Updated: May 14
By. Karina Wensjoe
The Disney+ Movie Black Beauty was released on November 27th, starring McKenzie Foy as Joe Green and Kate Winslett as the narrator for Black Beauty. Sascha Nastasi plays the main antagonist, Jennifer, in the film. From growing up in New York City, studying in London and becoming part of the Disney universe, Nastasi has much to talk about regarding her on-screen journey.
How did you start your acting career?
I grew up dancing in London at the Royal Ballet. I danced pretty intensely in their Associates Program and that was my thing throughout middle school. But when I was 9 and a half years-old, I got a cyst on my knee that took me out for a year. It was a big shift because I had been dancing pre-professionally and had lost a lot of strength. So, my last year of school, I decided to attend a very artsy, creative school, where I was in a very abridged version of Guys and Dolls. Although I cannot sing, I played Adelaide in the production. I had never taken an acting class before that. Eventually, my family and I moved back to the states when my brother was going to college. I danced for a bit but it wasn't the same. And then when I was 13-14 years-old, I started to take acting class and became convinced I wanted to do that professionally. That was when I signed up on Backstage.
What acting roles have you had previous to Black Beauty?
After signing up on Backstage, pretty quickly I was cast in a small student film. After a bunch of auditions and callbacks, I was in a campaign for seven commercials for Volkswagen for three and a half weeks across the country. That was my first experience working behind the camera. My first real, professional experience. I became completely convinced that this was what I wanted to do. So, for the past three years I have been trying to get representation, representation, etc., did two short films in the process and then landed Black Beauty.
What was your audition process like for the Black Beauty?
In January 2019, I did a short film from the director for Black Beauty, Ashley Avis. She is amazing as a person, storyteller and filmmaker. We became really great friends in my working environment. When she was in pre-production for Black Beauty she told me that there was a great part for me in the film, which was the antagonist Jennifer. She showed my reel tape to the producers of the film and I landed that part. Very much thanks to her and having worked with her is what gave me this opportunity.
What was it like working with Mackenzie Foy? Were you nervous going into filming?
It was awesome. She’s a lovely person and actress. The time we spent together in South Africa, where the whole film was shot, was so fun. I was a bit nervous going into it. If it was a bigger role, I would have definitely been more nervous. I especially didn’t want to let Ashley down since she got me the role. I thought, Am I going to get along with the cast? But there was a lot of excitement and everyone was so great. I’ve definitely learned a lot from my co-stars, especially through conversation. Not only in the straightforward way they're great at acting but more through conversation.
What does it feel like being on Disney+?
Oh, totally amazing. I was super excited when I found out Disney+ had picked up the film and it was pretty awesome to watch the Disney logo beforehand. God knows how many movies I’ve grown up watching that logo appear in films. And now it's on Black Beauty.
What was your favorite scene of the film?
The last and first scene. They’re definitely a book end. Gives me chills everytime. Just Jo on the beach is breathtaking. There’s a beauty about the Mustang spirit and the friendship between a girl and a horse. The film has a gentle, loving storyline. Very cathartic and it makes me very emotional.
What did you think about the dynamic between Black Beauty and the novel? Do you feel like the story got sidetracked from the original plotline?
I’m going to be honest, I haven’t read the novel in a very long time. I read the novel when I was young. But recently I only read the script for the film. What I think is true is that Ashley took the themes from the novel and metamorphosed those into something that is relevant to now, which is the essential connection between horse and man, that essential friendship. Making beauty female and Jo female. It’s its own adaptation that can stand alone. The novel is a classic and Ashley was true to the heart of the book.
What was it like playing Jennifer?
I have never played a character like Jennifer. It was fun to be a little mean and a little feisty. Much of my scenes included a bit of improv, which actually made the film.
What future films would you want to work in the future?
I would love to honestly do anything because I think I’m interested in doing both comedy and drama. Darkly comedic for sure, something around the lines of Heathers or end of The End of the F***ing World. In that realm would be a dream role for me.
Which actors or actresses do you look up to? Are there any you would want to work with?
So many! I look up to Daniel Kaluya, Emma Stone, Joaquin Phoenix and Michelle Willaims. One of my favorites is Olivia Coleman in The Favourite. Helena Boham Carter is the coolest in style and acting. I love to write and one of my inspirations is Phoebe Waller-Bridge from the show Fleabag. But my favorite actor ever is Philip Seymour Hoffman. He’s amazing. This is the path I hope to carve someday.
From her professional dancing days to working on Black Beauty, I can attest to Sascha’s modus operandi for her career. Not only will we see her again on the big screen, but she will be a phenomenon to all new actors and actresses in the future. Drawing inspiration from legends of Hollywood, Sascha is one to keep an eye out for. I look forward to seeing more of her work. Black Beauty is now streaming on Disney+.
Karina Wensjoe is an editorial intern who is knowledgeable in all things travel, beauty, and sustainability.