Welcome to “Playback,” a Variety / iHeartRadio podcast bringing you exclusive conversations with the talents behind many of today’s hottest films.

The 21-year-old actor Tye Sheridan is in full gallop on a career that began 10 years ago when he was plucked from the sidelines by Terrence Malick for the 2011 film “The Tree of Life.” After finding his stride in movies like Jeff Nichols’ “Mud” and Bryan Singer’s “X-Men: Apocalypse,” Sheridan — one of Variety‘s 10 Actors to Watch in 2014 — has a pair of studio blockbusters set for 2018: “X-Men: Dark Phoenix,” in which he’ll reprise the role of Cyclops later in the fall, and Steven Spielberg’s “Ready Player One,” a dream project for a young man who grew up on a steady diet of Spielberg’s spectacles in Texas.

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“We look at his movies and we think big in scope, big in scale, really fun, family-oriented films,” Sheridan explains of the maestro. “I don’t think we isolate the performances, but they make those movies. They’re the glue. And you see such a great camaraderie amongst young characters in his movies, whether it’s ‘E.T.’ or movies he produced like ‘The Goonies.’ He’s incredibly engaging. He’s incredibly patient. He might give you two or three takes to settle into the scene before he would give notes, and that was something I admired, his supportiveness.”

The film is right in Sheridan’s wheelhouse lately, as he’s very interested in the role technology, and particularly social media, plays in our lives. He’s even working diligently on a tech start-up at the moment called Aether, which is geared toward interactive television and immersive media. (Expect announcements on that very soon.) But in “Ready Player One,” Sheridan saw ideas of the human relationship with technology that really spoke to him.

“I’m kind of on the fence on social media and how much people are investing themselves into these platforms,” he says. “There’s so much you can see and learn just by looking up [from your screen]. That’s the greatest theme in ‘Ready Player One,’ is embracing reality and accepting yourself for who you are.”

Also, looking back at the Oscar-nominated Malick masterpiece that launched his career, Sheridan can’t help but note that working on “The Tree of Life” was an incredibly singular experience in hindsight. But at the time, Malick’s unusual way of working was all he knew of the business. From the experience, he has carried with him the importance of an exploratory spirit on set.

“The fact that I never saw a script and I didn’t know what we were shooting until literally the moment we arrived on set, for me, I thought that was normal when I was 11 years old,” Sheridan says. “I guess what I retained from that experience is, it’s good to rehearse and work things through, but when you dig yourself so deep and invest yourself in one style, it’s hard to dig yourself out. Working on his movies, he allows you to do so much and go so many places.”

For more, including thoughts on premiering “Ready Player One” in his home state at SXSW and his reprise of Cyclops in the upcoming mutant sequel, listen to the latest episode of “Playback” via the streaming link above.

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Tye Sheridan Photographed exclusively for the Variety Playback Podcast.
Dan Doperalski for Variety