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Actress Sofia Black-D’Elia on trying out comedy, mustaches, and the benefits of obscurity

Sofia Black-D’Elia says she first got into acting “by accident.” As a kid, she looked up to a group of older girls who were all enrolled in a commercial acting class, so she signed up, too. And it’s a good thing she did. Now 25, Black- D’Elia nabbed her first TV role on All My Children at 17 before getting cast as Tea, a semi-closeted gay teen on MTV’s American adaptation of the hit UK teen soap Skins. She followed that up with a scene-stealing part on Gossip Girl as Sage, a meddling teen who dates heartthrob Nate Archibald.

Most recently, the New Jersey native has taken on two similarly rebellious roles on two very different shows. In the first, HBO’s The Night Of, she played troubled femme fatale Andrea, whose murder in the pilot episode is the driving force behind the plot. And in the second, Fox’s The Mick, she plays Sabrina, a cigarette-smoking party girl who also serves on her high school’s honor board and occasionally has to co-parent her younger siblings with her messy boozehound aunt (the titular Mick — or Mickey — played by It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia’s Kaitlin Olson) after her parents go on the lam to avoid criminal charges.

Viewers of The Mick might be genuinely surprised to learn it’s the first time Black-D’Elia is flexing her slapstick skills. She credits Olson’s “maternal” nature as being critical to Black-D’Elia feeling comfortable in comedy. “Kaitlin is a safety net,” she says. “I feel really lucky because I can’t imagine doing comedy for the first time without that, and it really has been one of the most fun jobs I’ve ever had.”

Like Sabrina, Black-D’Elia is outspoken, especially on matters of justice, and she “compulsively” shares her thoughts about politics on social media. “It feels frivolous and insincere to post things on social media every day and not acknowledge what’s going on in the world,” she says. Her commanding screen presence paired with her social responsibility has us wondering not if, but when, she will break into the mainstream as Hollywood’s latest answer to the woke starlet. But for now, Black-D’Elia is plenty pleased with the “privilege” of “obscurity.” Enjoy it while it lasts, Sofia — something tells us you won’t be part of the fringe for long.

The Mick is your first comedy but you seem like a natural, particularly in this role.

That’s very kind of you to say. I wanted to do this show: A) because Kaitlin has been an idol of mine for a decade; B) because the script was the funniest thing I read all year; and C) because I thought if I’m going to do this for the first time, I’m probably gonna screw up a lot, and I really want to screw up around people that I feel safe with. Kaitlin just is a safety net. Every day she reassures the entire cast, “I’m never going to let you go home feeling like you didn’t do a great job at work. I will be here for you and I will help you through it.” So I feel really lucky because I can’t imagine doing comedy for the first time without that, and it really has been one of the most fun jobs I’ve ever had.

Does Kaitlin ever give you any advice?

All the time. She’s given me advice on, like, how to be a woman in the workplace and how to assert yourself without the fear of being a bitch and how to take control over you own career, things that I really couldn’t learn from anybody. I feel very grateful for her. She is obviously one of our greatest comedic actresses but she’s also a really beautiful human being and I adore her.

I want to talk about your Funny Or Die video, which I loved. How did that come about?

The lovely folk over at Funny Or Die are fans of The Mick and The Night Of and said, “Would you want to come by or have a brainstorm about something you might want to do with us?” And I said I’d love that because I love those guys and I love the platform they give people. So we were talking about if I had any ideas that might be able to turn into sketches or that kind of thing, and I said I’ve been collecting on my laptop a list of copy and pasted character descriptions from scripts I’ve read over the years that I just couldn’t believe a guy actually wrote. They had been working on something very similar, so we combined the two ideas into this short film about these guys that think they’re really doing a service to women and really believe they’re writing them very well. It was my first time ever getting to wear a wig and mustache — and now I know why guys grow mustaches, because you could just play with it all the time. So that ended up being my favorite part of the day.

When you look for roles, are you specifically searching for multi-dimensional female characters?

