A book-to-screen adaptation rarely hits all the right marks.
Bookworms have many bookish pet peeves: permanent stickers on the cover, cracked spines, dog-eared pages. But a poor adaptation that strays far from its source material may be the worst of all.
When readers first receive news of their favorite stories being adapted to the screen, doubt immediately plants itself in one’s mind as nothing really lives up to the books. But the right adaptation can add to the experience of its source material, rather than take away from it.
Many factors contribute to an adaptation’s success—inspiration, script, accuracy—but it all boils down to one question, if not the most important: Did the adaptation make me feel the way the book did? Am I equally as thrilled and amazed as I once was when I first read the book? Was the film or series just as interesting and captivating as its book counterpart?
The School for Good and Evil, Netflix’s homage to Soman Chainani’s 2013 book of the same title, did just that. It felt as if I was pulled away and sucked into the pages, deeper into the screen to a fantastical world, navigating a school full of surprises and contemplating morals along with the characters.
In the movie, Agatha and Sophie, best friends and students of an enchanted school that trains future heroes and villains, find themselves choosing sides in a battle and living out a fairytale-esque story of their own.
The School for Good and Evil resonated with many of its original readers, due in part to the brilliant cast, portraying their characters flawlessly. Charlize Theron, Kerry Washington and Michelle Yeoh were the perfect supporting cast, while still being stars in their own right. Their presence and performances in the film were notable, but they allowed their younger counterparts to take the lead.
In their debut as movie leads, Sofia Wylie and Sophia Anne Caruso don’t wrestle the spotlight away from each other. They complement each other perfectly, like their on-screen characters do.
In one scene, Agatha (Wylie) and Sophie (Caruso) connive to help the latter shoot an arrow straight to the target, a feat she can’t manage herself for her lack of pure heart (it’s a fantasy school; logic isn’t a prerequisite). Even from a distance, Agatha and Sophie communicate through their eyes and facial expressions a manifestation of the actresses’ pure chemistry—something they further showcased during press interviews, wherein they finished one another’s sentences.
It was hard to separate them from their onscreen characters; their wardrobes and personalities were just as contradictory yet perfectly suitable to each other. It seems as though even in real life, Wylie is an Ever to her core and Caruso is perfectly a Never.
Wylie, 18, and Caruso, 21, are still in the early years of their paths, but both already have storied careers behind them. Wylie is known for her role in the Disney+ mockumentary show High School Musical: The Musical: The Series. Caruso originated the character Lydia Deetz in Beetlejuice, a horror-comedy Broadway musical. In a recent virtual interview with Young STAR, Wylie and Caruso shared their experience transitioning from their past projects to The School for Good and Evil.
“Stage and film are very different from each other, and the roles couldn’t be more different,” Caruso said. “The one thing that compares is the fantastical elements of it: the magic, having a big imagination, the camp elements.”
“I’d say Lydia is the most like Agatha, actually,” she says, comparing this role to the Beetlejuice character.
“I think it just existed in two different parts of my brain,” Wylie said about her transition from High School Musical: The Musical: The Series to The School for Good and Evil. “I had to separate them completely. I don’t think there was much overlap between the two because they are two very, very different genres.”
“My characters as well, Agatha versus Gina, they’re very, very different characters,” she said.
“I didn’t really have much overlap besides the physical training aspect. For The School for Good and Evil, I had a lot of different stunts and there’s choreography that goes along that. Same with HSMTMTS, there’s a lot of dance numbers. Even though I wasn’t bootypopping for SFGE, I was still learning choreography and executing it.”
When asked what they would advise aspiring actors, Wylie said, “If you love something enough, it might not come right away, but if you continuously strive for it, I think eventually that time will come for you. It's just about consistency and perseverance and resilience.”
“It's not a very easy industry to live in, but if you love it enough, I think that passion can guide you through all the rejection and through all the nos,” she added.
“I'd say my only advice is just to do what you love and work really hard on it until it happens,” Caruso added.