Single Drunk Female star Sofia Black-D’Elia on queerness, Bob The Drag Queen and being comedy’s next It-girl
As the second season of Single Drunk Female drops on Disney+ in the UK, star Sofia Black-D’Elia has spoken to PinkNews about balancing comedy with the gravity of addiction, and why the show prioritises subtle queerness.
Black-D’Elia’s moment is, apparently, right now. Although at the start of the 2010s, she starred in big hitters such as Gossip Girl (as Sage Spence in the show’s final season) and Skins US (as Tea Marvelli), it’s her current turn as Samantha Fink in Disney+ sitcom Single Drunk Female that has critics eyeing her as “comedy’s next it girl”.
Speaking to PinkNews, she says: “Most of the time I feel very grateful and very excited, but on some days I wake up and think ‘Oh, no, it’s going to be very bad. I should not be the centre of this thing’.”
Sam Fink is a 28-year-old alcoholic who, after thumping her boss with a phone receiver, finds herself unemployed and attempting recovery while living with her overbearing mother (Ally Sheedy, a member of the ’80s Brat Pack).
Having recently split from her boyfriend (Charlie Hall), who is now engaged to a former friend (Sasha Compère), Sam is also single.
Granted, smacking your manager with a phone isn’t relatable for many, but what Single Drunk Female does well is convey the messy, winding road of alcoholism and recovery.
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There’s shame and botched apologies, friendships on the rocks and the sense of feeling trapped. There’s also the bright side: those who show up when they’re needed most, and the light glimmering at the end of the tunnel. Peppered with deadpan humour, it’s a surprisingly easy watch.
While the genre is comedy, telling an authentic story of recovery kept the show grounded.
“I know that a lot of people [who] watch it are in recovery or love someone in recovery,” Black-D’Elia says. “As long as it feels truthful to those people, it sort of feels like, OK, I can breathe, we did our job.”
It’s a semi-autobiographical retelling of the sobriety journey endured by Simone Finch, who created the show, so it’s unsurprising to see the light and shadow of recovery captured so well. But Single Drunk Female feels like one of many newer comedy series that has a message at its core – Dear White People or Sex Education, for example.
And Black-D’Elia has a theory as to why people are drawn to comedies with substance right now.
“It’s the best way to communicate something… our human impulse is to laugh when things get really sticky,” she says, adding that, if she turns on a TV series and finds it’s one-note, whether that’s because there’s no comedy or the characters are two-dimensional, she switches off.
‘The show can get heavy. When you want to lift it out of that, who better to do it than Bob The Drag Queen?’
“At least within my friend group, I don’t find that a lot of people are drawn to these super serious, heavy dramas right now. We lived through the pandemic. It’s been a crazy ride the past five years for a lot of people. I think people want to feel comforted and laugh a little bit.”
One plot device guaranteed to get viewers laughing is drag queens. During season two, as Sam begins to rebuild her career, she gets the opportunity to interview RuPaul’s Drag Race winner Bob The Drag Queen.
“Bob was so funny, unsurprisingly, but a lot of that stuff was improvised. They had so many amazing ideas,” Black-D’Elia gushes. “[The show] can get heavy. When you want to lift it out of that and infuse some life into it, who better to do it than Bob The Drag Queen?”
Bob’s cameo is one of numerous appearances from queer actors and queer characters. When Sam gets a job in a supermarket in season one, her boss, Mindy (Jojo Brown), is trans. Sam’s season one Alcoholics Anonymous sponsor, Olivia (Rebecca Henderson), is a lesbian – and her wife Stephanie (Madeline Wise) does an expert job of bringing “irritating lesbian” representation to the screen.
Sam herself is bisexual, like the show’s creator Finch. It’s subtle representation: in season one, she gets with another woman at a party, but it’s folded in so casually that nothing more is said of it. “I’m bi and I thought it was really important that Sam should be bi,” Finch said last year. “It shouldn’t be a big deal.”
The other queer characters are recurring too, but their sexuality isn’t an explicit focus in their storylines. For Black-D’Elia, that casual visibility is “the most important thing”.
She says: “I’m so sick of seeing characters where their whole identity is [their sexuality]. It’s the same thing with the addiction side of it. Sam is not just an addict, no one’s just this one thing. It just cheapens an otherwise great character.
”If [queerness is] the one-note character description, you need to go and work on it a little bit more, and come back when there’s more to the person.”
‘I would love to see Sam not have a love interest. This is my big pitch’
Thankfully, Single Drunk Female is a move away from queer characters embedded in tired stereotypes, or dragged through traumatic storylines and grizzly ends – although we’re only on season two, and a lot could still happen to Samantha should the show get renewed for a third outing.
However, Black-D’Elia has an interesting idea for a romantic twist.
“I would love to see Sam not have a love interest. This is my big pitch,” she says.
“I think she really wants to be ready for it, and she’s clearly not. I’m curious what happens to someone who’s doing well in recovery and not trying to date. What does she do with her time?
“This is a person who is very uncomfortable with just sitting alone with herself, which is something I relate to. So I’d be interested in that.
“I hope we get to do it again,” she adds of a potential third season. “I love this gang, and I love this world, and it feels we still have more there.”
Single Drunk Female season two is available to stream on Disney+.
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