Sofia Black-D’Elia was anxious about turning 30. That was until she met her Single Drunk Female character Samantha Fink. “It was like, ‘Well, I’m not this bad!’” she laughs, alluding to the onslaught of cringe-worthy choices Samantha makes throughout the show. The Freeform comedy about a 28-year-old woman coming to terms with her alcohol abuse and navigating sobriety back home is a refreshing depiction of addiction, grief, and complicated family relationships. But perhaps what the show does best is bring a more honest lightness to the serious subject matter. After all, it’s not only dark times. There are joyful moments in the recovery process too.
Despite the positive response to the show’s first two episodes, Black-D’Elia is still feeling the pressure of starring in a comedy about such heavy topics. “You can tell by my babbling I’m still freaked out by it,” she says. To be fair, the actress is still somewhat new to the world of comedy. While evidence of her ability to bring the funny is on display in the Fox series The Mick, the majority of her work has consisted of bad-girl types in dramas such as Skins and The Night Of, so naturally, she had some nerves going in. “I think it’s a really fine line to me,” she says of creating a dark comedy like Single Drunk Female. “Especially first seasons of a comedy, you’re finding [your footing] regardless of the topic or the tone. … From the second I read the pilot, I was like, ‘Oh, this is going to be tough.’”
Surrounded by a group of talented women both behind and in front of the camera, Black-D’Elia was up to the challenge. The fact that creator Simone Finch was showcasing a different side of alcoholism and getting sober (one based on her own personal experiences) really interested the actress. “I think it’s the most—I hate this word—digestible way of handling material like this,” she says of Finch’s approach. Then, there were executive producers Leslye Headland (Netflix’s Russian Doll) and Jenni Konner (HBO’s Girls), who helped create a safe space for Black-D’Elia to really explore and find Sam through a week and a half of rehearsals (a rarity with half-hour comedies) and invaluable improv sessions with different cast members.
“I tend to gravitate toward characters that I can very easily imagine their inner life and justify their behaviors pretty easily,” Black-D’Elia tells us of tapping into Sam’s mindset. “She just made sense to me. I know girls like her. I grew up with girls like her, and especially her relationship with [her mother] felt so familiar to me. My mom and I are much more stable than that, but in the improvising of those relationships, I tended to find [Sam] more. … I think the way she relates to someone new like Olivia, who she really wants to impress, says a lot about her, and how she relates to someone like Felicia, who has seen her at her worst and she can let that guard down and be the ugliest versions of herself, also told me a lot about her. I really like to improvise with my castmates and figure out those relationships. The relationships really define the people to me.”
Though Black-D’Elia has friends and family who are sober or in AA, she was careful not to lean into anyone else’s recovery journey in her process. “I think the second you try to make something universal it becomes totally untethered from reality. So the more focused I was on Simone’s specific journey, the better it was—at least in my opinion—for Sam.”
In addition to the actress’ dynamic performance, there’s plenty to note about her on-screen style in the series. Black-D’Elia perks up when we ask about her character’s oftentimes questionable wardrobe choices, namely a loud cobalt-blue coat that appears in episode one. Collaborating with costume designer Cailey Breneman was an “incredibly fun” process for the actress. The two talked at length about Sam’s look and the factors that would have informed what she wears. “When we first meet Sam, it seemed likely to us that she would have spent the majority of her earnings on alcohol,” she tells us. “And so we wanted the things that she wore to feel like she bought them at Zara like seven years ago.” Think distressed knits, printed blazers, and lots of plaid. To achieve Sam’s slightly outdated look, Breneman pulled from consignment shops such as Buffalo Exchange, Poshmark, and TheRealReal.
While Sam’s style is vastly different from Black-D’Elia’s, there was one outfit that really hit home for the actress. She imagines it would have been a look from Sam’s younger years that she found moving back home with her mom. “There’s something I wear in [episode three], which is a short-sleeve T-shirt and a weird tank dress that is a little ill-fitting and moccasins,” she says. “I felt like I looked exactly like this girl Rebecca that I went to Hebrew school with. She was—I don’t know—10 when I went to Hebrew school, so it’s a near 30-year-old woman wearing a 10-year-old’s Hebrew school outfit.”
Unlike Sam, Black-D’Elia has found entering her 30s to have a positive effect on her personal style. She admits to having spent most of her 20s caving to the pressures of what a 21st century actress should look and dress like, often trying to imitate others. But for the first time, she feels comfortable in her uniform and is actually wearing items she likes. “My husband has described my style as a 1950s boy on a paper route,” she says. “I love Americana vintage ’50s and ’60s. I like to thrift, especially when I’m in the Midwest or on a road trip. The majority of my closet is neutral and vintage because I’m not flashy.” Glancing down at the orange Parks Project sweatshirt she is wearing, she laughs at the irony of her previous statement but swears the hoodie is the brightest article of clothing she owns.
Black-D’Elia wouldn’t describe anything or anywhere as her comfort zone, but it’s clear we’re seeing a more confident version of the actress both on-screen and off in 2022. While a second season for SDF is still up in the air, Black-D’Elia’s goal is to keep learning and to keep doing comedy with really funny women. “It just feels like a real gift, so I really don’t know why I would want to go back to playing love interests who have died,” she says.
Catch all-new episodes of Single Drunk Female Thursdays at 10:30 p.m./9:30 p.m. (CST) on Freeform.