This weekend, actress Kathryn Newton was back in Monterey, Calif. — the setting of HBO’s acclaimed coastal drama Big Little Lies, in which she co-stars as Madeline MacKenzie’s (Reese Witherspoon) angsty teenage daughter, Abigail.
This time, it wasn’t for filming with the cast (which also includes Nicole Kidman, Laura Dern, Shailene Woodley, Zoe Kravitz and Meryl Streep), but in anticipation of the U.S. Open golf championship at Pebble Beach. An avid golfer herself since age eight, Newton, now 22, attended the festivities with Ralph Lauren, the official outfitter of the USGA and U.S. Open.
For Sunday’s season two premiere of Big Little Lies, Newton had a little “viewing party” with the Ralph Lauren team, which, aside from watching the episode, included playing golf for five hours at Spanish Bay and taking them to the restaurant Casanova Carmel, where she had eaten before with her co-stars.
“[It’s] where I had dinner with the Monterey Five, the iconic Monterey Five. I was at dinner with them, and I could hardly speak because I was just wanting to soak up all of the knowledge they were spilling. But it was really special to be here [on Sunday],” Newton tells The Hollywood Reporter. “Reese messaged me. She’s like, ‘Why are you in Monterey? This is so funny.’ I’m like, ‘Isn’t it kind of perfect, the night that it premieres?'”
Newton — who has also played Amy in PBS’ Little Women, Julie in Blockers, Allie in The Society and Lucy in Pokémon: Detective Pikachu — talks here about her love of golfing, her Pokémon-themed fashion favorites and how Big Little Lies director Andrea Arnold used dance parties to keep the energy up on set.
Your weekend began Friday at the Moschino fashion show in L.A., hanging out with Lana Condor (To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before) and Camila Mendes and Madelaine Petsch (Riverdale). Did you have fun with the Netflix gals?
My Netflix squad? I love them. It is funny, I do feel kind of like part of a Netflix family or something. Also they’re just girls that are awesome to be able to call friends.
So what’s the plan for the U.S. Open — you’re playing some golf to celebrate?
[On Monday I met] Billy Horschel and Justin Thomas, who are two golfers that I’ve always been a fan of. And I’ve always been a fan of the brand Polo Ralph Lauren. I literally have a picture of me as a baby golfer, three years old, with my dad, and I’m wearing Ralph Lauren. So it’s really cool for me. It’s an honor.
What do you most love about the sport?
I think I love how it’s all on you. We played [on Sunday] over at Spanish Bay, and if you hit a good shot, it’s all on you. And I kind of love winning [laughs]. I grew up, my dad kind of gave me this, and I feel like it’s a gift. I get to go on location, and when I was filming Pokémon: Detective Pikachu in Scotland, I had my clubs, so I got to go play on my day off. It’s just given me a lot of different kinds of life experiences. And I love fashion. So I love the golf style. I find when you love your outfit, you play a lot better as well….
I feel like sports are so important for girls because it’s something that no one can take away from you. If you work hard and you practice and you love it, that’s for you and no one else. It doesn’t matter what you look like. At the end of the day, it doesn’t matter what you’re wearing, it matters what your score is. And acting is a very subjective thing. You can be the best actor and not get a job and not even know why….
It’s also something I love to do by myself. I just like to play music and go out and play. [On Sunday] I was with the Polo Ralph Lauren team, and we played in five hours and laughed the entire day and talked and had a great time. Nobody does that anymore. Nobody is not on their phones anymore and just enjoying the day, so I need to get more friends who play golf.
What do you appreciate about Ralph Lauren’s designs?
I appreciate Ralph Lauren because of the tradition that the brand has. I love being classic in my style, and I feel like Polo Ralph Lauren has such an authentic classic way that stays true to the history of golf. And it’s hard to look cute on the golf course and be appropriate, so that’s why I love it. [On Monday I wore] this gingham outfit with a lot of bright colors, which is always really fun.
Why are you drawn to the bright colors?
On the golf course, you can kind of get away with anything. Sometimes I want to be really fierce and maybe I’m going to wear all black, but maybe I’m also going to be super fierce and wear things that don’t match at all. And I guess you just have this amazing green backdrop, so bright colors always look really good.
You’ve really worked with a lot of designers in the last year and attended many events, from Dior’s Paris Fashion Week show to a Chanel dinner at the Tribeca Film Festival. What do you love about the world of fashion?
Fashion to me is a chance for me to create another character. I love dressing up because it’s fun. I think it’s an opportunity to just have fun. I’ve always been that way — I’ve always loved to dress crazy if the opportunity presents itself, so I’ve been really lucky in the past month. I’ve been promoting these projects, and I’ve gotten to kind of create a character for each one. Like on Pokémon: Detective Pikachu, I’ve made my dresses kind of feel like Pokémon. Like, I wore a dress that reminded me of a Jigglypuff.
