IN CONVERSATION WITH SARAH YARKIN
Interview by Jana Letonja
Actor, artist and musician Sarah Yarkin can be currently seen in the Paramount+ drama series ‘School Spirits’, which debuted on 9th March. Season 1 finale aired on 12th April. Last year, Sarah led Legendary’s ‘Texas Chainsaw Massacre’ for Netflix and was seen in a supporting role for Searchlight’s ‘Not Ookay’opposite Zoey Deutch and Dylan O’Brien.
Sarah, you’re currently starring in Paramount+ series ‘School Spirits’. The series is based on a graphic novel and follows a teen who gets stuck in the afterlife and decides to investigate her murder alongside a group of other students who are also stuck in limbo at their former high school. Tell us more about the shocking season finale we’ve just been able to see?
The whole cast was pretty shook when we read it. My mom just watched it and called me with one hundred questions. She loved it. I just watched the finale with Nick Pugliese, who plays Charley, and we kept reaching over and grabbing each other and yelling about how we had goosebumps. Peyton is phenomenal in the episode, as she is in every episode. I called her and told her that I learned something about acting watching her performance. The creators of the show, Nate and Megan Trinrud, told me the ending of the show kind of early on into shooting because it would effect my character, so the whole time I had this little secret from the cast. I knew what was going to happen and they were all trying to figure it out.
In ‘School Spirits’ you play Rhonda, a beatnick girl who was murdered by her guidance counselor in 1963. Her straightforward and rough on the surface vibe softens as the series evolves and she becomes an ally to Maddie. What excites you the most about portraying Rhonda?
I love Rhonda. I think in high school I wished I was more like Rhonda. Rhonda is so cool and I’ve never had the chance to play someone cool. It was exciting stepping into the shoes of someone who is complex and getting to dissect that and try to figure her out. She’s hardened after 60 years of being stuck in limbo and comes across sardonic and blunt. But as I got to know her and read more about her and her backstory, I learned that all of that is actually a cover. She’s learned not to trust people. I think inside she’s really hurting, she’s really lonely and she doesn’t have the answers that she pretends to have. And all the other stuff is a front. I think she’s a character a lot of people can relate to.
Could you imagine ever being stuck in afterlife and how would that look like?
I don’t believe in much. But I am claustrophobic, so I think I would freak out.
Last year, you were the leading star in Netflix’s ‘Texas Chainsaw Massacre’. How does this ninth installment in the franchise compare and measure up to its predecessors?
I think the movie delivers a lot of gore and callbacks to the original movie, while trying to modernize it in some ways.
Starring in a horror film must be quite an experience. What was the hardest part from filming the ‘Texas Chainsaw Massacre’?
We were shooting in Bulgaria during the first summer and fall of the pandemic, so that alone was pretty insane. I have such an admiration for actors who work on horror movies now. It was physically and emotionally grueling in so many ways. Definitely an experience I won’t forget.
How would you say this role opened the doors for you in the industry?
It’s hard because I think my brain really wants a linear narrative, like I did this role and then this next role came from that. But in my experience it never really works that way. It’s like planting a seed here and then doing this other thing and then sooner or later something from the past comes back again and something else happens.
What kind of roles and stories attract and excite you the most as an artist?
When I read a role and can identify with even just a tiny aspect of the character, I get excited. Like Rhonda. She and I are really different, but I think of her as me when I’m just completelly over it. That’s where my Rhonda comes out.
So when I pick up a script and there’s a shred of me in a character, or even just a feeling that I understand the character in some way, it’s exciting to get to play with that feeling and use it.
Besides acting, you’re also passionate about music. Tell us more about this chapter of your life. What are your musical aspirations?
I’ve been playing piano and guitar for a while now, not very well though, and singing for a long time sort of secretly. I started writing music towards the end of college as a thing just for myself, and was encouraged by some friends to do something with it a few years ago. So sharing my music and putting it out there is still really new for me. I write every day as a way to process things for myself, so sharing is really scary and vulnerable and new.
It was surreal when the music supervisor, Whitney Pilzer, on ‘School Spirits’ wanted to use my song ‘Rosy Glasses’ in the show. I was like “Oh my god, she is treating this like a real song. That’s crazy’. I also showed her one of my favorite artists, Illuminati Hotties, and she put one of her songs in the show. I’m obsessed with Julia Jacklin, I saw her concert in Vancouver when we were shooting ‘School Spirits’ and cried the entire time. Sharon Van Etten is god. I love Courtney Barnett, Girl in Red and of course, Boygenius. I just got tickets to their concert this summer. I’ve also been a big Lucy Dacus fan for a while.
What would you describe as your biggest career achievements so far, and what as the biggest career goals for the future?
Getting any job is a big achievement. I feel very lucky to get to work at all. I want to shoot a movie like “Wet Hot American Summer” and a movie like “Girl, Interrupted” and everything in between. I want to do something that is so funny and I want to do something that is messed up. I want to do something that makes my dad laugh.
After ‘School Spirits’ season 1 ends, what’s coming up next for you this year?
I want to go to Vermont as soon as possible because I love it there. I just want to be in a cabin in nature, hiking and picking berries and playing guitar and wearing a linen dress. Nick Pugliese and I are developing a show that Megan and Nate want to help us produce. We’re working on it, but it’s really hard to work because we keep laughing. I want to laugh a lot this year.
Photographer MACK BREEDEN