitely a starstruck moment for me.
What’s the last thing you did for self-care?
The last thing I did was shopping. I love shopping, and it’s kind of a very therapeutic thing for me. I don’t know why or how that came about, but it’s just always been that.
What’s the last photo in your camera roll?
It’s a birthday cake. It was somebody’s birthday on set, one of the people from the makeup department, and we were celebrating them, so I just took a picture of that moment.
What’s the last gift you received?
Merch from the last project I worked on. It was kind of like a goodbye gift. It was a little hat and some matching socks.
What’s the last piece of advice you received that changed your life?
“You have to make time and find time to have your own fun.” That changed my life because it’s very hard to do that when you’re being pulled every which way, especially in the industry that I work in, because there are a lot of people who are going to take advantage of you as much as possible. You just have to make your own time to just be free and do what you want and have a good time, because nobody else is going to do that. You can’t depend on anybody else to give you that space, because they’re just not looking out for you. You have to look out for yourself, whether to make sure nobody gets over on you or just to make sure that mentally you are good. You have that breather every once in a while, especially in those times where you are working constantly, because it takes toll on you.
“Wendell & Wild” is now streaming on Netflix.
Image Source: Courtesy of Lyric Ross