Fate plays a funny part in Kathryn Newton’s career. Not in the way that she always knew she wanted to be an actress and now here she is, acting, but an active cosmic hand closing doors and opening in a way that only makes sense with time. “You can’t hang on to the good or the bad, because you have to make room for new,” she says, “which is so difficult to learn.”
It’s something of an epiphany she came to while making her new movie, the time loop dramedy The Map of Tiny Perfect Things. Newton celebrated her 23rd birthday on her first day on set, in which she plays a teenager inexplicably living the same day over and over and over again.
“I’ve always been obsessed with this teenage wasteland. Growing up, I always liked that feeling of, why is this day the longest day ever? Why is this class the longest class of eternity?” Newton tells ET. “Everything’s the end of the world. Like, ‘When am I going to fall in love, finally? When will my life begin?'”
In Tiny Perfect Things, Newton’s Margaret finds herself stuck in a temporal anomaly. When she meets Mark (Kyle Allen), the only other person who realizes that time is looping, they set out to discover all of the tiny things that make that one day perfect. The film tips its hat to classics like Groundhog Day and conjures a similar charm to last year’s Palm Springs, as Margaret and Mark partake in time loop hijinks like driving a steamroller through town and eating their weight in ice cream, while also falling in love and learning to move on.
And then the pandemic happened. “Literally, we had two days left of shooting,” Newton recalls. “Our producer, Aaron Ryder, got up on a chair and was like, ‘We have to stop. Everybody has to go home, and we hope that everything will be OK.'” (They would finish shooting in quarantine under COVID-19 safety regulations.) The movie is being released now, as we are still very much living in the time of corona. “We are in The Map of Tiny Perfect Things. It’s so strange; however, I want to get out of it. I want to get out of it,” she says.
As fate would have it, both experiences — of actually filming the movie and the unanticipated quarantine that would follow — helped Newton learn that difficult lesson when she needed it most. “I think that’s why I was obsessed with being a teenager. It always felt so nice to stay in moments that meant so much. When you’re young, you have the luxury of making things that really don’t matter tear your world apart.”
“I still feel like that,” Newton admits over Zoom from a West Hollywood hotel. “But you’ve got to let go of your past, whether it was good or bad, if you want to keep growing into the person you’re supposed to be.”
Lockdown was also the first time since she was a child that Newton wasn’t working consistently. Having booked her first job at age four, in recent years, she’s gone from awards fare like Lady Bird and Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri to hit movies such as Blockers and Pokémon Detective Pikachu. “I felt like that was the top of my career. I thought nothing ever would be better than that.” When she landed the lead role in a Netflix series, the Lord of the Flies-esque YA drama The Society, it felt like Newton was truly having a moment.
“The Society changed my life. The Society gave me so much, way more than just a job. I was 21 and I was the lead of a show and I had no idea what I was doing, not really. I think I fooled everybody,” she says.
“But in the middle of quarantine, we were supposed to go film [season 2], and the show got canceled,” she continues. Netflix undid their renewal and decided not to move forward amid the uncertainty surrounding the pandemic. “It got canceled! My future was shot. I had no idea what I was going to do. And then a week later, I got a call from Marvel,” she adds.
The call was for Ant-Man and the Wasp: Quantumania. During December’s Disney Investor Day, Marvel Studios boss Kevin Feige announced that Newton would star as Cassie Lang (played as a child in the first two Ant-Man movies by Abby Ryder Fortson and post-Blip in Avengers: Endgame by Emma Fuhrmann).
“I’ve always wanted to be in a Marvel movie, my whole life. But it was just because I was a huge fan. Every time one of them came out, I would go with my dad. It was what we did together, and we loved them,” Newton says. “It was our experience, just me and my dad going to the movies. But I couldn’t have told you who I wanted to be. Or even if I ever would.”
In the MCU, Cassie is the daughter of Paul Rudd’s Scott Lang (aka Ant-Man) and his ex, Maggie (Judy Greer). (With the benefit of hindsight, Newton was born to play the onscreen daughter of Paul Rudd and Judy Greer.) In the comics, Cassie becomes a hero in her own right, known as Stature, who is able to shrink and grow like her dad and eventually joins up with the Young Avengers.
Not much is known about Quantumania, except that Jonathan Majors is also joining the cast as Kang the Conquerer, Rudd’s Ant-Man and Evangeline Lilly’s Wasp will of course also be back, as will Michael Douglas and Michelle Pfeiffer, and the title implies it will deal with the quantum realm. Beyond that, there’s not much Newton can reveal: How did her casting come to be? “I’m sworn to secrecy!” What about Cassie from the comics drew her to the role? “I can’t say that, because I can’t reveal the future!”
She takes Marvel’s code of secrecy seriously. She hasn’t even told her dad.
“I’m so scared to say anything, because you know dads, they talk, you know what I mean? Like, my dad tells everybody about what I’m doing. He doesn’t know anything, and he’s just like, ‘Oh my daughter, she plays golf, she’s in this movie, look!’ It’s like, Dad, please stop. So, he doesn’t even know yet,” she laughs. “I mean, maybe if he’s seen it on my Instagram. I feel like if I don’t say it out loud to him, then I can’t get in trouble if he says it to anybody randomly.”
“All I can say is that I’m excited to be a part of the Marvel Universe,” Newton offers. “It’s a dream come true, and I’m going to do my best to be the best superhero of all time.”
The Map of Tiny Perfect Things premieres on Feb. 12 on Prime Video.
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