The series follows Billie Connelly, mother of two, and housewife in an affluent suburban Connecticut community who yearns for the exciting life she had with her ex-boyfriend Brad. Playing the role of Billie Connelly is the talented actor Sarah Shahi.
Sarah is certainly someone who has built an impressive resume in the industry. She recently had recurring roles in the hit series City On A Hill and The Rookie. She’s also appeared in series such as Boston Public, Chicago Fire, The L Word, The Sopranos and Alias. Many may know her from her leading roles in series such as Fairly Legal, Persons of Interest and Life alongside Damian Lewis.
Today, we sat down with the multi-talented actress to talk about her new series Sex/Life, the importance of telling the story from a woman’s perspective and her upcoming blockbuster film Black Adam.
Pop Culture Principle – Sex/Life has become the new water cooler show and is extremely popular. How does that make you feel knowing that audiences around the world are loving this project?
Sarah Shahi – You know, it makes all of us involved with the show feel great. Obviously, this is not why you do a project, and this was not the reaction that I expected, that’s for sure, but it does feel pretty good. It’s a huge acknowledgement from the viewers.
Sarah Shahi – I wasn’t necessarily looking for something that was risqué, but I was looking for something different. As you probably know, I’ve spent quite a few years in the procedural world, and I wanted to do something that was a little more character driven.
I did City On A Hill and after that show, I took some time off just to be super picky. It was the classic thing were all the jobs that wanted me, I didn’t want and the jobs that I wanted, didn’t want me. Then Sex/Life came along, and I actually did not do well on my audition the first time around. But I was really blown away when I read the script. When I read the script, I was scared and slightly turned on at the same time. It was so raw and so real.
If you’ve ever been in a long-term relationship or have kids, this show really put out there all the things that people think, but never have the guts to say. I was really impressed by their gall and the sheer set of cojones for Stacy Rukeyser and the writers to write something like this. Also, it was a female-driven project. I didn’t set out to do a female driven project, but a lot of times when we see projects about women, they are directed and written by men. This show was something that was purely through the female lens now, written mostly by women and directed by all women. All the elements in my head made this a no-brainer and I was just hoping that I got the role. 😊
Pop Culture Principle – As mentioned earlier, Sex/Life was created by a woman and each episode was directed by a women. How important was that in not only telling this story, but at the same time, making it a comfortable environment for you to work?
Sarah Shahi – I have nothing against working with a man and I’ve worked with plenty men and men are awesome, but this is such a sexually driven show that it did make those scenes a little bit more comfortable being able to discuss the intimacies in that nature with women than it would be maybe with men.
Pop Culture Principle – There’s an interesting underlying theme in the series in that a person can seem to have it all, but yet, still not be fulfilled and happy. Would you agree with that?
Sarah Shahi – Absolutely. I mean, I really feel that the sex is another character of the show. This show is not about sex, but it’s about a woman who is having an identity crisis. On paper, she seems to have it all, but deep down, she is questioning her choices and is romancing the nostalgia of her past and is wondering if it lives up to where she is now, and I think that is a very common theme.
I think it’s very human to question these things. Can the person that gives you stability also give you the thrills? Can you have it all? The thing with Billie that was important for Susan and I to really craft is that she is a great mom. You can be a great mom and still be confused with the choices that you’ve made. You can be a great parent and still have this sort of identity crisis and not know who you are.
On top of that, you can be a great parent and still have these sexual desires that want to be filled. I think that society somewhat dictates that you put that stuff on hold, especially for women. It seems once you are past a certain age and if you’ve had a lot of sex or if you want a different type of sex, you are labeled and that isn’t right. It doesn’t happen to men, but it certainly does happen to women. We really wanted to take that notion and throw it on its head, put it out there and create something that really was this discussion piece.
The interesting thing about reading people’s reactions about this show is that people have varying opinions about what the show does to them, and I think that is beautiful. I don’t want everybody coming out of the gate and loving it. The responsibility that art has whether it’s a painting or a television show is that it’s supposed to make you think and it’s supposed to create different opinions and that is how we all learn.
Pop Culture Principle – Another interesting aspect in the show is Billie’s voiceovers and how they differ from her normal speaking in the series. Was that something intentional to help the audience relate to the character a bit more?
Sarah Shahi – It was intentional and the reason being is because we wanted to craft Billie’s voiceovers almost as if she was talking to a best friend. We wanted it to feel super warm. You know, it’s the thoughts that are inside her head, so it’s supposed to be familiar, it’s supposed to be nostalgic, and it’s supposed to have a different tonal quality than her normal speaking voice, so yes, it was intentional.
Pop Culture Principle – The season one finale setup some interesting avenues that show could possibly take in the second season. Has there been any news about a second season? Does the show creator have any idea where she’d like to take the show if there is a second season?
Sarah Shahi – Well, she does have ideas for a second season. Netflix still hasn’t told us whether or not we are greenlit for a second season. They have a certain timeframe that they like to just keep looking at the show and they have their own formula and logistics that help them dictate whether a show gets a second season, but we are definitely ready if we get the green light! 😊
Sarah Shahi – Her name is Adrianna and the most I can tell you is that she is a freedom fighter in the movie and she’s fighting in the resistance against this one militia group that has come in and is dictating this world of Kahndaq that she lives in.
It’s an incredibly challenging movie and I have never shot any project on this scale before. The work that goes into a project like this is incredible. Our director, Jaume Collet-Serra is so smart and the different things that he has to think about to get the shots he needs and to do these scenes just blows my mind. It’s going to be pretty epic. There are a lot of firsts in this movie in terms of how we are shooting things and I am super excited for the film to come out!
Pop Culture Principle – The story of Black Adam is connected to the Middle East. Being Middle Eastern and Persian yourself, do you hope this roles opens up more doors for Middle Eastern actors and move away from stereotypical roles many have to play these days?
Sarah Shahi – Yes, 100 percent. I know a lot of Middle Eastern actors that all they ever got was the role of the terrorist. With this movie heavily relying on Middle Eastern characters, hopefully it will be ground-breaking. Sometimes people say we are there, but we are not really there were Hollywood truly can become color blind. You can have people of all different races and ethnicities portraying stories because at the end of the day, they are human stories, and they are connected stories. They don’t belong to one race or one genre or one sex, they are universal. So, I really do hope this film helps break the mold and puts Middle Eastern representation a little bit more out there on the table.
A huge thank you to Sarah Shahi for taking the time to talk with us! Her new series, Sex/Life is now streaming exclusively on Netflix!
**Photos courtesy of AMANDA MATLOVICH/NETFLIX**