She has already wooed us with her portrayal as a synth in the Si-Fi hit TV series Humans and is currently starring in season 2 of Lodge 49 but Sonya Cassidy has only just began … Blowout’s Kylie Olsson wanted to find out more about one of Britain’s most promising new stars!
When did you realize you wanted to be an actress?
When I was about 16. My first leading role was in a play for my local youth theatre and I loved every minute. The feeling I had on stage and during the whole rehearsal process was unlike anything I’d really experienced at school. I enjoyed many subjects but none gave me that buzz. So I kept exploring acting throughout my teens and when the time came to leave school I decided, after much thought, to apply to drama school. It felt like a long shot, but one I was driven enough to try. I got into RADA in 2005 and here we are...
Are your family in the entertainment industry too?
They’re not, no. But they’ve been incredibly supportive.
What do you love about acting?
Being on stage and on set, bringing stories to life. Pretty simple really. But underneath that is the chance to learn about people, different to myself, and inhabit them for a time. To understand what makes them tick and then bring them to life in a way that transports, challenges, moves- any number of things. I also love working as part of a team to achieve something. Making a play/TV show/film is all about that. Everyone at work is a vital part of that creative machine and when it’s working well it’s a very special place to be. I’ve had many ‘Cloud 9’ moments because of my job, whether that’s who you’re working with or where you find yourself. I never take those moments for granted.
You’ve done both the stage and on the screen so what interests you the most when choosing a role?
The writing and character. Do I believe them, is there something that draws me to them? I need to feel challenged in some way and if I’m honest I gravitate to roles that challenge an audience. Characters that sow seeds in someone’s mind and encourage them to go somewhere they didn’t think about before or revaluate things they already think or feel. That’s the point of the arts. That and good ol’ fashioned entertainment. Wherever that magic mix of stuff takes place, on stage or screen, I’m happy.
What role would you like to play that you haven’t already tried?
I don’t have a dream role. I never have. But if you’d asked me this before ‘Humans’ I’d have said a sentient robot, something in the sci-fi realm. I’d happily explore more sci-fi. I’d also like to play someone who knows an instrument really well. So well I’d HAVE to actually learn. I can be bad at motivating myself sometimes, but if I need to do something for work I’ll always knuckle down and be disciplined. Hopefully somewhere there’s a piano waiting to be played well by me.
You are currently in Lodge 49, which is based in California… how are you finding Long Beach?
Although it’s still technically LA, Long Beach has a very different feel to it’s northern companion and I like that about it. It doesn’t feel like it’s trying to be anything else. It’s laidback, has (not surprisingly) a lovely long stretch of beach and some of the architecture is really striking. The older Art Deco apartment blocks still going strong (and very stylish) amid run of the mill new builds, the Villa Riviera, the gorgeous Vincent Thomas Bridge (especially good to drive over at night, just fyi). You turn a corner and find yourself unexpectedly in another time or place. I like that. Popular cities are running the risk of looking all too similar. Long Beach has it’s own effortless character.
What appealed to you about this role?
Everything really. I loved the scripts when I read them. They were unlike anything I’d read before, with a balance of humour, heart and the outright bizarre that struck me from the off. To be so drawn into a world at once familiar yet utterly mysterious felt special and Liz (the character) has her own unique place in that world. I connected with her immediately. She’s smart and makes stupid decisions, she’s likeable and also frustrating, she’s capable and also vulnerable. She’s a real person who many people can relate to I think. As with all the characters in the show.
How do you prepare for a role? Get into a character? Do you pick up odd characteristics from people you meet and note them down to use in a role?
Every actor is an avid people watcher I think. You have to be. You have to be fascinated by human beings. Since drama school I’ve my ‘tool box’, my go-to prep for each role. There are certain things that I always do (written scene work, using music and images), but every job is different and what’s required to find that particular character has to be new and appropriate to them. I definitely have a growing list of people I’ve met in life that I’ve thought, I’ll use them in a character one day. The most memorable ones you actually think, you couldn’t write them and yet there they are.
What’s the weirdest thing you’ve had to do as an actor?
Something recently on set of Lodge 49 actually. A lot of fun and definitely in the realm of the ridiculous. But I’m afraid I can’t tell you what it is.
Lodge 49 season 2. We’re filming at the moment. It’s a joy.
Now, to get to know you that little bit more we get everyone that pops by Blowout to answer our ‘6 life questions’ so here goes:
Biggest regret in life?
I regret spending time in relationships when I felt they weren’t right anymore. I think we often know, deep down, if something isn't what it should be. In my twenties I second guessed that. I shouldn’t have. I could have trusted sooner my ability to be alone and content within that. I value my alone time a lot more now. It’s important to me in ways I didn’t really appreciate then.
What would your 16 year old self say to you now?
“Do your stretch marks still make you feel horribly self conscious and unattractive?”. To which I’d wholeheartedly assure her “No” and she should not spend another second worrying about something most people have and anyone worth seeing your body won’t give a damn about.
Best advice you’ve been given
From my parents, many moons ago: “As you get older you’ll make decisions that we may not like or agree with, but that doesn’t make them wrong. If it’s something you’ve thought about and truly believe is right for you then go for it. We will still love and support you”. Something about that has stayed with me.
What makes you happy
Many things... - Completing a climbing route I've been working on/hauling myself up for a while. - Pin-drop moments of silence when you’re on stage. An audience holding their breath with you. - Being on set. - Receiving handwritten letters. - Being surrounded by mountains. - In a city, sat with a cuppa, quietly watching the world go by. - Arrivals at airports/stations. That moment just before a loved one arrives. - An iced & spiced bun from M&S. - Chipotle mayo
If you weren’t scared what would you do?
I can’t really think of anything I’m scared of that affects my life in some way. I don’t mean that flippantly. I just try not to be scared of things. If I find myself feeling that way I’m interested to know why and do something about it. My work requires a lot of emotion, responses driven by instinct, but I’m quite a pragmatic person. What are the facts of a situation? If there’s a problem, where’s the solution? (If there is one). If I’m afraid. Why?
Should you focus on today or tomorrow?
This might be a cop-out... Plan what you can for tomorrow, then focus on today.
Follow Sonya Cassidy on Twitter @sonya_cassidy