When “Stranger Things 4” debuted on Netflix earlier this year, it seemed like no one could stop praising Sadie Sink. The 20-year-old actress – who has played a major part in the show since its second season in 2017 – was hailed as the Season 4 “MVP,” received chatter as a potential Emmy Award nominee, and even left costars in awe of her talent. “Sadie is like Liv Ullmann,” “Stranger Things” actress Winona Ryder said back in May. “She’s going to be like Meryl Streep.”
But it wasn’t a trip to the Upside Down that put Sink in a position to score such acclaim. Rather, it was her time spent on the set of “The Whale,” Darren Aronofsky’s new emotional drama. Sink shot the film – which has garnered standing ovations around the globe and put lead actor Brendan Fraser in the thick of the Best Actor race – before starting her work on “Stranger Things 4.” According to the actress, her time working with Aronofsky, Fraser and “The Whale” cast made all the difference in the world.
“It just like really made me comfortable in front of the camera,” Sink reveals to Gold Derby in an exclusive video interview about the process of shooting the film. “I don’t think I had fully reached that point before I did it, to be honest.”
Sink has been acting since she was a child, first performing in regional productions in her home state of Texas before making her Broadway debut as Annie in a revival of “Annie” at age 11. Television roles on shows such as “The Americans” and “Blue Bloods” soon followed.
“I really grew up just thinking that you come prepared, you stand on your mark, you take direction well, and, for a while, I was like, that’s what acting is,” she says of being a child performer. “No one’s expecting an 11-year-old to just make all these crazy choices and be a collaborator. But as you get older, you get more comfortable. You know if something doesn’t feel right in the scene, you can say it. If you want to try something different, you can try it. And I think through ‘The Whale’ it really helped me get to that point. Going on to ‘Stranger Things’ after that… it just felt like I had kind of shaken some child-actor habits that maybe I had. The more comfortable you feel in front of a camera, that’s when you can be the most vulnerable. So I’m really happy that I had that growth.”
Based on the play by Samuel D. Hunter (who also wrote the screen adaptation), “The Whale” is about a morbidly obsessed man named Charlie (Fraser) who tries to reconcile with his daughter, Ellie (Sink), who he abandoned years earlier.
“It’s the most confusing time of her life really and Charlie’s able to see a very hurt, very lost little girl who’s very angry with her father for for good reason,” Sink says of her character and the relationship with her estranged dad. “He’s also just able to kind of really break her armor a little bit. So with Ellie, it’s kind of this constant fight. When any kind of vulnerability seeps through, whenever Charlie tells her how amazing she is, how intelligent she is, her coping mechanism with all of that is to just lash out. This can be a little frustrating at times, because you just want her to open up and give her father some love. But it’s a battle between her and Charlie and a battle between Ellie and just all of her preconceived notions about this man. It was fun to find those moments when the armor cracks a little bit. Then she’s got to mend it back up again. It was a fun little game.”
“The Whale” cast and crew have been very gracious toward each other and Fraser has often praised Sink as being the film’s top performer, even as his awards buzz grows louder by the screening. Perhaps unsurprisingly, the admiration Sink feels for her onscreen father is mutual.
“He’s really an important part of my life and to have him by my side throughout all this and to see him be just like received in this way, it’s been really incredible,” she says of Fraser. “His performance, I saw what was happening on set. So this reaction to it, I mean, I fully anticipated it every day.”
“The Whale” is out in theaters on December 9.
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