Sarah Steele of “The Humans” and “The Good Fight” fame bids adieu to the teen roles that were once her calling card with her turn in “Speech & Debate,” the feature film adaptation of Stephen Karam’s hit 2007 Off-Broadway show in which she also starred. She swung by Backstage’s office April 10 for a candid chat on growing up, managing her time, and working with Emmy winner Christine Baranski.
She’s now committed to playing her age.
“Really, 2016 was the first year that I played my own age in a play [‘The Humans’] and I started playing my own age in ‘The Good Fight,’ which feels very good. It’s time. I don’t think I could go back at this point. My good friend [and theater director] Anne Kauffman told me when we were doing ‘Slowgirl’—which is another play where I played a teenager—‘You know what? There’s going to be a day when you say, “I’m not going to do this anymore,” and all of us in the theater are going to be like, “Dammit!” ’ [And] that’s really what I did. I just got to a point where it’s like, I’ve been on this earth for too many years to carry around a backpack and talk about my algebra homework.”
Sia kept her sane while she performed simultaneously on ‘Good Fight’ and in ‘Humans.’
“I listened all the time to Sia’s latest album [‘This Is Acting’], which is really like a pep talk of, ‘You’re strong! You can do it!’ I honestly don’t know that I could have gotten through without that album. Every day on the subway going to work or just making it from set to the show, I would sometimes be running in the subway station to make my [call time, and] I would just listen to her.”
Working out regularly keeps her grounded onstage.
“I surprised myself this year because I have never been a very athletic person. I’ve never been someone who works out every day. But I was playing a character [in ‘The Humans’] who I think does in order to feel good and sort of combat the fact that she doesn’t have a lot of control over her life. So while I was doing ‘The Humans,’ I started doing that and it was a huge help. It made me more confident when I would walk out onstage and it sort of quiets the demons that are in your head sometimes when you’re onstage. I think now that’ll be a part of my life.”
Sharing the screen with Baranski is a mentor-mentee moment.
“She’s hilarious, first of all. She’s just such a funny woman, which really helps. But also, I was a little starstruck because always on ‘The Good Wife,’ she was the person whose career I admired the most. And she was sort of the actress that I looked to as, you know, hopefully I’ll have a career like hers. So it’s been super exciting to get to work with her. And she is what I aspire to be in that she’s very funny, but she’s an incredible dramatic actress, as well, and really knows what she’s doing in front of a camera. She can tell a story with the tiniest of glances.”
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