Kathryn Newton has no doubts about the first thing she'd do if she found herself trapped in the body of the body of a man.

"I'd go pee outside," she says immediately with a laugh.

You know Kathryn, that's really not all that common … "That's a lie," she interrupts. "I'm a golfer and it happens every day. Trees are not a bathroom. Please note."

Newton, star of hit films including Blockers and Pokemon Detective Pikachu and the acclaimed TV dramas Big Little Lies and The Society, is pondering the question before tomorrow's release of Freaky, a horror-comedy twist on the age-old body swap genre, in which her petite, awkward high-schooler finds herself in the body of Vince Vaughn's hulking, psychopathic serial killer.

Kathryn Newton in the Netflix drama, The Society.
Kathryn Newton in the Netflix drama, The Society.

Freaky comes from director Chris Landon and producer Jason Blum, the same team behind the slasher-comedy hit Happy Death Day, which was enough to convince horror fan Newton that they could once again strike the right balance of scares and laughs.

And the 165cm actor also was tickled by prospect of playing a version of the 196cm Vaughn, as meek schoolgirl Millie becomes the single-minded, knife-wielding Butcher - and vice versa. She started by closely watching Vaughn's films to emulate his mannerisms and movements, but was thrilled to see that evolve into a collaboration on both characters with Vaughn, as he tried to find the mindset of a traumatised teen.

Newton’s star is continuing to rise. Picture: Laurie Stark
Newton’s star is continuing to rise. Picture: Laurie Stark

"He had so many brilliant ideas and I got so much inspiration from him as to the physicality of the characters and on the days we were filming, when he was Millie and I was the Butcher, it was a really interesting experience to ask him 'what do you think the Butcher would do here?' or he would ask me 'what do you think of Millie doing this?'. You never get to share a character with someone."

Newton has been acting since age four, meaning her own school days were somewhat disrupted. The self-confessed "weirdo" and "nerd" found friends by playing golf, captaining her team to the state championships, but when she ran a campaign to be class president was crushed to find out no one knew who she was. And if being in movies earned her some cred among her fellow students, it cut little ice with her teachers.

Kathryn Newton stars alongside Vince Vaughn in Freaky. Picture: supplied
Kathryn Newton stars alongside Vince Vaughn in Freaky. Picture: supplied

"I loved doing stunt scenes or being a rock star on set and then coming to school the next day and having my geometry teacher throw a test on the table and I had to take it," she says with a laugh. "But I loved high school so much, probably because I wasn't there that often."

Newton is grateful for the schooling she received on set by watching the likes of her Big Little Lies co-stars Nicole Kidman and, especially, Reese Witherspoon, who played her mother. "Reese has been such inspiration as an actor. To get to work with someone who taught me so much just by being great, she made me better."

Newton had the lead role in The Society and was devastated when Netflix recently cancelled the teen drama after its first season due to COVID-related production issues.

"When it got cancelled and I saw the love for the show, it made me feel like I'd really done something that mattered," she says.

Freaky opens in cinemas tomorrow.

Originally published as Big Little Lies' Kathryn Newton's freaky career move