Rising actress Sofia Oxenham stretches her comedic muscles in Disney +’s new superhero series Extraordinary, proving she’s a multi-talented force of nature.
Persistence and perusal of any passion can be a rough road. For some, it may not lead to anything, and for others, it can lead to everything. The proof is in the pudding when you meet a rising star like Sofia. Having tried and failed and tried again to make it into the Royal Academy of Drama Arts (RADA), Sofia decided to take fate into her own hands and take a risk. She is the epitome of the saying: nothing ventured, nothing gained.
There is a lesson to be learned here. That failure is never the end and can be just the fire you need to stoke the flames of ambition. Suffice it to say, that Sofia Oxenham took the proverbial bull by the horns and decided to be the writer of her own story. Taking control of the narrative, she set her sights on RADA, and finally (after some trial, error, and living a life outside of acting) she made it into the drama school of her dreams. But that was only the beginning of what is sure to be a long and illustrious career in front of the camera.
Having already made her mark in series like Poldark, Dracula, and Cursed, Sofia is on her way to being a household name. It’s clear there are big things on the horizon and coupled with the insatiable hunger for what comes next. She is an unstoppable force. In Disney +’s twist on the superhero genre, Extraordinary, we find Sofia flexing her creative and comedic muscles. Taking on the role of Carrie, an introverted super with the power to raise the dead, we get the chance to see her in a new (and frankly hilarious) light.
Sofia spoke with 1883 Magazine’s Dana Reboe about Extraordinary, the pursuit of being an actress, her hopes for people watching the series, the characters she most relates to, and so much more!
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Extraordinary looks to be like a fresh take on the superhero genre. What is a superpower you’ve always wanted?
Having been on Extraordinary, it’s opened my eyes to so many that I’d like to have. So, it changes daily. But, at the moment, I would like to have the power of being invisible. I feel like you could watch so many situations without people thinking you’re staring. It would be good for people-watching. I love to see stuff we aren’t allowed to see. That’s probably nosy of me [laughs]. I mean, what would you have? What would you choose?
You turned it back on me! [both laugh] Oh, I don’t know. I think I would probably do either super strength or telekinesis. I think either one would be cool.
In the show, a lot of the traditional superpowers like super-speed or flying – they have loads of pitfalls. I’m thinking of like, telepathy, for example. What would the pitfall be? What if you couldn’t control it? What if you were reading multiple people’s thoughts? That would be like overload.
Yeah, I could see how that would totally heighten your anxiety.
Can you imagine?
Oh gosh, I take it back! What’s a piece of advice that you’d give to Carrie?
I would tell her to have more confidence in herself. To trust that her gut is right and not to be afraid of standing up for herself and saying what she thinks or believes. I think she has some people-pleasing tendencies; she thinks that in the end, that will make everyone much happier, but actually, that can cause more problems later on. I’d say, just say what you think and try and be as direct as you can. She struggles with that, which I think is quite a normal thing people go through at different times. Some people definitely don’t, but it’s quite a normal stage and the early 20s is where you want to please everyone around you, don’t you?
I think it’s something that with time and life experience you just… outgrow.
Sometimes you do just have to be that person and be direct.
I totally agree! From Tess to Sam and now Carrie, what is a quality you share with these characters and one you don’t?
To be honest, I’ve been so lucky, Dana. All the characters I’ve played have been so different. Tess is the polar opposite of Carrie. That has been such a gift because it means a lot of these qualities you get to explore with such different characters, which doesn’t happen often. I would say, though, Tess and Carrie feel a sense of not feeling like they fit in. They feel a little bit like observers in the world; watching the world happen around them but not like they are part of the story. Maybe that is a quality they both share. But Carrie is very soft and on the back foot and very sort of loving to the people around her. Tess is the opposite of that. She is quite strict and really holds her cards close to her chest. They’re definitely two opposite ends of the spectrum with a few relatable qualities, I’d say.
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That’s fair enough. Out of the two of them, is there one you relate to more and why?
Tess is from Cornwall, same as me, so I love that. Filming down there and being able to share that with my family was really sweet. In terms of character, we’re very different. I’m more like Carrie. I still have those people-pleasing tendencies and sometimes I can be bad at saying what I want because I’m scared of confrontation. So, I would say Carrie.
Was being an actress, something that you always wanted to do? What has that journey looked like for you from the beginning to now?
I remember watching my older brother and it looked like so much fun. It was something I wanted to be part of. I started at school and did plays and local drama clubs and stuff like that. When I left school, I did it regularly. I felt safe in that space in terms of exploring and improvising. It was a combination of fun but also getting to be creative. You got to meet loads of different people and put on plays. It was such a joy, but I never really thought of doing it professionally. I didn’t know what that career path looked like, so I had no idea how to get started. Then, when I left school, I started speaking to people. I thought the best route would be to try drama school. I wasn’t sure of a lot of the techniques and stuff and that was something I really wanted. I wanted to learn. I didn’t want to go straight into work. I just didn’t know how to do that. Yeah, I had no idea. [laughs]
I auditioned for drama schools and then didn’t get in, but got to the final round of RADA. I had an amazing experience there. I really felt like I connected with the teachers. In the final round, you have a whole day where they basically do a day of what it would be like at RADA. So, you have different classes and stuff and the teachers observe you throughout the whole day. I didn’t get in and was really upset but kind of understood. Auditioned again, and didn’t get in, but got to the final round again. So, this time, I emailed the head of the school, and I said: what can I do? I’ve got to the final round both times, but I haven’t gotten in. He said, I think you’re still quite young. I think you need to not do the acting thing and just go live for a bit.
