Interviews Movies

Liza Colón-Zayas Was Reminded to Dream While Filming ‘IF’ Movie

Meet Bea, a 12-year-old precocious girl who’s had to grow up a little too fast. On the cusp of her teen years, ready to leave what it means to be a kid behind, one summer night while visiting her grandmother in Brooklyn, Bea discovers she has a unique superpower: She can see everyone’s imaginary friend — and what she does with that superpower — as she embarks on a magical adventure to connect forgotten IFs with people who need them the most will forever change her life and others.

Featuring a unique cast of characters that reflect the incredible power of a child’s imagination, John Krasinski drew inspiration from the early days of the pandemic when he spent a lot of time around his then 8-year-old and 6-year-old daughters and saw the power of their imaginations. But as the pandemic wore on, he started seeing their lights dwindle. They had been so full of energy and excitement, but they were becoming more cautious about everything.

Told through the eyes of Bea, IF captures the idea that imagination is not only a powerful tool to have fun with, but also a complex coping mechanism that helps us make sense of things that might be too difficult otherwise. IF not only tackles children transitioning into life’s more complicated journeys but asks what if adults could remember what it’s like to feel excited by life’s adventures and face uncertainties with confidence? Can adult recapture that childhood spark?

Ryan Reynolds and Director John Krasinski on the set of Paramount Pictures’ “IF.”

To learn more about the power of an IF, The Koalition spoke with Liza Colón-Zayas (currently starring in The Bear) to learn more about the importance of playing Janet, tapping into the inner child, finding your joy and more.

Working with writer/producer/actor John Krasinski, was an effortless choice for Colón-Zayas. “He’s almost like an IF, he just makes people happy, he makes the room better. He knows everything he’s supposed to be doing. He wrote it, directed and acted in it beautifully. He technically knows everything, and he likes to just keep it light and fun, and he was amazing. He keeps it so happy; it was easy to tap into the whole set and it touched me.”

Unlike most film productions, on IF Krasinski strove to shoot as many of the scenes as possible in the order they appear in the film. As audiences move through the movie, they feel the characters’ relationships build, especially between Bea and her dad. By the time you get to those scenes, as emotional as they were, everything felt natural.

Ryan Reynolds and Cailey Fleming star in Paramount Pictures’ “IF.”

Like all adults, Janet, a nurse, has lost touch with the dreams of her youth. For Colón-Zayas she realized as Janet got older, she had a couple of setbacks here and there. When you’re a child, life is like a blank sketchbook. It’s all new, it seems endless, and it’s easy to feel like you can do anything. “My vibe of Janet is she in general wants to be as positive as she can be. I feel this in general [about her], but sometimes we’re confronted with tough situations, and we need a little inspiration. That little inspiration to keep her being the overall light that she is.”

“She overall would just be happier, open to being comforted and being seen. I need that. I loved the reminder I got from this movie is, ‘[An] if is your imagination and allowing yourself to dream again.’ We as human beings are just going through our stuff and it’s not always easy [but what] if we just allow ourselves sometimes a break to dream. ‘What if?’ I’m curious about what makes me feel like Christmas morning a lot of times. I think it’s simple things.”

The myriad shapes that IF’s imaginary friends take are as boundless as a child’s imagination. Each of Krasinski’s endearing creations came into the world with a specific purpose that is reflected in the form they take. There was a lot of thought process behind why a person would create their specific IF. So, each one of them has a story behind it. For Krasinski, those back stories had to be as real as those of the human characters. They live every day with a purpose and each one is a projection of real things in a kid’s life. He or she might invent a big imaginary friend to keep them safe or a really funny character to help them through sad times.

Cailey Fleming and BLUE star in Paramount Pictures’ “IF.”

As for Janet, Liza Colón-Zayas believes seeing an IF as an adult further proves her light and purpose was always there, it was just lost along the way. Her IF “was that inspiration for her, it was there and it got validated. I like my particular imaginary friend I got to see on screen. There were there were quite a few but [aside from mine] seeing Louis Gossett Jr. (The Color Purple) hearing his voice, man, that was [magical].”

IF opens in theaters on May 17th.

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