We got a chance to speak with actress Sarah Minnich, who recently made an appearance on NBC’s new fantasy/drama Midnight, Texas and stars alongside Game of Thrones actor Nikolaj Coster-Waldau in his latest film, Shot Caller. You may recognize Minnich from her many roles on AMC’s top programs like Breaking Bad, Better Call Saul and Preacher. Now, Minnich is speaking with us about what it was like playing a dead girl in the spooky town of Midnight, what it’s like working with Coster-Waldau and her upcoming role in the TV movie, Waco.
Check out our interview below!
The Young Folks: When did you decide that you wanted to go into acting?
Sarah Minnich: I used to think that I’d always wanted to be an actor. In fact, as a kid, I would hold pseudo plays in the front yard for our turtles to watch as they crawled around in the grass. It has even been said that when I was a toddler, my grandmother Carolyn proclaimed that I would be a famous actress one day. But lately, I’ve been questioning the assumption that I always knew that this would be my life’s journey. I think it was more like something that I discovered as time went on, but was somehow a fact that I was subconsciously aware of nonetheless. At a conference recently, I joked to the audience that I tried for years to figure out what was wrong with me, only to eventually realize that “there was nothing wrong with me, I was just an actor”.
What drew you to Midnight, Texas?
I wanted to be a part of Midnight, Texas the second I heard it was shooting locally in New Mexico. At the time I was cast for this project, I hadn’t yet played a supernatural role and of course, wanted to get in on that action. On top of the show’s genre being a big attraction for me, I was also as I always am, interested in working on a show that JoEdna Boldin was doing local casting for. She has been one of my biggest promoters over the course of my career, and I am always pleased to read for her office. My first audition for Midnight, Texas was for the role of Pia, Lem’s ex vamp lady-friend who shows up in episode 3. I remember being really disappointed that I didn’t book that role, but then elated when I realized it was all for the best when I booked the role of Violet Hightower shortly after. This is often how it works in acting; you go in for one role, don’t book it, feel disappointment, then realize the disappointment was a waste, because you end up booking the next one!
I thought that your cameo as Violet Hightower on this week’s episode of Midnight, Texas’ “Unearthed” was a huge game-changer for the show regarding Manfred’s character. What was it like working with François Arnaud and Christopher Heyerdahl?
It was a game-changer! All of the sudden, Manfred isn’t the ideal dreamboat guy that we all perceive him to be; he has a past too! And speaking of dreamboat, yeah, François Arnaud was just lovely to work with. He’s very approachable, willing to chat, and an all-around professional. I remember one night while we were filming during a freezing night in a completely uninsulated rail-yard, I sat with him in video village and just dialogued about what it is to grow as an actor in terms of self-confidence and the feeling of belonging on set. With his previous experience as a series regular on The Borgias, coming up from a smaller character in the show to really the head of the roster, he was able to comment on the experience of growing into one’s success as an actor.
In regards to working with Christopher Heyerdahl, I found him to be a very gentle, fatherly kind of guy. He had to wear prosthetics over his eye for almost the entire time we were filming, and I really admired the way he got to work, didn’t complain, and worked around the inconvenience of temporarily only having the use of one of his eyes. There were a lot of real troopers on that episode; like I said before, it was so unnecessarily cold and miserable, and everyone sort of just stepped up to the plate.
What was it like playing a ghost on the show? How different is it playing someone who is dead verses someone alive?
You know, it really wasn’t so different until I got to see the finished product. The initial preparation and filming went quite similarly to the process that I would normally go though. One thing that was kind of cool and different was going in to the optometrist for a contact fitting. My character wears cloudy-eye contacts that make her look… well, dead. Turns out, those creepy eyes we often see on film and TV actors require a lot of prep and special attention. To begin with, they can’t just hand you a set of contacts from an online store; they actually have to be fitted and handled by a doctor to ensure the health of the actor’s eyes. Second, once fitted, ordered, shipped, and then received by the production, only a licensed eye professional can insert them into your eyeballs. Productions hire what I like to call “eyeball wranglers” to make sure that all actors who are wearing contacts have them in properly, have them consistently lubricated, and have them taken out safely.
Now back to what I was saying about the finished product being different, I found it pretty fascinating how much CG was involved in completing Violet’s look. The smoke we see billowing around her when she confronts Manfred and her father, is all done in post-production. What’s cool about this, is the surprise you get when you finally get to watch the final product; what you did on the day, may look pretty different from what you see on the screen when you’re playing a dead person.
Were you also playing the “corpse” version of Violet? Or was it just a replica made to look like you?
I’m going to argue that if an actress could hold her face like that for more than a few seconds, she would be an exceptionally stellar actress. So, sadly no, I did not play the corpse version of Violet; that was definitely a mannequin. They actually go though a company that specially makes these “dolls/mannequins” using only the photo of the actress. I didn’t even have to go in for a measurements appointment.
Even though Violet seemed to move on after confronting her father by the end of the episode, will we being seeing more of her in future episodes in ghost form or in possible flashbacks of her and Manfred?
It is a bit unclear how or precisely when she moved on, isn’t it? We hear a kind of throw-away comment from Manfred about how, “Violet’s gone, she said what she needed to say”, and then poof, the story moves on. So was it actually a move-on, or was there more to that? Oh how I would love to discuss this little tidbit! But, alas, I cannot. All I can say to viewers is, keep an eye out and you might just be surprised.
