The Disney+ film reimagines Anna Sewell’s classic story told from the perspective of a wild Mustang. Star Sascha Nastasi joins a phenomenal cast including Iain Glen, Mackenzie Foy, and Kate Winslet to bring this tale to life for a new generation.
Actor Sascha Nastasi discusses reuniting with writer-director Ashley Avis, working with an ensemble cast, and what Black Beauty means to her.
The Knockturnal: Congratulations on Black Beauty! How did that project come about, and what was the casting process like?
Sascha Nastasi: Thank you! The casting process for me was atypical as I first worked with Ashely Avis, the phenomenal writer-director of Black Beauty, on a short film, Being and Nothingness in early 2019. She is an incredible storyteller, writer, director, and person, and has been incredibly generous to me. We very much kept in contact after shooting the aforementioned short, and when she was in pre-production for Black Beauty, she told me there was a part she thought I could be right for, but needed an ‘ok’ from the producers. She showed them my reel, and they gave the ‘ok,’ and the rest is history!
The Knockturnal: Were you a fan Anna Sewell’s story ahead of working on the 2020 adaptation?
Sascha Nastasi: Yes. I have strong memories of watching the film and reading the book as a young girl. Reading Ashley’s beautiful script brought those memories back. I learned from Ashley that Anna Sewell wrote the book solely to raise awareness for carriage horses. That made me an even bigger fan of Ms. Sewell and her work.
The Knockturnal: Your character Jenny is a little bit of Jo’s [Mackenzie Foy] competitor both with love interest George [Calam Lynch] and horseback riding. What was it like on set, working with Mackenzie and Calam behind the scenes?
Sascha Nastasi: Working with Mackenzie and Calam was an absolute joy. They are both not only talented, wonderful actors, but fantastic, funny conversationalists too. Our real-life dynamic could not have been more different than our one onscreen! The entire cast is lovely. Alex Jeaven, Fern Deacon, and Max Raphael are the other three I got to spend the most time with. They’re so wonderful! THey’re miraculous, stunning, fantastic…this is true, I’m not being hyperbolic! Haha. I feel so grateful to know and have worked with this cast and crew.
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The Knockturnal: You’re also a trained ballerina! Do you still dance?
Sascha Nastasi: Yes, indeed I am! I am sad to say that I do not still dance in any meaningful way. I do however dance in my bedroom, in the shower, on FaceTime with friends. In fact, my mom and I have been rehearsing an ABBA tribute of sorts: a choreographed dance number to “Take a Chance On Me” to be performed in matching sparkly outfits on Thanksgiving. I really want to get back into ballet or modern dance, to start taking classes every so often. I miss it.
The Knockturnal: Additionally, you have a theatre background. How do you incorporate theatre acting with onscreen acting?
Sascha Nastasi: I have not done any theatre work professionally, but I have done theatre programs and performed in school plays. I would absolutely love to do professional theatre. I love live performances. I cry every time I go to the theatre, without fail. Film is incredible too and I adore it, but live theatre—the synergy of it, the energy, the communal solitude…it’s inspiring and beautiful. I am in awe of every theatre performer. In terms of acting being different, I think scale and ‘size’ of a performance definitely changes from medium to medium, but I think the meat of it is the same. I hope to do a lot of both film and theatre.
The Knockturnal: You also are very passionate about mental health advocacy, and working to de-stigmatize anxiety and OCD. What can you share about your personal journey and passion to give back?
Sascha Nastasi: I’m so happy to discuss this. Thank you for this question. I agree entirely about de-stigmatization. I have dealt with OCD and other anxiety disorders for about six years. I have found significant improvement via talk-based therapy, EMDR treatment, breathing exercises, and acting. Acting, especially improvising, helps me get present and out of my head like nothing else. I think a big part of what I want my mental health advocacy to be is sharing my experience with anxiety and OCD, and any other people’s experiences that I could potentially amplify, using details to help break stereotypes. For example, my OCD has nothing to do with cleanliness of neatness. Openness is key to breaking the stigma. If I can make one person reading this feel less alone, feel validated and understood, then I feel incredibly fulfilled and happy. I want to be a resource for anyone who needs one, and while I am by no means a mental health professional, I hope to be someone people can talk to. I am happy to just listen, or share resources I’ve found helpful.
The Knockturnal: Looking ahead, where do you hope to be in five years?
Sascha Nastasi: I hope to be working as an actress and a writer too. I would love to have published a short story collection and mainly, to be working on projects I feel passionate about with people who are equally as passionate. To be more specific, something darkly comedy like The End of The F***ing World or Heathers would be incredible to act in. And I’d love to play a character of Shakespeare’s on the stage or screen, or both! There are a few directors I absolutely dream of working with, like Céline Sciamma and Yorgos Lanthimos. At the same time, though, I hope to be in five years where I will be in five years. There is so much in this business and life which I know cannot be controlled. No matter what, I’m in this for the long run.
“Black Beauty” premieres on November 27th on Disney+.