Ideally, yes, but I’m not really in a position yet to handpick what I do. I still have to work when I’m fortunate enough to be given the chance to do so. I think in the future, if I I’m in a position where I can be really picky, I will definitely be more selective about what I do. I’ve been lucky recently in The Mick and The Night Of where those are two women that are fully formed people and they’re really interesting and different from anything I’ve played, so I’ve been really lucky. It’s something you’re always cognizant of and think you wish you didn’t have to be at all. But sadly you do.

You’ve said, “I like playing doomed girls.” You do almost seem to get typecast as the badass chick, which in terms of being pigeonholed, it could be much worse.

Again, I feel like I’m still so at the beginning of this whole thing. I’m lucky in that I can create a character that I think is right for a story and if it’s good enough they’ll go, “Okay you can play with us and do this.” I don’t think that I’m expected to bring that to the table yet. I do find that I’m naturally attracted to female characters like that, but mostly I think I just relate to them easier than the girl that’s got it all going on or something like that. So I think at this point it’s just, like, what do I relate to and what can I connect to and then build a character out of that.

What are your interests outside of acting?

I find that my interests are very boring. I cook Blue Apron with my boyfriend. We’re really into World War II docs. Right now, we’re reading Sinclair Lewis’s It Can’t Happen Here. We’re in a very dark headspace and I think that my typical fun hobbies have been kind of pushed to the side momentarily.

You are pretty vocal about politics on social media. Do you feel you have a duty to use your voice?

I don’t know that I have that big of a platform, so I don’t necessarily feel like I have a duty to be speaking to any group of people. I don’t think anyone’s following me that I have an influence over, for me it’s more of a compulsion. I think it’s the number one thing I think about, the number one thing a lot of other people think about, so it feels frivolous and insincere to post things on social media every day and not acknowledge what’s going on in the world. I’ve never spoken out or been quote-unquote political for the sake of a duty or obligation or anything like that. It’s honestly just because I cannot help myself from being honest. And that’s not to say I don’t understand actresses and other celebrities that don’t use the platform for that, because I think it’s a choice. But for me, because I am obscure, I think it’s more of a privilege I can do that and no one really cares. I just have to block a few people every now and then, but it’s not making a splash.

Anything else you want to get off your chest today?

I would just say that the protests are working and the energy that everybody in my generation has been bringing this year is inspiring and moving and I don’t want anybody to get lazy. So keep calling your reps if you can and don’t be discouraged by the fact that there’s one snowball after the next right now, because I think this is a battle that can be won.

SOURCE PAPER MAG

Sofia Black-D’Elia wants you to stop bashing New Jersey

After spilling some details on her new show, “The Mick,” the star defended her hometown.

For a variety of millennial-aged binge-watchers, Sofia Black-D’Elia’s face isn’t exactly “new.” You’ve seen her on Gossip Girl as the bratty teen daughter of Serena’s older boyfriend. In Project Almanac, she’s playing around with time travel. Then she hopped in a cab on The Night Of, did drugs with the driver, and, well…things ended up pretty badly for all parties involved. Yes, Sofia Black-D’Elia’s face is definitely one you’ve seen before.

But now it’s time to get to know her, know her, put a name to that face, and learn more about that Jersey girl who’s trying her hand at comedy—and totally succeeding. Sofia’s new show, The Mick (which also stars It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia’s Kaitlin Olson), was just renewed for season two. So before this gal hits superstardom, here’s what she has to say about life, laughs, and, of course, her hometown.

On working with Kaitlin Olson:

“I was a huge fan. I had never done comedy before, so I was mostly concerned with keeping up with her and not letting my inexperience show. I definitely felt a connection to her. It felt easy and fun right off the bat. We like each other as people, which I think helps a lot in comedy, because we trust each other. And she’s taught me so much already. It’s been such a joy.”

What it’s like doing a comedy:

“It’s about trusting your gut, and not being afraid to be an idiot and fall flat on your face. We talk about this a lot on our show—you don’t want to be the actor who knows they’re in a comedy. I try to take things as seriously as Sabrina would in the moment and let somebody else decide if it’s funny or not.”

On playing “bitchy” characters:

“I think what makes Sabrina so terrible is that she doesn’t think she’s a bitch at all. She thinks she’s doing everybody a favor, and that’s hilarious to me. I know girls like that, who will tell you something awful about yourself and feel like they’re being martyrs. You should know your hair looks terrible like that, or you should understand it’s embarrassing that you’re unfamiliar with this topic of conversation. Now you’ll go home and learn about it, and I gave that gift to you.”

