Image Source: Getty / Emma McIntyre
Ilia Isorelýs Paulino has one simple request for The Sex Lives of College Girls season two. “I want to see Lila f*cking!” she told me during one of the most entertaining Zoom interviews I’ve done to date. On the Mindy Kaling- and Justin Noble-produced HBO Max show, Paulino became an instant fan favorite as Lila, a wisecracking Essex College student who works at Sips coffee shop alongside Kimberly (Pauline Chalamet) and Canaan (Christopher Meyer). Though she only has a handful of lines in season one, Lila always packs a comedic punch, doling out perfectly timed jokes and side-eye galore — and I can personally attest that Paulino herself is just as hysterical when the cameras stop rolling.
The 26-year-old daughter of Dominican immigrants, Paulino had a rather circuitous journey to acting. “I was this kid with a really thick Spanish accent, and I just really wanted to have friends,” she told me. “Everyone convinced me that I would be good at sports because I’m 6’2″, and spoiler alert: I’m not. I can’t run. Apparently, so I’ve been told, that’s important in sports.” Paulino found her true calling at age 13 when a friend dragged her along to audition for a a local theater production of Beauty and the Beast. She wound up landing the lead role as the Beast. “I was in love, and I was like, ‘This is it,'” she said of the project.
After studying musical theater in undergrad and graduating from Yale’s school of drama in 2020, Paulino scored a small role in the movie Queenpins alongside Kristen Bell and Kirby Howell-Baptiste, but The Sex Lives of College Girls is her true breakout debut. Her portrayal of Lila won over throngs of viewers, who flooded social media with praise for the character’s unabashed boldness and authenticity.
Image Source: HBO Max
“It’s overwhelming, but in the best way. It’s like taking a bath with some dark chocolate,” she said of seeing all the positive feedback. Moreover, Paulino was thrilled to represent a woman who is “not a size two and is comfortable in who they are.” “I think people are not only ready, they’re hungry to see [someone like Lila],” she said. “It’s like getting fed vanilla ice cream all this time and it’s like, ‘Sh*t, I love vanilla ice cream, but it gets old.'”
One particularly memorable scene starring Lila comes in the season one finale when she struts into the Anything But Clothes party wearing a crop top and skirt made entirely of wrapped condoms. It meant “everything” for Paulino to confidently show off her curves in the scene. She even convinced the costume design team to shorten the hemline by two inches. “My legs are my favorite feature. We got to show them off!” she said, adding that she hopes it inspires others to do the same. “I really, really hope that those college girls that are little thickums, they go wear that crop top and that little skirt and shake their ass.”
Image Source: HBO Max via Giphy
The women who marvel at Lila’s contraceptive-themed getup and ask for her male gifting advice on the show wound up becoming Paulino’s close friends in real life, too. Because the cast is replete with relative newcomers to the scene — including Alyah Chanelle Scott (Whitney), Amrit Kaur (Bela), and Reneé Rapp (Leighton), among others — the actors bonded over being involved in the highly anticipated project together. “For a lot of us, this is the biggest thing that we have done to date, so there was a sense of like, ‘What does that button do? What does that mean?’ We were experiencing things for the first time together,” she said. “Also everyone is just so damn cool and down to earth. There is no one on that set that I wouldn’t just grab a beer with or just shoot the sh*t and in my sweats with.”
With 10 episodes of experience and rave reviews under their belts, the cast will be returning for season two. Expanding on her aforementioned hopes for Lila’s character growth, Paulino added, “We’re on a show about girls who f*ck, and I think Lila was one of the only ones that wasn’t f*cking, so I really want her to f*ck. And I really want to see her with a boy that makes her nervous. I think it would take a lot for a dude to fluster her, but to see someone who is so confident and loud and so herself paired with someone who kind of makes her fumble her words or makes her sweat would be so much fun and would just show another side that we didn’t get to see in season one.” Um, yes please! I’m very much here for that plot twist.
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