The Social Dilemma has become the talk of the town after it debuted on Netflix this year. This docudrama pulled back the curtain regarding Big Tech and its ironclad control over our social media usage. Are we really just products ripe for conglomerate financial gain? Actress Sophie Hammons, who starred in the flick, knows a thing or two about how damaging social media can be.
Sophia started acting at a young age and has no intention of stopping. I had the privilege of chatting with her recently and, naturally, we delved into her role in The Social Dilemma. She eloquently gave advice on how to navigate the murky waters of social media, discussed her work in Keyhole Garden opposite Zoe Saldana and Garrett Hedlund, and more.
Melody McCune: Let’s start things off! We at Geek Girl Authority love a good origin story. So what’s your origin story? How did you get into acting?
Sophia Hammons: I think I was somewhere in elementary school. I had joined my school’s choir and after singing in the choir, my choir teacher suggested I should do musical theater. So I auditioned for my first musical and I got in. I really liked it. So I auditioned for another musical and I actually got cast as a blade of grass. I was like, “I can definitely do something more.” At the time I had fallen in love. I fell in love with the realism of theatre acting. There’s just so much more of that in film and TV acting. So I did some acting classes in Denver with Su Coffey. She helped me get my manager and agent, and act where I am right now.
MM: Awesome! How did you get involved in The Social Dilemma? What was the audition process like for that?
SH: Usually the audition process takes a long time, but my agent had gotten me the audition and I went in. They only had me do a second meeting with them. So the second meeting, then they cast me a couple days later, which was very shocking because usually it takes multiple meetings after that. I was very shocked, but it was so fun working on this project. I’m so glad I got to work on it. Very grateful.
MM: So what was the shooting process like? Did you have any really long days on set?
SH: The shooting was filmed in Denver and Boulder. Very long days. Although they were really long and hardworking, everyone on there was so nice and supportive. It was just so much fun to work for so long with so many amazing and smart people. We created a whole family with the cast and the crew, and it felt like my second family. It was great. And I love them all so much. I’m so glad I got to work with everyone.
MM: Your character, Isla, undergoes a lot of trauma at the hands of social media in The Social Dilemma. Do you find it difficult to go on social media now as a result?
SH: Yeah! Anytime I am on social media, because now I catch myself mindlessly scrolling after being a part of this film and watching this film. I guess I didn’t realize that before I was a part of this project that most of the time I’m on social media, I’m not very aware of it. And it’s kind of scary that I’m not aware of it. It’s scary that they are manipulating me and, we think we are using social media, but social media is actually using us. That’s something I really like to keep in mind. And I think everyone should keep that in mind whenever they click on Instagram or Snapchat or TikTok, or whatever social media platform.
MM: Definitely agree with that. Watching this movie was so eye-opening. I didn’t realize just how damaging social media is for teens and for young people now because it wasn’t a big thing when I was growing up. Do you think apps like Snapchat and TikTok are the main culprits?
SH: I would say that TikTok is one of the biggest. Teenagers and especially kids my age use either that or Snapchat. Which is really sad because, even in Snapchat, people usually make an excuse that “Snapchat is the only way I can connect with friends,” but really it’s just kind of sending meaningless pictures of a wall to each other. And I find it so sad that people think that’s what communicating is, that that is what our world has come to. I don’t think people really realize it, but it’s really, really scary and sad that all it takes to get our attention is to go on these apps.
MM: You see so many different filters that are on Instagram and Snapchat. And now there’s all these ways we can edit our appearances to tailor to society’s idea of beauty. If you could give a message to young people struggling with self-esteem, what would you say?
SH: Something that I had to tell myself is that I should be, you should be, everyone should be confident in who they are. Not just, “Oh be yourself,” but who they are and not who they’re trying to be or who they wish to be. You should always be so confident in your opinion and yourself that no hate comments or no photo of someone you think is prettier or more beautiful is going to bring you down.
I really like to keep that in mind because I do struggle. I used to, now I’m getting a lot better at it, but it’s taken me a long time … I used to struggle a lot with some things, especially due to social media. Seeing all these beautiful models and influencers, social media influencers, I guess. And I just had to learn that I’m Sophia — this is my body. This is what I was born with. I’m proud of who I am and what I am, and not who I wish to be or what I’m trying to do.