How she feels when people bash New Jersey:

“I think they’ve never been there. They start talking about [New Jersey] and you’re like, ‘So, where [in Jersey] have you been?’ and they’re like, ‘Oh no, I never actually go there.’ And you’re like, ‘Then shut the fuck up.’ That’s my reaction—shut the fuck up. Some of the best restaurants on the East Coast are in Jersey, because that’s where immigrants moved when New York was too expensive. So if you want to know what real America looks like, go to northern New Jersey and hang out with, like, a million different cultures. It was such an amazing childhood, and people should stop knocking it.”

If she’d describe herself as awkward:

“It’s weird when anybody says they’re awkward because really awkward people don’t want to talk about it. Some actresses are like, ‘I’m so real, I’m just like you, I’m so awkward and weird.’ It’s like, ‘No, you’re beautiful and rich and you’re doing fine.’ I’m also not saying I’m beautiful and rich [laughs], but I’m just not as put-together as some of those characters are. I’m insecure and vulnerable and shit gets to me, and Sabrina is tough as nails. That is not like me at all.”

On her belief in the paranormal:

“I’ve experienced paranormal activity. When Ginny [Gardner] and I were in a hotel [for Project Almanac], there were things—noises and things—happening that were absolutely terrifying. And anybody who thinks it wasn’t real, that doesn’t think that stuff exists, it just hasn’t happened to you yet.”

After hearing about Riz Ahmed’s crazy sex scenes on Girls:

“I hope that’s what he becomes known for. Not a great actor—just hire him for weird sex scenes [laughs]. He’s so talented. That’s another guy who’s been at it for forever and putting in great work for years. Now people finally know who he is, and he’s like, ‘Yeah, I’ve been doing it this whole time.’ I think when you love what you do and you care about it very much, that kind of stuff always happens. He deserves it.”

SOURCE THE COVETEUR

The Mick blog: Sofia Black-D’Elia on getting real about birth control

Every week, the cast and crew of Fox’s The Mick — the new comedy series that follows Kaitlin Olson’s reckless Mackenzie “Mickey,” who’s tasked with caring for her on-the-lam sister’s three children — is taking EW behind the scenes of the latest episode. This week, Sofia Black-D’Elia takes us inside the fourth episode, “The Buffer.”

Mickey (Kaitlin Olson) doesn’t want the 17-year-old Sabrina (Sofia Black-D’Elia) to get pregnant, so she comes home with a straightforward solution: a bag of birth control options, ranging from a vaginal ring to an IUD.

“There was a moment where [Olson] and I were trying to make an IUD funny where I said to her, ‘This is pretty cool that you and I are sitting on a couch talking about an IUD on network television,’” Black-D’Elia recalls. “There was something that felt special about that to me.”

Part of what made it feel special is that it reminded Black-D’Elia of real-life conversations she had with her mother as a teen. When she read this script, she was “cracking up at how truthful” it was.

“[Contraceptives] all do kind of suck, and we have to pick one, and I remember thinking, ‘Why can’t a guy have to get something shoved up his a–?’” Black-D’Elia laughs.

Her character agrees. Sabrina is resistant to any form of birth control — including condoms — throughout the episode. That wouldn’t be such a problem if she wasn’t so… active: Sabrina and boyfriend Kai (Andy Favreau) spend much of the episode being affectionate with each other. Like, really affectionate.

“Making out that much in front of kids is really weird,” Black-D’Elia says. “I remember turning around and seeing the look on Jack Stanton’s face, who plays Ben, and thinking, this is one of the weirdest f—ing things I’ve ever done as an actor.”

But she’s not too worried about setting a bad example for the young Stanton. “I definitely felt like this is not going to be the thing that corrupts him on this show,” she laughs. “But, yeah, it definitely just felt weird.”

The Mick airs Tuesdays at 8:30 p.m. ET on Fox.

SOURCE ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY

Sofia Black-D’Elia Loves To Play The Crazy Girls — They’re Just More Fun

Sofia Black-D’Elia loves playing characters who are the most obnoxious people in the scene. The 25-year-old actress has done so on teen classics from All My Children (where she got her big break at the age of 17) to Skins to Gossip Girl to The Night Of.