In regards to your new film Shot Caller, what was it like playing Janie in the film?
I really enjoyed playing Janie in Shot Caller! I might even say that the film was one of my favorite acting experiences so far. The character Janie is a young gang-groupie type who gets caught in the crossfire when she attempts to seduce the head honcho Money (played by Coster-Waldau) immediately after his is released from prison. Although the character is short-lived, I found the arch to be relatable and really quite human. She’s just a girl, doing what she’s supposed to be doing according to her role in the gang. She’s turned down and is shamed by it, but comes right back with a smile and an offer for another try in the future. People can relate to trying, failing, and getting back up to try again. There’s even a moment of pity for the character when she steps into the wrong place at the wrong time, and pays the ultimate price. I’m beyond pleased that I had the chance to bring life to that human experience.
On a business note, I was so pleased to work with such a professional crew; given my nude scene and delicate plot line, everyone was very respectful and treated me as a professional. Ric Roman Waugh was an awesome director to work with; he is clear about what he wants, very personable and has a good command of his set. All and all, the project was a great learning experience for me as an actress and great fun for me as an artist.
What was it like working with Nikolaj Coster-Waldau on the film?
I was pretty star-struck to work across from Nikolaj, considering I’m a major Game of Thrones fan. He’s literally the prince charming type that he portrays in GOT, minus the sinister disgusting side of the character Jamie Lannister from the earlier books/seasons. He was kind to me, patient with me, and went so far as to compliment me on the quick-shift persona change that I make when my character is turned down by Money. And let’s be honest, it really didn’t hurt my feelings to have to flirt with him… sigh.
What were the major differences you noticed between working on a film verses a TV show?
In terms of the differences between feature film work and television work, I would say that TV work goes faster. What I mean by this is: in television, the actor doesn’t have as much time to work out his or her glitches before the director has to move on. In film work, often you are allowed a couple of takes to really capture the essence of character in nuances and small adjustments. I once heard the two types of acting compared to cooking. In said analogy, film work was like a fine meal for a dinner party; the cook has time to pick the ingredients, prepare them carefully, and then bake them a precisely the right temperature in the oven for the ideal result. In the same analogy, TV was the good old heat and serve kind of meal. This example might be taking it a bit far, but nonetheless, there is something to be said about time restraints involved in television work vs film work.
Photo Credit: Lesley Bryce
In addition to Shot Caller and Midnight, Texas , you’ve also appeared on multiple AMC shows like Breaking Bad, Better Call Saul and Preacher. What draws you to AMC’s programming?
AMC is one of my favorite networks, for much the same reason that other people are drawn to their content. They tend to produce gritty, bad-ass kind of material that gets people hooked and hungry for more. I would also argue that there is an adventure aspect to a lot of AMC’s programming. Almost every show has some sort of adventure being had, either by the lead or in one of the B-reel stories; I am so drawn to the good-old-fashioned adventure in film and TV. Give me something my mind has to conquer, to survive, to surpass, and I shall thrive.
You have quite a lot of upcoming projects, most notably your role in the upcoming TV limited series Waco, set to air in 2018. Can you talk about what it was like playing Angela Duke?
I am simply thrilled to have been cast as one of the key characters from the Waco trials, Angela Duke. This is the largest guest-staring role I have booked so far, and I really hope that it will open many doors for my career. I highly encourage folks to take a peek when the show releases on the Paramount Network on January 24, 2018; from what I hear, the cast and direction will NOT disappoint.
Why did you decide to become involved in Waco? Is there anything specific that drew you to the role?
It was bizarre; when I first received the audition for the role, I knew it. I had this sort of memory-like feeling when I saw the character name, and something in me said that this role was already part of my journey. Once in a blue moon, I get those feelings. They feel like it’s 10 years from now and I’m looking back on something that’s happening right now and musing on the memory. Anyhow, if that wasn’t enough of a reason to want to be a part of it, then: again, this was another JoEdna project. I find it particularly rewarding to do good work in her office, because she has seen me through almost my entire career. The goal isn’t just to make myself stand out to the LA CD she is working with, the producers, director and sometimes network, but also to make NM talent look good enough to be on the map. My character was a big role; it was auditioned a ton in LA, and probably in other markets too. For a NM local to book it was freaking epic! Finally, decision makers in our industry are starting to realize that NM has some stellar talent to offer, and this doesn’t just help me; it also has a substantial effect on the reputation of my region.
What’s next for your acting career? Are there any upcoming projects you would like to share with us?
Aside from the above mentioned Waco on Spike TV, there are a few other shows/movies coming soon that I would encourage fans to check out:
TV – Godless on Netflix (November 22, 2017)
TV – Scalped on WGN America (Late 2017 or Early 2018)
Film – An Ideal Home by Remstar Films (Early 2018)
Film – Icebox by Gracie Films (Late 2017 or Early 2018)
Midnight, Texas stars François Arnaud, Parisa Fitz-Henley, Dylan Bruce, Arielle Kebbel, Jason Lewis, Sarah Ramos, Peter Mensah, and Yul Vazquez. Watch Midnight, Texas on NBC, Mondays at 10/9c.