But when I did Little Women, that was a period piece, so I tried to find clothes that were like a period piece or reminded me of vintage. I like to keep it that way, to reflect whatever project I’m working on. I’d love to do a golf movie and then just get to wear golf clothes all the time.
What are your top two favorite red carpet looks from the past year?
Oh I think my Maison Valentino dress I wore in Japan for the Pokémon premiere was one of my favorite looks. And then, the Ralph and Russo pink Jigglypuff dress I wore to the New York premiere was also one of my favorite ones. I loved getting the opportunity to wear these giant dresses that I would never get to wear in my real life.
What did you like specifically about those two?
The red Maison Valentino dress, it was actually from the Tokyo collection. So it was an honor to get to be in Tokyo, in the homeland of Pokémon, and in the Tokyo collection of Valentino. You put a dress on sometimes and it changes the way you stand. So I like that I stood up a little straighter and held my head a little taller.
Let’s talk Big Little Lies, which just premiered. What do you most love about being a part of that show?
I love my character’s storyline with her mother, because I feel like a lot of people can relate to it. I was a teenager, and my mom and I go through the same things. So I feel like it’s one of those roles that a lot of mothers come up to me and are like, “Oh my gosh, my daughter and I are just like this.” And I think that when you can play something that a lot of people relate to, it just connects people and brings people together. So I really loved getting to play Abigail. And she’s so much cooler than I am. Her outfits! Can we talk about her outfits for a second? I want to be as cool as Abigail.
Did you have a favorite costume?
Oh geez, no, I don’t. I mean one time, they actually used a pair of pants that I own, these vintage army pants. So I felt pretty honored that they wanted to use something from my own closet.
In the first episode of season two, Abigail talks about not wanting to go to college. Does that resonate with you?
Oh, yeah. You know it is funny, because at the time when I got Big Little Lies, I was seriously considering going to USC. I wanted to play golf there. And I got Big Little Lies and I remember after the table read, talking to Reese about college. It’s funny — her and my mom both wanted me to go really bad. And I still should probably go, but it does kind of parallel your life. Like I had to choose between going to college or continuing my career, and I did choose that, which was kind of scary. It’s been alright, but I feel like life does imitate art sometimes, and it definitely did in that time.
Right, she’s debating doing something she’s passionate about instead.
It’s so hard to believe in yourself when you’re young, when you don’t really know who you are [or] what, really, the right choice is to make. And Abigail, maybe she inspired me a little bit to do what I wanted as well.
What’s the biggest difference, thematically or tonally, between seasons one and two?
Well, we have a different person driving the ship this year. Andrea Arnold was our captain, and she has a different tone than Jean-Marc [Vallée]. She has a different way of working. I love her so much. She did this amazing thing — this is a great example, like in between setups, there was no down time. The energy never went down, because we always had dance parties. And we would blast music as the cameras were turning around, which I loved. She would do scenes with me where she would just roll on me and be playing classical music that’s really, really sad. Then I would just start crying and breaking down, and she would just keep rolling. It was the first time I ever did anything like that. I loved it. I want to do it again.
Was it mostly classical music, or were there any upbeat songs, too?
We had a lot of upbeat songs where we were rocking…. She would use music to put us in the mood. Be like, “This is how the scene feels.”
How did that help you get into character and get the right mood for the scene?
Well, sometimes you don’t need words to understand a feeling, and acting is kind of like that. The words can help you know the context of the scene and what it’s about, but the feeling can be something completely different. So the music kind of puts us all on the same page, because music makes you feel something whether you want to or not. You can’t really just stop listening, unless you close your ears, I guess.
What were some of the songs she played?
I think a lot of them are on the show.
You’ve had a huge year aside from that, with Detective Pikachu and The Society. How does that feel to have so many shows under your belt?
I feel really lucky now, because people are watching it. And I’ve had people tell me about their experience of going to Pokémon with their friends or bingeing The Society in two days with their friends…. I think that’s what’s so exciting about having all these projects out is the people’s reaction to them, because now it’s their experience as well…. It’s also kind of fun to be like, “You watched The Society in two days, are you insane? Go watch Pokémon and get in a good mood.”
What type of project do you want to take on next? What would the checkboxes be?
I would love to do a rom-com, because I love movies that are for everybody. And then I would also love to do another action film. I loved doing my own stunts in Pokémon. That was a whole aspect and I think golf really helped me with that, because I’m an athlete, I had the stamina to maintain it and use my body and my athleticism in that way. Also, it is so much fun to just fly through the air, I have to tell you.