As the phrase goes, art inspires, and imitates, art. While up and coming starlet, Sascha Nastasi, was demonstrating grand pliés and pirouettes for a crowded theatre, she dreamed of the day she would perform for an audience in a different capacity, or, to be more specific, on the silver screen. As fate would have it, Sascha traded in her leotards for glamorous costumes, while simultaneously maintaining, and evolving, her devotion to storytelling. Now, Sascha’s evolved talents can be seen in the new Disney + film, Black Beauty, along with her upcoming adaptation of the 2002 memoir, Life Inside. In this exclusive interview, we had the opportunity to chat with Sascha to discuss her breakout role in Black Beauty, how she turned her brightest dreams into her reality, and her life-altering advice to aspiring talents.
Megan Morgante: Did anything/anyone, in particular, inspire you to enter the entertainment industry?
Sascha Nastasi: There are so many people and performances that have inspired me over the years! First of all, I grew up dancing ballet and watching the ballet. I was obsessed with the stories -- Coppelia, Giselle, Swan Lake -- I love them all. I think watching ballet was my introduction to the potency of storytelling. Another moment that lit a fire in me was playing Adelaide in fifth grade in my school’s very abridged version of Guys and Dolls. I remember being so consumed with wanting that part. All I did was listen to and sing the soundtrack and imagine playing her. And when I got the role, I was ecstatic, and performing in that was magical for me. Lastly, seeing live theatre is (was) endlessly inspiring to me. Watching True West with Ethan Hawke and Paul Dano and The Sound Inside with Mary-Louise Parker, in particular, stand out to me as invigorating, stunning performances that fueled me greatly.
MM: Can you give an overview of your background in the entertainment industry and how it led you to where you are now?
SN: I grew up dancing ballet and that was pretty much my whole life for quite some time. Performing was always my favorite part of ballet by far. I garnered so much joy from the act of being on stage, wearing the costumes, and putting on a character. So, I think acting was always in the back of my mind, but it was not until my love of dance was waylaid by an injury and I stopped intensely pursuing ballet, so I began acting. When I was fourteen, I started taking classes, and I booked a short film and a campaign of national commercials for Volkswagen using Backstage. From there, I was pretty much obsessed with acting and the film making processes and set out to pursue it professionally with all of my might. I looked for representation, which was a long process, and when I turned sixteen, I acted in two wonderful short films, one with Ashley Avis, the director of Black Beauty. Working on those short projects was wonderful and gave me another real taste of filmmaking, which only further fascinated and convinced me that this was the path I wished to embark upon. Last year I did Black Beauty and now I am here, on my laptop, typing these answers, [laugh-out-loud]. I love this question, though, because I love to read these types of things from actors, their “origin stories,” if you will.
MM: The highly anticipated new Disney+ film, Black Beauty, recently premiered on November 27th… congratulations! What was your experience like filming this project and working with the cast?
SN: Thank you so much, the experience was surreal and spectacular. I loved it. I had never worked on anything with nearly as large a scale as Black Beauty. I pretty much cried every day I was on set (mostly in private) because it just felt magical and hard to believe. But, the people who made this movie, the cast, and the crew, were 1000% the highlight. Everyone was so absurdly kind and funny. I made great friends and had some of my favorite conversations I’ve ever had. I feel so grateful to have been a part of it.
MM: What can we expect to see from your character, Jennifer, in the newest Disney + film?
SN: You can expect some mean-spirited gossip, great outfits, an unrequited crush, and a bit of a fall, after being pushed, from grace. Once you watch the movie, you’ll understand my bad pun on that last bit.
MM: If you could give a piece of advice to someone looking to enter the entertainment industry, what would it be?
SN: My advice is… watch and read as much as you can. Pay attention to what makes a story “good,” in your opinion, a performance “good” or great. Ingest as much art in all mediums as you can. Act whenever you can -- in school plays, in classes, in auditions. Whenever and wherever. Get to know yourself, your strengths, your weaknesses, and what makes you tick. Create characters in the mirror, practice accents, meditate, or do what you can to become more “present” in your daily life, I’ve been working on that and find it helps me acting-wise. Build your “toolkit” and only do it if it brings you joy. And believe in yourself, because I believe in you. (I feel I should add a disclaimer, I myself am just starting out and learning. I am by no means an ultimate purveyor of acting advice. But I am sharing what has been helpful to me.)
MM: Where do you tend to draw your inspiration from when preparing for each role?
SN: I think it’s different for every role. I like to keep a diary or a journal and build out the character’s life. I like to make playlists and Pinterest boards -- songs really help and stimulate me character-wise, as do visuals. Research can be helpful too and I like to do it, especially when it feels necessary (the character does a specific thing, has a specific ailment, etc). For auditions, which I see as a sort of trying on of the role (with multiple people having to approve that the shoe does indeed fit), I love -- and take great care in -- picking clothing. An outfit, even a piece of jewelry, really helps me feel like and further create the character.
MM: Have you ever experienced any notable challenges throughout your career?
SN: Yes! I think self-doubt, which I’ve experienced, has been a challenge. I’m not pretty enough, I’m not whatever-enough, those thoughts. I find myself battling to get out of my own way, but, at the end of the day, this is my passion. It’s my favorite thing. I know I’ve seen that “you are enough,” quote on Instagram a lot, and, trite as it may be, it’s true. Of me and of everyone else. And it’s not, you know, a quick fix, insecurity does not disappear, but I think I have (over time) learned to embrace myself fully and to concentrate on what really matters in terms of acting and in terms of life. Another challenge for me was finding the right representation. I know a lot of actors talk about getting into the business or getting great representation through scouting or chance, which is wonderful, but I think for some of us, it is not so easy. For me, it definitely was not! I submitted to a ton of places, had trial periods that were not right fits, was rejected a lot (post-meeting rejections included). I am very grateful for it all, though, because I am so happy to have ended up where I am. My manager and agent are both incredible, and I am, in a way, thankful for the time it took to come together.
MM: Do you have any exciting upcoming projects for the new year?
SN: I am working on adapting the 2002 memoir Life Inside into a TV series. I am co-writing the pilot with the author of the memoir, Mindy Lewis. I am very excited about that. Acting-wise, I am auditioning quite a bit, which has been wonderful, and I hope to be working on an acting project again soon.
MM: Aside from acting, what would you say your other passions are?
SN: My other passions include: reading (especially plays, novels, short story collections), writing (stories, letters to friends), thrifting, watching movies, attempting accents, everything bagels, putting together outfits, Halloween, and hanging out with my dogs.
MM: What would you say your personal style consists of?
SN: My friend once described my style as being that of a “modern vampire.” I think that is, at times, very accurate. I like to switch it up, though. I love the 60s style. Piecewise, I love matching sets, blazers, peacoats, corsets, victorian collars, and Mary Janes. I love matching stuff in general -- a dress with matching knee socks and a headband! Amazing. I love costume dressing in day-to-day life.
MM: Who is your ultimate style icon?
SN: I have so many, including, Helena Bonham Carter, Mina Le (@gremlita on Instagram), every character in EMMA (2020), Laurie in Little Women (2019), Skye Ferreira, and Hope Sandoval from Mazzy Star.
Photography by: Ryan West