So, I lived in London. I was doing kids’ parties for money, and I worked as a runner on a film set to learn the other side of it, just to get lots of different life experiences. Then I auditioned that year, got in, and did three years at RADA. It was amazing. The email he sent was so detailed and he gave me so much advice.
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You know, most people give up after the first time and if not the first, then the second time, but the fact that you were so persistent, says a lot. It means you really care about your craft.
Thank you. It’s strange because I really felt I didn’t before auditioning. I auditioned my first year for loads of different schools. But after auditioning at RADA, I then felt, ‘oh, I think this is the school for me.’
So, RADA was where you felt most at home?
Yeah. I really connected with the teachers and the school and the general vibe of it. I know people have that for different drama schools, but it just felt… right for me.
Between the stage in the screen, what do you prefer?
The training at RADA is classical. I spent three years doing quite a lot of Shakespeare and those sorts of things. We didn’t really do TV and film work. A little bit, but not a lot. So that was something new after leaving school. It’s a hard choice, to be honest. I like both. I would like to have — in a dream world — a bit both constantly. What’s great about something like Extraordinary is that you get the chance to improvise around the scenes, so that’s fun. I also just love the routine of film and TV and creating it together. It’s different because, in some films and television shows, you don’t have any rehearsal period but with Extraordinary we did. So, a bit of both. That’s not really answering your question [laughs].
Is there a dream role you’ve always wanted to play on screen or stage? Or both?
On stage, I would love to play Blanche DuBois in A Streetcar Named Desire. On-screen, well, I always wanted to be in a comedy. That’s happened already which is amazing. Maybe something different like a really gritty drama? There’s a drama on at the BBC, that’s got a final series at the moment called Happy Valley, have you seen it?
Yes, I’ve watched that! It’s great!
It’s so good, isn’t it? I mean, something like that just for contrast.
I’m expecting to see you in Happy Valley at some point. I know it’s their last season, but you could make it happen.
I gotta bring it back.
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What’s something you’ve learned from playing all these different characters? They’re such a diverse bunch.
Not preparing too much that you’re stuck, you know? Being open to changing things, that’s something I’ve learned. Watch everything that’s going on around you on set, you learn so much from knowing everyone’s different job and figuring out what they do. Also, ask questions. Don’t be afraid to ask things and try things and you know what? If it doesn’t work, that’s okay. It’s better than not trying, it’s better than playing it safe. I think I’ve especially learned that in the last year — take risks. It’s more fulfilling creatively and you’re giving more to the director, which can only be a positive thing.
I think my favourite thing about being an actor is building a world with everyone on set or in the play. That sense of community and collaboration comes from asking questions. Everyone is building this world; I think that’s important to hold on to.
Circling back to the series, what do you hope audiences take away?
Sometimes the world can be a dark place and there’s a lot going on and it can become overwhelming and stressful. I hope that it sparks some joy in people’s life. I hope it makes them laugh. I know that my favourite comedies have done that for me when I’ve been feeling low or going through a bad patch. They’ve comforted me, so I hope Extraordinary does that for someone, even just one person. That would be amazing. I hope they take away the message that you don’t have a thing to make you feel complete. Sometimes a lot of the joy in life comes from the small things.
I love that answer. Can you talk about Carrie’s journey throughout the series without spoiling too much?
She goes through quite a lot. From the beginning of the series to the end of the series, she becomes a very different person. She grows a lot. She starts to understand herself better and understands her wants and needs and gets better at kind of putting them into place. She starts creating some boundaries, healthy boundaries, for everyone around her including herself.
That’s so important – especially for younger women to see.
If you don’t put yourself first, how are you going to help anybody else?
That’s very true. Switching it up a bit – what does a typical day off-set look like for you?
It looks like a lot of sleep [laughs]. As much sleep as I can get. And then probably going to see a friend, maybe going for a walk or a coffee with a friend. Getting outside, getting some fresh air and some sunlight, which obviously, at the moment in London, there’s not much because it’s winter, so it gets dark at about four o’clock!
Lastly, what’s next for you?
I wish I could tell you!
I’m really sorry [both laugh]. A few things in the pipeline that are exciting, but nothing I can talk about yet. Hopefully soon!
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Extraordinary is streaming now on Disney+.
Interview Dana Reboe
Photographer Klara Waldberg
Styling Annabel Lucey
Make up Charlotte Elizabeth Yeomans