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Interview with Sasha Lane who plays Bobbi in Conversation with Friends

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What drew you to this project?

I like how everyone is an individual and how it all intertwines. I don’t think I’ve seen something that has so many different dynamics but all so well blended. Not just in a way of, ‘that’s the sister’, or ‘they work together’, it’s quite intimate that you get to see the expression between all of them.

What were your initial thoughts when you read Sally Rooney’s Conversations With Friends?

I liked it a lot. I thought it was very interesting because I’m into people and their psychology. I’m always thinking about what’s in their brains and I think that’s also what made me like Bobbi even more. Because I figured that the way she’s written and the way she’s considered bold, a bit blunt with her words and confident, something in me told me that she’s one of the most misunderstood people.

I think it’s easy to cast her off as the mean girl or the bully. Like, she’s fire and Frances is ice, when I think it’s quite the opposite. So that was my main focus. I wanted to bring heart and more depth to her and give Bobbi a chance to be seen as someone who is processing things and just because you’re straightforward with what you say, it doesn’t mean you’re wrong. I think more people could be like that and I like the idea of not making her a villain, but someone who is honest, but also thoughtful, speaks the truth and is open.

What do you think are the key themes of the series?

That nothing is black and white, and it all depends on what you do with the situation you’re given. Not everyone can be in an open relationship or be friends with someone that they dated. Not everyone can be honest with what they need to change about themselves, but it’s just the process of being open to it and acknowledging that you have to confront it. Sometimes just accept that it is what it is and you don’t know where it’s going. I think that stems for every character.

It’s a love story, but it’s unconventional. It’s a very modern take – give us a sense of that…

I think it’s the balance of unconditional love and the freedom of that, while also still being confined to your humanness. I think even with Bobbi, the way she speaks and views it all is one thing but at the same time, she can’t help but also feel things that everyone feels – which is jealousy and confusion. I think it’s complicated but also very simple and easy at the same time.

How did you bring Bobbi to life, what were the challenges?

I thought of my past relationships that I’ve had with people. Everyone thinks that because I am quite bold and unapologetic with what I say that I’m probably a firecracker and hard. But I’m the opposite, I’m quite gentle. It depends on what you give, to what I give back. I’m constantly aware of looking out for other people and how they feel, but I’m not a hippie. I just have very different views on love and I think it’s different for every situation, so I was trying to bring that into Bobbi. What would she be thinking at this moment? There must be a reason her and Frances are still friends, it can’t just be ‘well they’re totally fine’ and there are no emotions there. I was trying to think of the patience Bobbi has with Frances and the vulnerability it takes to be so open and talk about what she’s feeling and thinking, while also keeping her emotions at bay and walking Frances through her own relationships separately.

Can you describe Bobbi and Frances’ relationship when we first meet them?

They’re friends, they have a past, but it’s not really something that has carried on. I like that it starts off light and they feed off each other. They are the type of friends that have a relationship where they’d rather sit on their couch alone drinking wine together than doing anything else. I think they’re each other’s safety net, which I think is sweet for the moment.

Why is Bobbi so drawn to Mellissa? Tell us about that relationship.

I don’t think it’s as big of a draw as has been seen or what people are assuming it is. I feel Melissa is like a spark to her. She’s clearly intelligent, and when they first meet she radiates strong energy, I think she’s the opposite to some of the people she hangs around with, so I think Bobbi is attracted to the fact that there’s someone who is as big of a mountain as her. It’s the fact that it’s someone who has stronger energy than she does, which makes her fascinating.

What does Bobbi think of Nick when she first meets him?

I think her first thought is, ‘here goes a placeholder who is interrupting what I’m seeing’. It’s just, ‘oh she has a husband; he doesn’t speak much and he’s boring’. You see someone that’s majestic and then he’s like a patch of grass.

Tell us about the directors…

We have Lenny Abrahamson, with whom it was one of the first times I was able to be vulnerable without being exposed. He brings something out of you and you feel like it’s a safe space. I feel like I had a huge opportunity to grow with him. It’s nice to be able to have a personal relationship as well as a working one. It makes you feel a bit more human that you can go up to work and not necessarily be a robot.

He’s so detailed and its mind blowing the way that he’s thinking about the edits and whether the dialogue works in the scene and building it. It’s insane the way his mind works, I’m grateful to work with him, that’s one of the main reasons I wanted this because of the stuff he can do. I think Leanne Welham brought a nice pace to it; she’s thinking about how she’s cutting, so it was a nice jolt to be able to run for it and go for it.

Tell us about working with each of your fellow cast members?

I adore Alison, she’s one of the sweetest people I’ve met, I just want to protect her. I think she’s worked incredibly hard. With this being her first project, she’s done amazingly. She makes you feel the joy of the questions she asks and amazement with things. She’s like a little gem, she makes me feel like a better person on set. I’m probably nicer and smile more because she’s there, so that’s a plus.

I really like Joe. We have nice little one-on-one moments. We’ll spend half the day not saying a word and then the next thing you know, we’re in a deep conversation. I like our little dynamic where it’s like, ‘hey dude’, and then we dive in.

Jemima’s great. I instantly bonded with Jemima, she’s the perfect Melissa. I remember the first conversations we had were straight to the point. I like that kind of dynamic with her.

What has been your favourite scene to film so far?

I think the big fights between Frances and Bobbi, or the nice walk they have down the pier where they have a very real, honest, slow-paced conversation. It just felt natural. Those were my favourite – intense, but real moments.

What has been the most rewarding moment during filming?

Making friends with the cast. I generally don’t make friends and I don’t have many, but I wanted to make friends with everyone, it’s quite surprising. There’s a lot of time to build the character, I think that’s the best thing about show. You actually have time to dive into the character to the point where it’s like putting on second skin. That’s rewarding because I won’t walk away feeling like I didn’t get to know her enough to portray her.

What do you think people will take away from your character?

I hope it changes what they would assume she’s like from the book. I have the strongest feeling that people hate Bobbi and don’t want to like her. I think it’s so easy to write her off as rude. Hopefully, if I’ve done my job well, that will go away. I hope they start to feel that there is a vulnerability and caring side to her. I want them to be able to see the light and the softer sides versus how slick her tongue is because she’s just rude. So, I hope they like me.

In what ways are you similar or different from Bobbi?

I think I’m similar to Bobbi in the way that I’m 100 percent down to talk. I like being open and having conversations, talking about the truth and feelings. But if it comes to the point of actually having to express them, I don’t want to be seen when that happens. I think that’s when my wall goes up and I think that’s the same for Bobbi, which is why she’s always looking away or needs a bit of a tick to get her through.

The ways that we’re different is that I don’t think I could ever be as bold as she is and the things that she says. I would just crawl into a hole, so it’s fun to do it and I don’t feel bad after because it’s in the script.

What do you hope audiences will take away?

That it takes a lot of work to eliminate all the fluff of relationships, conversations and multiple dynamics. I want people to feel like this makes them think of a relationship or something they’ve been wanting to tell someone. I hope it registers and makes people feel more comfortable with thoughts that they’ve had about ‘could I be in a relationship like that’ or ‘do I feel bad for being honest or bad for not being honest’. I just like the fact that it’s very human, it’s real, it’s raw and that’s okay. Especially to be on screen, I think that’s quite exceptional. It wasn’t just a ‘this is cute and here’s a relationship’.