MM: The Social Dilemma also talks about how we’re essentially a product that’s being nurtured by these companies. They nurture our addictions for financial gain. With the rise in teen suicide rates as a result of social media, do you think there’s a way we can fight back against this system that’s taking lives?
SH: This is such a hard question because I feel there are so many things we can do, but there are also so many things we can’t do. And that breaks my heart. Something I’d really like to happen is for girls and boys and kids, young people in general, to stop using social media as much and stop comparing themselves to others. It’s so easy to say, but so hard to do. It breaks my heart that there’s not a lot that everyone can do because this feeling of helplessness overpowers any other feeling.
Let’s say that reducing your amount of time on social media will actually help. Spending time with and surrounding yourself with really good people helps a lot. I think that’s really important. And especially during quarantine, I’ve really figured out who my real friends were, and not just friends who go to my school or something like that. It’s really important to surround yourself with amazing people and find a family.
MM: Great advice! So I just want to switch gears here for a minute. I want to talk about your latest project, Rumor. Can you tell me what that’s about and your role in it?
SH: Rumor, I would say that’s not my latest project. That was filmed quite a while ago and that was just a short film. But I do have something coming up soon that I filmed before The Social Dilemma. It’s called Keyhole Garden. It has Zoe Saldana in it. And it’s a romantic drama set on the US-Mexico border. It also has a very heavy and timely subject just like The Social Dilemma. It’s not the same subject, but it’s a very important subject that not a lot of movies have been made about. So I’m really excited for that to come out. There’s no exact date yet, but it’s coming out maybe in the next year, I’m guessing.
MM: That was actually my next question. What was it like working on a project like Keyhole Garden with such big names?
SH: It was really great. Not a lot of people realize, but a lot of celebrities with really big names, as you mentioned, are just normal people. They’re just regular people — super sweet people. Just normal human beings. At least people I’ve met, the big names. But yeah, it was so fun. I’m so glad I got the opportunity to work with such amazing people in The Social Dilemma and in Keyhole Garden. I’m so excited for the things coming along the way.
MM: Do you have a dream role? It could be in film, TV, theater, etc.
SH: If I’m being really specific, I would really like to work with Wes Anderson. Any Wes Anderson films. He’s worked with a lot of my favorite actors. The girl who played my older sister in The Social Dilemma, Kara Hayward, was actually in a Wes Anderson film when she was around my age. I love that movie Moonrise Kingdom. So I’d really like to work with him.
MM: He’s one of my favorites. That’d be awesome! Have you watched anything interesting during quarantine? Any TV shows or movies?
SH: The movie that recently came out called Rebecca on Netflix is actually really good. It has Armie Hammer in it and Lily James, and I love both of them. It’s really good and very British, but I love it. Such a good story. It gets better as you watch. It gets so much better as you watch it.
MM: That’s definitely on my list! I’ve been meaning to watch that. Do you have any advice for anyone trying to break into acting?
SH: I would say that failure is not a bad thing. It’s just proof that you need to work harder. Something that I like to tell a lot of people who want to get started in acting is that it takes a lot of work and sacrificing, such as sacrificing hanging out with friends or just sitting and relaxing for hours and hours on end. It takes a lot of work. And I don’t think a lot of people realize that it takes a lot of work. I’ve been doing it for four years and I’m now just working on these amazing projects.
So, it takes a lot of work and something to keep in mind is that failure is never a bad thing. It may feel like a bad thing, but it’s not. Never a bad thing.
MM: Excellent! I have one more question. Can you name your top favorite films? They can be anything that come to mind.
SH: Once Upon a Time in Hollywood. Rocketman. Oh, so good. Call Me by Your Name. I’m reading the sequel right now, actually. Wish they would turn that into a movie. I’d probably say Rebecca. Rebecca‘s definitely on there. And Léon: The Professional with Natalie Portman.
MM: Well Sophia, thank you so much for chatting with me! I really enjoyed your work in The Social Dilemma. I’m excited to see Keyhole Garden when that comes out. Good luck!
SH: Thank you so much for doing this!
Be sure to check out The Social Dilemma on Netflix. You can catch Sophia opposite Zoe Saldana and Garrett Hedlund in Keyhole Garden when it hits the film circuit!
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