Appearing in some of most exciting projects on television and film today, Sarah Minnich may be best known as Brenda from AMC’s hit series “Better Call Saul” and for her roles in the feature films “Sicario” and Adam Sandler’s “The Ridiculous 6.” Genre fans may also know her from one of her most intriguing roles to date, as she recently joined the cast of “From Dusk Till Dawn.” Based on the cult classic from the minds of Quentin Tarantino and Robert Rodriguez, the supernatural crime series follows two outlaw brothers heading for Mexico after a bank robbery leaves several people dead. The show, which begun its third season on September 6, 2016, finds the brothers in the vortex of the Culebra world, thrust into a fight against the forces of Hell. In the action-packed series, Sarah plays Florinda, who the brothers come across in the season premiere. She will also hit the big screen in the sci-fi film “The Space Between Us” with Britt Robertson and Gary Oldman, which is set for release on December 21, 2016.
Even with an impressive and ever growing resume, it is important to note Sarah Minnich is more than just a blonde haired, blue eyed stunner. In addition to being a dynamic performer in front of the camera, Sarah has the book smarts to take her to the next level. She completed a bachelor’s degree and master’s degree from the University of New Mexico, with hopes of one day pursuing a PhD. Over the years, Sarah’s passion for acting led to her training with the Sol Acting Academy, SAG Foundation and The Actors Company in LA. With her talent, she aims to touch the lives of many through the performance of complex human emotion and struggle. Moreover, she hopes to one day be a public influencer and pass along the knowledge she gained from her struggles and past decisions, specifically to young women.
Jason Price of Icon Vs. Icon recently sat down with Sarah Minnich to discuss her unique career path, the challenges she faced along the way, her exciting new roles and what the future holds for this star on the rise!
What got you involved with the arts early on in life and made you pursue this path professionally?
I have been in front of the camera, literally, since I was born. My dad was there in the delivery room with the camera! [laughs] I have always been not only attracted to but rewarded by being in front of the camera. It’s always been something I really enjoy. From the time I was 17 years old, I started to pursue acting. I started by trying to get an acting agent and trying to go out on audition. I did end up landing an audition in 2008 for an independent feature film called “Spring Break Massacre.” Shockingly, I booked the lead! That was a shock to me because it was one of my very first auditions. I went to film that in Illinois and I fell in love with the process! I love being on set, working a character, breaking it down and living it on screen. I took a hiatus for a couple years and got back into it in 2008 and then came to New Mexico. The rest is history! My favorite place to be is in front of the camera!
Who were some of the people who had a big impact on you as an actor, both in front of and behind the camera?
My father was always, always very encouraging of my career, along with my stepmother and biological mother. My family wanted me to pursue my dreams. To pursue a career in entertainment is something my family understood. My father was a musician for many years. Back in the late ‘70s, he was in a band called Santa Fe and they had some popularity in California. He kind of gave his dream up to be a parent, as he had two other kids beside me who were older. Entertainment is definitely in my blood and I have always felt a kinship with entertainment. My grandmother was a ballerina and she performed in front of crowds as well. In terms of the creative people who have influenced me, from actors to directors, there are so many! I wish I could name them all! From an early age, I was watching drama, which isn’t always common for kids! I was watching heavy dramatic, epic films like “Braveheart” or “Dances With Wolves.” That is the kind of thing I was watching! My father was very into those kinds of films and I grew to be into them as well! I was just in love with the way people could portray the human experience on camera.
As I started to get a little bit older and moved into my teens, specific influences started to take shape as far as women in acting. I was always very intrigued by Sharon Stone’s career and the way she portrayed social deviates in quite a few of her films! I was also very intrigued by Michelle Pfeiffer’s career. Angelina Jolie is another actress who has had a career of going from a badass chick to sexy woman to vulnerable to humanitarian women and everything inbetween. That really spoke to me, so in the new generation of actors, there are so many young women and men who are out there making art that pays such tribute to the human experience. There are a lot of TV shows that are coming out that are finally starting to look at all of the angles of the human experience instead of the pedagogical norm, where the male is the breadwinner and the female is a stay at home mom. Now, we are starting to see other perspectives and sides of the industry. I love that! A great example is the show “Transparent.” Finally, we are at a time where there can be a show about a transgender father/mother and how that plays out in reality. We are also seeing a lot of different coverage on different ethnic backgrounds. It is something I am really inspired by and I think this is a great time to be an actor and display those human experiences for others to see, to understand and increase awareness on.
One of the biggest projects you have going on at the moment is a role on “From Dusk Till Dawn: The Series.” How did you get involved with the show and what intrigued you the most?
I think that a huge percentage of people are aware of the original, cult-classic Quentin Tarantino/Robert Rodriguez film. It’s such a classic and it’s such a badass genre piece that still stands out. The series is an offshoot of those films and is a little bit different and has its own quirks. It’s something that is really fun to be a part of! I am into working genre and sci-fi pieces — things that are really out of the norm! I really love that, so when the audition came through, I jumped at it. I had the opportunity to read for the part and they didn’t even do a callback. It was straight to book. I was originally reading for the part of Jacqueline, which is a bit of a smaller part. When I got the call from my agent saying I had booked Florinda, I was thrilled because the part called for some asskicking in one of her scenes! [laughs] Then she is driving off with a car in another one and then breaking into a safe! She definitely gets all femme fatale with it! I was thrilled to be able to have a role that has more than just one scene. Sometimes, when you are doing co-starring roles, you might play a smaller part but this was a role I really drew a lot of pleasure from! It’s an honor to work on something that is an offshoot of a cult classic!