Playing someone so unlike herself is where she shines, even if she knows she couldn’t stand these girls in real life. Or, in her words: “I think it’s always fun to play those kinds of people that you feel really familiar with and especially when you can’t stand them.”

In her latest role in The Mick, a new comedy on FOX premiering January 1 at 8 p.m., she plays one of her most out-there characters yet: Sabrina Pemberton, the oldest child in a wealthy family that is turned upside down when her parents are arrested for embezzlement. Her wacky, boozy, and totally ill-equipped aunt, Mackenzie Murphy, also known as Mick (portrayed by the brutally hilarious Kaitlin Olson), has to rise to the occasion and take care of Sabrina and her two younger brothers to the best of her abilities. Immediately, Sabrina despises Mick, who is loud, brash, and unrefined — the complete opposite of Sabrina herself, who is polished, snobby, and kind of a bitch. Put them both in a room together, and all hell is sure to break loose.

The role is a far cry from Black-D’Elia’s standout performance of the year as Andrea Cornish in HBO’s The Night Of, but that’s what makes it so good and so funny. Refinery29 was able to steal the actress from set to catch up over the phone and hear more about The Mick, going from The Night Of to near-slapstick comedy, and how proud she is of her former co-star, Riz Ahmed. Plus, she tells us how comedy has helped her get through this bananas-crazy year.

Thank you so much for taking time when you’re on set to talk with me. I’m so excited to talk to you about your project.
“Of course. I hope you don’t mind that I’m wolfing down a cheeseburger while we have this conversation. I promise that my attention is devoted to you.”

No worries! I watched the first episode already, and it’s hilarious. I’m so excited to see where the rest of the season goes, and I just think that you guys have such a great dynamic onscreen. What’s it like being on set?
“It’s really fun. I think it’s as fun as you might think it would be to work with Kaitlin Olson every day. She’s really fun, and she keeps you on your toes. And our writers are amazing. It’s been a blast.”

What about your character, Sabrina, made you want to be involved in the project? She has such an attitude, so that has to be so fun to play.
“I personally know a lot of Sabrinas. I’ve met them. I think it’s always fun to play those kinds of people that you feel really familiar with and especially when you can’t stand them. I think it’s always fun to play the obnoxious person in the room, so that appeals to me, but more than anything just like the idea of working with Kaitlin. And the script was so good. I just wanted to kind of be a part of this team. These guys are from It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia, and I’ve just admired their work for so long, so I kind of relished the idea of getting to work with them.”

Have you always watched It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia?
“Yeah, I definitely. I have been a fan of Kaitlin’s character on that show for as long as I can remember. I just think she’s been doing some of the best work on TV for a long time.”

I totally agree. Have you always been interested in doing comedy?
“I have always wanted to do comedy. It definitely terrifies me, and I think that’s part of why I wanted to do it. It’s not my comfort zone at all, which I love. I thought, If I’m gonna do this for the first time, I have to do it with somebody that makes me feel safe and that I can trust and that I can fail in front of. Kaitlin is that person. Also, just to have a female boss throughout this whole experience has been such a blessing. I haven’t figured any of it out yet, but it’s been really fun to try [laughs].”

I especially loved the scene toward the end of the episode where you and Kaitlin have this face-off at the dinner table. I feel like your characters are a lot more similar than they think.
“I think that’s exactly what it is [laughs]. They face off a lot throughout this season. My favorite moments of the show so far have been when we have a common enemy and we have to team up because we are so like-minded. We’re both kind of psychotic, you know.

“I think that they direct all that energy at each other because they can challenge each other, and that doesn’t happen too often in their lives. I think that’s why they enjoy their relationship so much. But what’s been really fun for me to play as an actor has been those rare moments when she and I both have the same plot against someone else together and just destroy them, because we’re both crazy. Both of our characters are crazy.”

Now, I have to talk to you a little bit about The Night Of, because it’s one of my favorite shows of the year and I recapped it for our website, so I was especially devoted to it.
“Oh, thanks!”

