We're headed back to school with the film Popular Theory, which hits theaters on Feb. 9! The film stars Sophia Reid-Gantzert (The Baby-Sitters Club) as Erwin, a kid genius who, with the help of her friend Winston, creates a popularity chemical to help change the hierarchy of their high school. The film's cast includes Cheryl Hines (Curb Your Enthusiasm), Marc Evan Jackson (The Good Place), Lincoln Lambert (Nope), and Chloe East (The Fabelmans), Varak Baronian (Homicide City) Melissa Ponzio (Teen Wolf), Varek, Eugenie Bondurant (The Conjuring), and Kat Conner Sterling (Five Nights at Freddy's).
We sat down with Sterling who plays high school student Casey. Popular Theory is directed by Ali Scher from a screenplay written by Scher and Joe Swanson. The film is produced by Two Independent Eyes Productions and being distributed by Blue Fox Entertainment. If you want to know more about the film, who her character Casey is, and why this is the perfect film for families, read on to find out!
The Parent Watch: I'm really happy to hear that you're in this new project! Please introduce yourself.
Kat Conner Sterling: Hey, everyone! I'm Kat Conner Sterling and I play Casey in the new movie Popular Theory.
TPW: You've had a stellar few years. It's 2024, and you can say that you starred in a Netflix film, A Week Away, I saw you in Five Nights of Freddy's as Max [this year] and also We Have A Ghost. It's been back-to-back for you. How does it feel to be working so consistently?
Sterling: Well, it's funny that you say that because as actors, it doesn't feel like I'm working consistently, but it's a good lesson. Everything sometimes appears more than it seems because sometimes I'll do a movie and then it takes a few months to get another one. During that time, you're like, “Oh, I'm so down on myself that I'm not doing back to back movies or whatever, but then [there’s] people like you, and then I look back on my social media and I see like, “Hey, I'm actually pretty blessed that I've gotten several projects over the years.” I'm super blessed. I have a great team, a great support system, and I got to say, I work really hard. It's been very cool to see the progression of my career so far.
TPW: The two films I mentioned before [are] PG-13 films. Popular Theory is [rated] PG, a family-friendly option for parents and kids to watch. The premise is so interesting. It's about a twelve year old, Erwin, who is teaming up with this social outcast to create a popularity chemical. To me, I find it so interesting. It's like a sci-fii but also a coming-of-age film. You play Casey. I'm watching the trailer and she seems to be someone who doesn't really fit in. She's trying her best, though. Can you tell me a little bit more about Casey and her relationship to Erwin?
Sterling: Yes! So, I love playing characters like Casey. My last two films have been PG-13. My first movie, [A Week Away] was [rated] PG. So I was really excited to hop back into this family-friendly genre because I love doing all different kinds of genres, but this is always really fun for me because I love playing the outcast. I was kind of an outcast in middle school, high school; Kind of a quirky, weird theater kid. Getting to jump into these kinds of roles is super fun for me. Casey is definitely quirky. She is not popular in this Popular Theory movie, and she loves cats. You guys are going to find that out. She is a huge cat lover fan. She loves knitting, and so she knits her own phone cases and covers. She meets Erwin because Erwin's a child genius. So Erwin's only, I think, eleven or twelve years old and gets to go to high school. So that's how they kind of become friends and Erwin is going to help her out to become popular because all Casey wants is to be popular. That's her goal.
Sterling (CONT’D): We learned throughout the movie that it's not as cut up as people make it. I'm super excited for kids to see it. It's funny and it's silly, but I think in the end, it has a great message about popularity being not all it's cracked up to be and about having a fun group of friends who love you for who you are.
TPW: I saw that you posted a screen grab on your Instagram with you and Varak Baronian, who plays Alan, and I thought it was so funny. Your caption was hilarious! Can you give me a little bit of insight into that scene, or even what was your most memorable experience?
Sterling: Oh, that's hard because I got to do so many just fun things with Casey. It was just a really fun role for me and that whole sequence of scenes. With child actors, you have to have doubles because they can only work for so many hours. With that sequence of scenes that we did, we had one of our doubles come in, and I was acting crazy and just weird. At one point, I scared her a little bit. A little too intense. Then she came back. She was like, “Mom, that was a little scary.” It's not a scary film, but I was being so weird, and so the kids would always be like, “It's so weird seeing you like that.” Then, you just come back to the room and you're just like a different person, which that's always really fun for me. I love doing character work like that, but [in] those scenes, Casey gets very intense, and I'm excited for people to see that and get to see that kind of character work. I'm excited for people to see Casey just lose her mind..
TPW: You touched upon this earlier and even now about those adjectives, quirkiness, weird; Those are the things that make people and kids especially different and unique. Was there ever a point, even now, where you feel like sometimes it's hard to fit in, sometimes you feel like people don't understand you and [give] some general advice for kids as well?
Sterling: Yeah, of course. I grew up not exactly quite as quirky as Casey, but I was the quirky kid. I love theater. I grew up in a family that was not theater-oriented, that I was all sports oriented and stuff like that. So growing up, I felt kind of out of my own body, just trying to see where I could come into myself as a person and feel confident in who I was. What's really cool is that I did end up finding a group of friends, both in high school and in college, that embraced me and kind of built up my confidence and being like, "Hey, I'm weird." I found this group of people that loves that weirdness and thinks I'm funny and thinks I'm a good friend and is not worried about me saying the weird things that I do or doing things that might not be considered normal. It's a really great message to kids. My advice would be find a group of people that are true friends, that really love you, that you pour into them and they pour into you.
Sterling (CONT’D): That's how I became who I am. I found a great group of people throughout my life that loved and accepted me, and that kind of helped build a better path for me.
TPW: It's so important to share those experiences because there could be someone out there who is [thinking], ‘I feel the same way as Casey. I resonate with Casey’. For anybody who is curious about whether this film is for them, give me one sentence of what this film means to you?
Sterling: That's hard.
TPW: [Definitely] a challenging question.
Sterling: That's a challenging question. It means to me: Learning to find your community where you are.
TPW: We'll take that.
Sterling: I do feel like it's a great movie for the family. I come from a group of theater kids who just love films like this, and I think it's great and it's funny and it's a really fun, interesting watch.
Sterling (CONT’D): At the end of the day, after all the silly antics, it's just got a great takeaway of being like, “You know what? You don't have to be the most popular kid in school. As long as you kind of find your tribe, your group of people, that is what's going to make you happy.” Not being the person who has the most Instagram followers, that doesn't bring happiness in the end, it's finding a solid group of people who love you for being the science nerd that you are, who love you. Like Alan, who loves comic books, and Casey loves cats and knitting; Finding that group or community who just accepts you is what's going to bring you happiness. That’s a take away from it.
TPW: Do you have anything in the works? What's next for Kat in 2024?
Sterling: So we're working on some things right now, but I'm super excited because my last movie, Five Nights [At Freddy’s], just kind of opened my world up a lot and changed my life quite a bit. I'm starting to go on tour and meet some fans at [conventions]. We're nominated for a People's Choice Award with Five Nights at Freddy's, which was super cool and so [I’m] busy doing stuff like that and getting to meet fans and now starting press for [Popular Theory]. We're trying to just take it a couple of weeks at a time right now because there's a lot going on, but just working hard and being excited and grateful for these opportunities.
TPW: I'm super excited to watch this film.
Sterling: It's a cute movie. It really is. I think everyone's going to enjoy it!
Popular Theory hits theaters on Feb. 5! Keep up with The Parent Watch for more family-friendly news, coverage, and more.