Ilia Isorelýs Paulino on Lila’s Arc

Jan 1, 2023

From co-creators Mindy Kaling and Justin Noble (who is also the showrunner), the second season of the HBO Max original comedy series The Sex Lives of College Girls continues to follow Essex College roommates Kimberly (Pauline Chalamet), Bela (Amrit Kaur), Leighton (Reneé Rapp) and Whitney (Alyah Chanelle Scott), as they try to figure out what’s next, from their classes and in their romantic lives. With issues ranging from how to stay at school without a scholarship, to figuring out who you are beyond being on a sports team, to starting a rival campus magazine, to openly exploring your own sexuality, no matter how serious the problem or wild the party, this group of friends is always there for each other.

During this 1-on-1 interview with Collider, Ilia Isorelýs Paulino (who plays Lila, the friend you want to have fun with and the co-worker you want to spend time alongside because she will always keep you laughing) talked about how this character evolved from what she was first described as, that she saw Lila a very specific way, how it feels like kids playing in a sandbox when there’s no ego involved in the work, whether she is a Lila and if she has any Lilas in her own life, if she ever breaks during a scene, and what she’d still like to see happen with her character.

Collider: If you will indulge my fangirling for a moment, I just want to tell you how much I love this character and how much I love everything that you do with this character.

ILIA ISORELÝS PAULINO: Oh, my God, that means a lot. Thank you.

Image via HBO Max

When this project originally came your way, and you got the description of this character, who was she then, compared to who she is now?

PAULINO: I think her name was Vanessa, and they were going for more alternate confines. I read the script, and I was like, “No, that’s not who she is. This is who she is.” So, I did it like that, and I remember improvising a lot in that audition. And then, I got the call back. When I did the call back, I noticed that they changed the name to Stephanie, and they changed the character description basically to fit what I did. I think it was a nod to them wanting to go in that direction. And then, here we are.

Where did that come from, inside of you? Is that just a self-confidence that you have, where you’re like, “Okay, this is not the character that I see. I’m going to do it this way.” Where does that come from?

PAULINO: Honestly, I don’t know. Sometimes I think I’m too cocky. It doesn’t happen with a good chunk of them. Especially if they’re really well-written, you just hear the voice. I think that happens with everyone. It’s like when you’re reading a book. When I read a book, I see the movie in my head, and I think a lot of people do. I don’t think that makes me special. I think it’s about being brave enough to do it how you see it, especially, when it doesn’t align with the breakdown or how they see a specific character. If you’re brave enough to go, “I think I see it this way,” nine times out of 10, you at least get the call bar, but if not, they at least take notice.

Did you walk onto set your first day, knowing exactly who she was, or did that click into place once you were on set and working with the actors?

PAULINO: That’s a really good question. I went on set just wanting to work. I was taught, and I firmly believe, the best idea in the room wins, no matter where or whom it comes from. We’re all telling the same story. So, I just showed up to the set, ready to play. I remember the first scene, I met Pauline [Chalamet], who plays Kimberly, and I just remember feeling like there was no ego in the room. That’s the best because then it’s like kids playing in the sandbox. So, I had ideas of who she was, but the best is when you just go in and can play.

Image via HBO Max

Does a lot of that come out of improvising or is it more just the delivery of the lines, or is it a combination of those two things?

PAULINO: I think it’s a combination of both. Especially the more scenes we have and the more episodes we have, the writers adjust it to you. As it goes on, I’ll read something and be like, “Oh, my God, I would definitely say this.” And then, you’ll also have other moments where you’re just having fun, so you start improvising. It’s always fun to see if the improved lines make it to the final episode.

Lila is the friend that everybody would want to have, or at least the friend that I know I would want to have. Are you similar to her? Do you have someone like her in your life? Would you like to know someone like her?

PAULINO: I have a lot of Lilas in my life, and I definitely have a lot of Lila in me. One of my best friends is the Lila to my Ilia. When I’m with him, we try to out-Lila each other. I pride myself on the people that I keep close to me. I pride myself on being able to work with a lot of different people. I don’t have to like you in order to work with you, and to work well with you. But in terms of my inner circle, choosing your inner circle has a lot to do with protecting your peace and your state of mind. This is a short life we have, and I have a lot of things to accomplish. We’re good. We’re hustling and bustling. The people that I have near me, I trust my intuition about. I love my friends. My friendships are 10 out of 10. My romantic relationships are at zero, but that’s okay.

What do you think it is about Lila that makes her someone who thinks enough of herself that she names herself employee-of-the-month? So many people are self-critical and have imposter syndrome, so where does Lila find that inside of herself?

PAULINO: I love it. She can take off the mask. Every time that you’re not pretty enough, or not whatever it is, that’s a lie. She was able to get to a place without that. I don’t know if it’s ego, or what, but she was able, at such a young age, to reach a place where she could say, “Fuck off. And if you don’t like it, I do not give a fuck.”

Image via HBO Max

Your co-star, Pauline Chalamet, told me that she breaks in scenes with you, all the time, because you’re just so funny. Is there anyone that makes you break? Do you ever crack up in scenes with the other girls?

PAULINO: I don’t break easy. I pride myself on that. The only time I broke was maybe my scene in one of my later episodes, towards the end, with Bela (Amrit Kaur). I think I broke once. My biggest break in my career was opposite Kevin Hart, in this film called Me Time. Kevin Hart is ridiculous. It wasn’t even a break where I was laughing. It was a break where I was just like, “What the fuck?!”

I love that your character does have some growth this season, deciding to take on the responsibility of being the manager of Sips. What was that new aspect of her like to explore? Did any of that surprise you about her?

PAULINO: No, I think she was always a boss. Now, she just gets the title and the pay. I love how they went about it, with how she was nervous. I think that made her a little more human. Just because she’s confident in her body and with men, it doesn’t mean that she’s confident in all aspects of her life. She’s still human. She still has things that keep her up at night. And I love that her thing is that she’s afraid of authority. I think that’s so telling of who she is. That’s a real fear of status. To be perceived by someone of higher status than her makes her nervous, and that’s telling. I love that we also see her get through that and get the job. Even though she was nervous to get it, it’s still Lila being the manager. It doesn’t change who she is, but she’s also very refreshing and funny.

I could totally watch a spinoff for your character.

PAULINO: Girl, me too!

What do you think she does, when we’re not seeing her? What sort of life do you think she has?

PAULINO: One of the lines in the first season, that ended up getting cut, talked about her having a 4.0 average, so you know the bitch is smart. There’s another line where she said, “I conned my way into a birthright trip to Israel,” and I would love to see that. That would be hilarious. Either that, or a study abroad trip to Paris, so she gets to have fun with some European men.

Image via HBO Max

Are there things that you would still like to learn about her and aspects of her that you’d still like to know?

PAULINO: Oh, a hundred percent. I’ve mentioned this before, but hopefully if I say it enough, it will happen. I really want her with a boy that makes her stutter and makes her nervous. We’ve seen the man-eater Lila, who’s gonna tell you that she likes you, which is fun and I love that. But when you have someone like that, because I am that person, to then meet someone who makes you nervous, it’s such a specific person. I’d love to see her react how you think Kimberly would react.

Lila just always put a smile on my face and always makes me laugh, which is why she’s so much fun.

PAULINO: Life is too short not to be laughing all the time. Lord knows, there’s so much going on in this world that will give you a million and one reasons not to be laughing, so to be able to have people laugh is amazing.

The Sex Lives of College Girls is available to stream at HBO Max.

Disclaimer: This story is auto-aggregated by a computer program and has not been created or edited by filmibee.
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