INTERVIEW: D&D, Shapeshifting, and Action with Sophia Lillis

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Sophia Lillis — But Why Tho

Dungeons & Dragons: Honor Among Thieves had its world premiere at the 2023 SXSW Film & TV Festival and the theater was electric. As the opening night film, Dungeons & Dragons had to open the fest, and it did it with heart, joy, and the chaotic spark that can only come from playing a TTRPG. After the screening, we talked with Sophia Lillis, who plays the Tiefling Druid Doric in the film. In this interview, we spoke with the young star about action, playing D&D, and how it felt to be in such an energetic crowd for the film’s world premiere at SXSW.

This interview has been edited for grammar and length. 

BUT WHY THO: Dungeons & Dragons: Honor Among Thieves captures so much of what makes the property great with fans. Were you familiar with Dungeons & Dragons before you took the role of Doric?

SOPHIA LILLIS: I played a little bit in high school, I had a little D&D club. I mean, I tried to get a D&D club going in the high school I was at, but I was only there for two years. Right after I left that school, they started a D&D club so I still had friends in that club. After school ended, I would take the subway to my old school and infiltrate the old one. I was technically part of a campaign that my old lab teacher was DM for, but it was fun. We never actually finished the campaign, though. I did try to do it after high school and on Zoom during COVID, but everyone got jobs or went to college so I’ve never actually finished a campaign before. But I do know about D&D.”

BUT WHY THO: Since you have some playtime under your belt, is Doric anything like the character you’ve made for yourself to play?

SOFIA LILLIS: I think this character is a little more fleshed out and more serious than who I usually play. Personally, I try to go more of the joking route because the crazier and stupider the characters are, the more you can really play with them. And I usually play more roguish non-magic types, but Doric is, of course, this magical badass who can turn into anima and has great aim and is super serious—the total opposite of who I usually play. I play total idiots who are really weak except for one super niche thing.”

BUT WHY THO: How does Doric’s ability to transform impact how you play the character?

SOPHIA LILLIS: Doric turning into animals really reflects how she grew up. Why does she fight the way she fights? Well, I remember doing a lot of stunt work in preparation for the movie, and a lot of her fighting stance and style were based on animal stances. She’s a very open-palmed and defensive style, closer to the ground; kind of this animalistic instinct is why she fights. In preparation, I actually watched a lot of animal documentaries because if she transforms, what does she look like in transition? Should I push my shoulders forward? Should I shift my weight in the upper body in order to change into this animal? All of this affects who she is as a person.

I talked about this with the directors, and a lot of the animals that she turns into—although this wasn’t really written down anywhere or set in stone—are things that she’s seen in her childhood. She turns into these animals by studying them. So its very interesting because she lives in the woods, but a lot of what she turns into is from a colder region, a snowy owl and an owlbear; how does she have a connection with them? It’s all an interesting thing to think up as an actor and adds a little mystery element to her.”

BUT WHY THO: What was it like getting ready for the action scenes beyond studying animals? How did you prepare for the stunt work?

SOPHIA LILLIS: I had a really good stunt team working on this film, and my stunt double is who taught me everything. She was amazing, and I could barely do what she could. But my preparation was intense. I actually love doing stunt work even though I’m not the most dexterous person. There were moments when I was preparing for this role and the team would tell me ‘you can take a break and sit down,’ and I was like, ‘no, I got to get this done and learn how to do this front roll!’ Front rolls are so easy to do for other people but not for me, so I was very determined in getting ready for this character. It was hard, but I love doing this type of stuff.

Sophia Lillis — But Why Tho

BUT WHY THO: What was your favorite action moment for Doric?

SOPHIA LILLIS: I wouldn’t call this an action moment but it was during the heist sequence where I turn into a mouse, I mean it’s not me but I, Doric, am technically that mouse, and I get into a suit of armor. I start walking with this armor on and nod at this guy and let me tell you, it’s been my dream to own or wear a suit of armor. I’m a really tiny person so to get this opportunity was a one-in-a-million chance. The armor actually was, I think used for a Joan of Arc series or movie and wasn’t used and just hidden away in a studio storage space. got to wear that and since it’s also been a dream of mine to play Joan of Arc, it was two things in one for me! You know for a fact that I took so many photos in it. So getting to wear that armor, rushing and running in that suit, was very hard but very fun and something I’m going to carry with me for the rest of my life.

BUT WHY THO: The crowd reception at SXSW was loud and exciting. What was it like being in the middle of all of that, knowing how much people loved the film?

SOPHIA LILLIS: That was the best it could have gone I think. We were a little nervous, especially the directors I think because the people at SXSW were very much fans of D&D. It’s been a second SDCC with these people to be honest which meant it was nerve-wracking with them because they would also be our biggest critics. So seeing the reception be so positive was a big relief and I felt ‘this was the best it could have gone.’ We have so many other screenings, and everything else will be nothing compared to this reaction.

You can watch Sophia Lillis as Doric in Dungeons & Dragons: Honor Among Thieves in theaters nationwide now.

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