You bring a little bit of yourself to every part you play. What did you bring to this character that wasn’t on the original written page?
I wanted the character of Florinda, from my perspective, to be this mysterious person who you weren’t sure of what her background might have been. The director even said to me when I was on set, “There is more to you than just the assistant girl isn’t there?” I said, “Heck yeah there is!” The way that I played the character just wasn’t zombified girl whose brain is taken over by Skullkeeper. I was trying to play it as if there was a little bit more to Florinda that maybe viewers hadn’t had a chance to see yet. I kinda feel that way about myself. When people see me they might think, “Oh, she’s a blonde chick with decent looks. She is probably a valley girl or doesn’t have a brain.” There is a lot more to me than that! I have an education, I’m a nature lover and I stand for a lot of different things that I believe in when it comes to activism. People don’t necessarily see that at first glance. I wanted to bring that mystique that is below the surface feel to Florinda’s character. I think I achieved that and I felt that when the director made the comment to me! I was like, “Oh good! It’s coming through!”
What was it like working with the dedicated cast and crew of the series and what were the biggest challenges you faced?
In the past, I hadn’t done a lot of fight or stunt stuff. I have done some stunt work and some weapons handling work but definitely not a ton. I was really impressed by the team of stunt professionals that worked on this project. I really enjoyed working with them and learning from them. I had a couple of pretty awesome stunt doubles. I wanted to do the car scene, driving backwards on my own, because I have been driving a stickshift for many years, but seeing as it was an $80,000 car, they went with the stunt professional! [laughs] They brought a woman named Lauren Shaw that is really great at what she does. She did the stuff where the character is throwing the guy over the table and kicking. Again, I really wanted to do it but, as often is the case, there is a risk for injury so I wasn’t able to do it. The folks that I got to work with taught me so much. I have so much respect for them and really enjoyed having the opportunity to do something new in that way.
What goes into the process of bringing a new character to life, be it this role or any other you might tackle?
When I auditioned for the role on “From Dusk Till Dawn,” it was really confusing because we weren’t allowed to see the full script. All I got was the lead-ins and the audition, sometimes, with slightly different scene material than what you actually do on camera. In this case, I auditioned for both roles with the lines from Jacqueline’s character, which was a little bit bizarre! In terms of process, if I do have the ability to see a script ahead of time, what I like to do is go through the entire script. Then I figure out with what genre I am working with, determine what the goal of the episode might be and then figure out where I fit into the plot. Then I move down to the character level and think, “What are the challenges of this character? What is the goal this character is trying to reach and what is stopping her from achieving this goal?” Once I have discovered those things, then I ask, “What in this character’s life is driving him or her, aside from those situational goals? What is driving her? What is underneath the surface? What is her past and what is her potential for the future?” Finally, I think about the technical concerns associated with the character. So, after I have broken down the psychology of the character and script to the best of my ability, I think about what the character is doing and how it may play out. Sometimes, a situation may be a little different on camera than it is in real life. For example, let’s say I am breaking into a safe on camera, like I do with Florinda. It may be a little different than breaking into a safe in real life because you are playing to the camera, you’re cheating so the audience can kind of see what you are doing with the remote. In real life, you probably wouldn’t hold the remote in front of your face but on camera you have to be able to tell the story, so that is the last part of the process; figuring out the technical concerns associated with performing the part.
Which of the projects from your past had the biggest impact on you as an actor?
That is a good question. There are a couple of ways I can answer that. A few years back, I did a film with Harvey Keitel called “Two Men In Town.” Fortunately, the day that we filmed my scene was a terrible day when it came to the weather! There was terrible weather and there either wasn’t time or they thought they had what they needed but in editing they realized they didn’t have what they needed. My scene got dropped. However, doing that scene with Harvey Keitel was a very big step for me. He is an amazing actor who has been doing it for decades and knows what he is doing. It was intimidating for me because it was one of my earlier roles. I remember the casting director, Katherine Brink, telling my agent to tell me, “Just watch and learn!” I was so new to it and it was so shocking that I had booked a role along someone like Harvey Keitel. They wanted to be sure I opened my eyes and soaked up every little thing I could because it was a lucky break. It really was! I learned a lot just watching the way he went about his process, watching how other people interacted with him and how I interacted with him. It was a great learning experience and it was a big transitional point for me. I remember driving home from the set after shooting in southern New Mexico and thinking, “This is the beginning.” It was one of those pivotal moments where you feel things change. There is also another moment in my career that stands out to me. One of them came recently on a short film I did out here in New Mexico. It’s called “Days Young and Golden” and it’s produced by Balian Pictures. When I watched the final cut with the music in it and everything, I just cried and cried and cried! I was finally seeing myself in a new light. We all have insecurities that we have to overcome and I finally saw myself in a way where I said, “OK! You don’t suck!” It takes a lot of journeying through life to where we see ourselves as being valuable and more than a poser.
