'Never Rarely Sometimes Always' ' Sidney Flanigan on Her 'Surreal' Journey from Day Job to Hollywood

"At the end of the day it's not as if I transformed into some new higher being or anything," the newcomer tells PEOPLE

Sidney Flanigan
Photo: JOHN MACDOUGALL/AFP via Getty Images

Sidney Flanigan is taking to her newfound fame with humility.

The 21-year-old musician from Buffalo, New York, who holds a day job as a custodian, makes a startling acting debut in the moving coming-of-age drama, Never Rarely Sometimes Always. The film premiered at the Sundance Film Festival in January where it won a Special Jury Award and put Flanigan on the map as a talent to watch. (The film lands on On Demand platforms on April 3.)

In the film, from Beach Rats writer/director Eliza Hittman, Flanigan plays a small town Pennsylvania teen who travels to New York City with her cousin (Talia Ryder) in an attempt to terminate an unplanned pregnancy.

Below, Flanigan opens up to PEOPLE about how she nailed the part and why music is such a huge part of her life.

Never Rarely Sometime Always
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She was discovered because of her music

“I met Eliza when I was 14. Her partner was making a film in Buffalo, where I live. I was 14 years old and I was hanging at this house because I knew some people there and he was filming at a lot. Eliza was visiting one day while there was this backyard wedding going on at this house. At the time I had a shaved head and I was wearing a wig. I guess she just spotted me and thought I looked interesting, and she followed me on Facebook over the years. I posted videos all the time with me like playing like my original music or like covers and stuff. And then she looked at reaching out to me to audition for the role.”

Never Rarely Sometime Always
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She works a day job as a custodian

“It’s definitely a little surreal. I don’t feel abnormal necessarily at work but it’s a large building and now all of the employees say hi to me. My co-workers in my department like to ask a lot of questions and they’re always hyping me up and it’s funny and sweet. But at the end of the day it’s not as if I transformed into some new higher being or anything. I still feel like myself. I do my work and we play cards in the break room and regular life carries on. The entire experience of becoming this star in a movie is super exciting and I feel proud of myself but at the same time very humbled and my life back at home keeps me tethered to reality and my values.”

She had no idea she’d get the part

“The whole time I remember thinking to myself, ‘I’m like way out of my depth here, what am I doing?’ You know? I wasn’t really sure if I had what it took, but then when I got the part I was just kind of like, ‘Oh, well I guess I did.’ Like I guess I’ll just keep doing whatever I did in that audition.”

She comes from a musical background

“My whole family really loves music. My family is very rooted in the punk rock scene. My grandma was a punk rocker in the ’70s and my dad was in a band. There were always bands sleeping on our living room floor that were touring. That was my world. I just naturally started playing instruments, and I started playing violin and then the guitar and writing my own songs and starting my own bands. I played in a few bands in the Buffalo area and now, for the most part, I’m a singer-songwriter.”

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