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Sasha Lane is no stranger to playing the “badass rebel” role. The 26-year-old actress made her film debut in American Honey and has since starred alongside Chloë Grace Moretz in The Miseducation of Cameron Post, featured in sci-fi series Utopia and made her Marvel debut in Loki. Adding to this impressive list, Sasha’s currently filming The Crowded Room with Tom Holland.
But in Conversations With Friends, we see her plucked away from the violence and fantasy genre and placed in the world of Sally Rooney, where fight scenes are replaced with silent establishing shots of the Irish countryside.
“I hate playing confident people,” Lane tells Refinery29 Australia over a video call. “It’s so hard for me. It’s not my thing.” It’s surprising to hear, as her Conversations With Friends’ character Bobbi is charismatic, confident and outspoken. I ask her if she liked playing Bobbi — and if she likes Bobbi, full stop.
“I like Bobbi. I like what I wanted to try to bring to Bobbi,” she clarifies. “I liked the fact that she was opinionated but still had this moral compass and grounding to her. Everything she said was, more than not, the truth.”
“Francis has Bobbi on such a pedestal and she really doesn’t sometimes see her vulnerabilities because she thinks Bobbi is perfect and untouchable.”
In the Hulu original series, Bobbi’s best friend and ex-girlfriend Frances teeters between admiration, jealousy and love for Bobbi. Based on Rooney’s debut 2017 novel, the show follows their friendship and how the pair navigate a newfound relationship with a married couple.
“Francis has Bobbi on such a pedestal and she really doesn’t sometimes see her vulnerabilities because she thinks Bobbi is perfect and untouchable… she doesn’t allow Bobbi to not be the strong one,” newcomer Alison Oliver, who plays Frances, tells Refinery29 Australia. “[Sasha] didn’t lose Bobbi’s electricity and boldness [while] she put so much heart and pain [into the performance].”
This was amplified on-screen because in the TV adaptation, Bobbi is a Black American woman. Lane tells me that initially “there was never a conversation” had about her character’s change of race. She explains that most of the series was filmed in Belfast, and for a long period of time, her brother and her daughter were the only other Black people she saw. Questions of authenticity and tokenism swirled in her mind.
“It was kind of like, ‘How? How does [Bobbi] so confidently and freely walk these streets? When I don’t exist here. They do not exist here. It doesn’t make any sense.’
She shares that director Lenny Abrahamson reassured her, saying that when they arrived in Dublin to film, she’d “see that there is more room for [her].”
“So when I got to Dublin, ‘I was like, ‘Ok, I trust you more now Lenny, because I don’t ever want to be someone’s token like, “throw her in there and then also make her gay and we’re a winner!”’. I could see how [Bobbi] could fit in and not be so like completely an outsider.”
“I’m always seen as this wild person, this free-spirited, full of energy, super badass rebel. I cringe if I’m not on time, I cringe if I make someone feel bad. I follow the rules, I am so sensitive.”
It seems like Lane feels like she has this responsibility to protect Bobbi. “When you read her, you don’t find a sensitivity [to her]. It’s almost easy to hate Bobbi. Lane makes the comparison with how the public perceives her herself; the trope of the strong Black woman doesn’t only rule over her characters.
“I’m always seen as this wild person, this free-spirited, full of energy, super badass rebel. I cringe if I’m not on time, I cringe if I make someone feel bad. I follow the rules, I am so sensitive. I have a lot of respect. I respect my elders, I’ve always been raised with manners,” she says.”
“I can have an opinion and I can tell you to fuck off, but that doesn’t mean that I’m not doing it because I don’t care and because… things don’t affect me. I can be strong and have an opinion. But I’m also a person and I have a big heart. There’s always still respect but if you ask me the truth, I will tell you the truth. And that’s what I wanted to bring to Bobbi.”
Conversations With Friends is streaming now on BBC iPlayer
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