Sofia Black-D’Elia Is Watching ‘The Night Of’ Like Everyone Else
The actor who plays Andrea, “the girl in the back of the cab” in The Night Of discusses how the series adds extra dimension to the female victim trope and why she chose to leave the mystery of her character — and the series — an unknown.
HBO: What did you think of the pilot when you first read the script?
Sofia Black-D’Elia: I couldn’t put it down. It was like reading a great crime novel. When I first read the pilot, I thought, if I get to do this, it would be the easiest job in the world. It’s so well written that, as an actor, you don’t really have much homework to do. Andrea, this girl in the back of a cab, was fully there in the script. As little as you are given about her, I felt like I knew exactly who she was in that moment. So I was pulled into her and really pulled into Naz’s story and the detail of it. This kind of storytelling that cares very much about its details and its characters, takes its time and demands your attention — that’s the type of TV I want to watch.
HBO: What do you think attracts Andrea to Naz?
Sofia Black-D’Elia: She has a line when they’re by the water: “I can’t be alone tonight.” I’m not sure that anything particularly attracted Andrea to Naz other than the fact that she needed someone and it happened to be him. Circumstance led her to him.
HBO: With so little detail and background on Andrea, what’s your read on who she is?
Sofia Black-D’Elia: It’s interesting because on one hand as an actor, you want to create this fully-formed character that has a history and a life and where she’s going. On the other hand, to tell this story, she couldn’t be that obvious. My job was to tell this story in the best way that I could and also not make her a trope of a manic, pixie-dream girl, because that is absolutely not what she is in my opinion. I think she is troubled; she is bizarre.
I was very conscious of the fact that as a viewer watching the first episode, you should be telling Naz every step of the way, “Let her go.” But then, of course, he doesn’t. So there has to be something about her that holds him. I don’t think she’s this malicious, “I’m going to f**k up your life” kind of chick.
HBO: Did you try to solve the mystery yourself as you read the scripts?
Sofia Black-D’Elia: This is actually a funny answer, but I did not want to know anything, so I asked [series creator] Steve [Zaillian] to tell me only what I absolutely needed to know to shoot the pilot and to shield me from the rest. So part of the fun for me is that I literally will be watching along with everybody else and finding things out as they do. I have no predictions and I’m planning to keep it that way. By my own volition, I refuse to listen to anybody try to tell me what happens.
HBO: What are your thoughts on Andrea as a “femme fatale”?
Sofia Black-D’Elia: I would say to anybody who is voicing concerns about this being a female character trope of a classic femme fatale, I think in coming weeks you’ll find that she’s not as one-dimensional or as general as you might imagine her to be. Trust the really amazing people that created this show to give you a real, fully-formed female character as the weeks come.
The characters have real inner lives on this show. No aspect of the story is taken for granted; no character is taken for granted. And that will become very obvious I think as this show delves into who this girl is and how she ended up where she did on that night.
HBO: How did you want to play that high-tension scene with the knife game?
Sofia Black-D’Elia: When you work with someone like Riz [Ahmed, who plays Naz], he does most of the work for you. He’s really, really talented. And with people like [Director of Photography] Bob Elswit, who can create the entire atmosphere of a scene without an actor saying a single line of dialogue, and [executive producers] Steve Zaillian and Richard Price, who create tension on the page, with those guys around you, if you show up, you can make it a good scene. I was just conscious of wanting to pull Naz into my world as much as possible. I felt as if I was baiting him; come into my world, come to my level, be with me on this ride.
HBO: Was it as tense filming with the knives as it is watching it on screen?
Sofia Black-D’Elia: I just remember it being very fun for me, as weird as that sounds. Riz and I are both playful actors. We take the work very seriously, but are kind of self-deprecating weirdos, so it wasn’t really that hard to have fun on set. I was just like a little kid in a candy store, trying to absorb everything I possibly could, trying to learn as much as I could. For me, it was a blast. I mean… I like playing doomed girls.
From creators Steven Zaillian and Richard Price, ‘The Night Of’ is an eight-part limited series that delves into the intricate story of a fictitious murder case in New York City.