One of my favorite parts was, people started sending me theories about the show. One of them theorized that Andrea really had a twin and that you were gonna come back. And I was like, that’s crazy, but I do want her to come back. But that’s nuts.
“That would be hilarious. I feel like that’s like the American Horror Story version of The Night Of.”

Speaking of American Horror Story, what have been some of your other favorite shows on TV this year?
“I really, really love The Crown. I think that Claire Foye’s performance on that show is so beautiful, and it’s one of my performances of the year for sure. So I’ve just been a huge fan of that. And I really love Search Party. I think that show is so funny and real and bizarre. I binge-watched that whole season.”

How long were you actually filming with The Night Of? Because you kept popping up in flashbacks throughout the whole season, but were you only just on set for a little while filming that first episode?
“We shot the first episode in three weeks, so about the normal length of a pilot. My experience with that show felt like shooting a short film, because that whole whirlwind of Nas and Andrea, to me at least, felt like this standalone short film. And then the rest of the show kind of played off of that. I feel like I just had this little small bubble that we lived in. And then I disappeared. And then I got to watch the rest of the show as a fan. It was fun.”

So you had only read the script for the first episode.
“Yes. I mean, I obviously knew things that I needed to know as an actor. But it was such a wonder to watch everybody else kind of kill it the rest of the season.”

Do you still keep in touch with anyone, with Riz [Ahmed] or John Turturro?
“You know, I learned a lot from Riz as an actor. He was very kind to me while we were shooting that show, so I think we’ll always have a friendship.”

I think I saw you tweeted at him when he got nominated [for the Golden Globes] and I was like, Oh my god. I love this.
“I just think he’s so deserving of that. Just the story of that character isn’t something that we see on American television, and I think that alone deserves attention. I’m really happy for Riz and the year that he’s having, because he’s had a long career of really great work, and I really think he deserves it.”

Yeah, absolutely. Back to your character, Andrea: I really liked a quote I read where you talk about the manic-pixie-dream-girl trope and how that was not what Andrea was. I agree and think that it’s really important for women in film to make sure that they’re not falling into tropes like that, too.
“Yeah, I mean, I think I got really lucky with that because she was so well-written, so my job was really easy. I think it’s harder when you’re a young actor and you have to work and you can’t. It’s a luxury to be selective about the women that you play. So I think it’s just about the rest of us being brave enough to have a voice when we’re taking a part that isn’t so fully formed on the page, and having the guts to go up to somebody and say, ‘Hey, I wanna make this girl real, and I want you to help me with it. Let’s do this together.'”

Do you find it difficult to find fully formed female roles in TV?
“It’s a weird array of gals there. I do think that, for the most part, people are really well intentioned when they write these characters. And, you know, a 45-year-old guy doesn’t really know the inner life of a 17-year-old girl, so maybe that’s normal [laughs]. I think the best thing that’s happened to TV is just the influx of female writers that do know what that’s like. I actually think TV’s a really great place for that — that’s also what is so special about working with Kaitlin on this show, because she’s so aware of all of these people being funny, not about, oh, that’s a girl or, oh, that’s a guy: It’s just about making people funny. That’s the kind of environment that we should all be so lucky to work in.”

Yeah, and especially now people, like, want to laugh more than ever.
“Yeah, Jesus Christ. I remember the day after the election, Kaitlin and I had a scene together that morning, and we were both kind of crying in between takes, and I just felt so lucky to have a job that I love, that I’m appreciated in, that I could connect to people on a personal level, and we could just make each other laugh for a little while. Because it’s easy to go down the, like, ‘Everything we do is meaningless…what the f*ck…what is the point of anything’ route.”

Totally. It’s cheesy, but it is the best medicine.
“You know what, sometimes it is. I think there has to be a balance of getting your ass up and doing something and taking action and having a voice, and then also keeping yourself sane and trying to be happy.”

Speaking of things that make you happy, what are some things that you like to do when you’re not on set?
“Oh my god, these days I don’t know when that is. But I, well, I don’t know. I guess we’ve been shooting in L.A., and I live in New York, so when we’re not on set, I try to go home and see my friends and family. And hang with them. Because that makes me pretty happy. And I read a lot. And I watch a lot of movies. And I try to stay off Twitter.”

SOURCE REFINERY29