That leads to my next question. What is the best lesson we can take from your journey?
The best lesson you can take from my journey is that there are going to be ups and downs. Most importantly, you can get past the downs. I did “Spring Break Massacre” in 2005 or 2006 and took a hiatus until 2011. The reason I took the hiatus was because I ran into some pretty rebellious shenanigans. I was young, barely 18 years old, and I got in some pretty horrific trouble. I went and did some crazy shit! One day, when my career has gotten a little more publicly visible, I will expose that more but for now I will say there were mistakes where you think, “It’s over. I’m done. No one is ever going to take me seriously again.” It was a moment where you sort of reduce yourself to your decisions instead of looking at yourself as a capable person who can come back from things. At the time I really did think everything was done. I thought my career and life were over. I can’t give you a concrete answer as to how I overcame it. It took time, mistakes, a support group, people believing in me and me believing in myself. Eventually I made it out! I came out here to go to college and restart my life and ultimately get back into acting. It was really quite a process of thinking one’s life is over and all the decisions I had made led me to a place of despair to thinking, “That’s true. I may have done these things but my life isn’t over and I can come back from this.” I want to pursue this career because I love acting but I also want young people, who like me at 17 or 18 years old who may feel the same way, to see that you can come through it. The age old lesson is that you have to hit bottom before you can go to the top. At the same time, saying that as a cliche isn’t quite as powerful as seeing people do that in reality. That is what I did. I went to the very bottom and now I continue to keep on and I will just keep going until I get to the top! That’s life!
That is a unique way to give back. You also mentioned being involved with some great causes. What can we help shine a light on?
Sure! As I said, I am a big nature person! I’m really big on conservation, animal rights and preserving nature. The tendency of the human race is to be very consumption based. We are almost parasitic to the environment and Earth. When I am not acting, I spend time working in a plant nursery. It’s a cactus and succulents nursery and I lend a hand there because I feel so drawn to nature. I think all people, whether they know it or not, have some connection to nature on some level. I think it is our natural state. I don’t believe in hunting unless it is to provide food in situations where it is an absolute necessity. I also don’t believe in encroaching on the environment for the purpose of drilling or expanding our footprint. I’m one of those! You can call me a treehugger if you want and it won’t hurt my feelings! [laughs] I am also big on the fight against sex trafficking and the sale of sex as a means of making money. A lot of women, when they are younger, think that their only route to money is their body or their looks. I’d like to, at some point in my career, should I have influence in any way, speak against that. I want to help open up opportunities for young women and men so that they don’t think their only option is the sale of some part of themselves. The ability of the human mind to adapt to any situation is exponential. If people really know what the opportunities are and what the outlets are for supporting themselves.
You keep yourself busy with projects onscreen and off. Where should we keep an eye out for you when it comes to your work as an actor?
Keep your eyes open for me on both television and film! On television, there is a series coming out very soon called “Graves” and I have a small role on that series. I think that debuts in the next few weeks. There is also a feature film coming out in theaters this December called “The Space Between Us.” It’s a film about a space expedition to Mars and I play a reporter in that. I also have a couple of independent films coming out. There is one coming out at the end of September called “Priceless.” It’s a film about sex trafficking and human trafficking. I have a great role in the film and I was very passionate about the project. I enjoyed working on it quite a bit, so be on the lookout for that one. There is a film starring Nikolaj Coster-Waldau (Jamie Lannister on “Game of Thrones”) and I have a big role in the film. It’s called “Shot Caller.” I’m not sure if it has a specific release date yet but I am really excited to see that one. In 2017, I’m going to have a role on a new Netflix Original Series but I can’t talk too much about that one right now. I do have a couple of episodes on that series, so be on the lookout for that one as well. I will also be in a film called “An Ideal Home.” It’s a film starring Paul Rudd. This was so much fun! I play a crazy crackhead lady in it! [laughs] It was such a fun role to play and I had way too much fun for my own good! I got to really play a hyper character, a very character driven role and the director was cracking up! It is kind of a family comedy, so I am looking forward to that coming out next year.
What is a dream role for you at this point in your career? What are you dying to take on?
OK, think Jessica Chastain in “The Martian.” In that film, she is a scientist/mission leader. I am really into space films and period pieces, that film being a future piece. I’m really into scientist type roles. It isn’t often that blue-eyed, blonde haired girls get cast for them! [laughs] How many times have you seen a blonde woman playing a scientist?! It’s out there but it’s not a common occurrence. I am really interested in doing that. Outside the world of acting, one of my hobbies is physics. I like to study physics, quantum mechanics and a lot of different things that people don’t expect when they first meet me! That is the kind of role I would love to take on — a strong, very intelligent women!
Well, you seem to have the right tools for the job! Thank you so much for your time today, Sarah! You are an inspiration and I can’t wait to see where your journey leads!
Thank you, Jason! I appreciate all the interesting questions! Have a great day!