Sarah Fay has always enjoyed the inner game of acting. This idea that only the actor (and the director) truly know the character, rather than laying everything out for the audience in an easily digestible manner; it’s something that has shaped many of her roles. For someone of artistic temperament, the less obvious choices make for a more engaging experience, on the part of the viewer. This is a premise that Fay has always admired whether she is an audience member or a participant in the story. She notes that her early experience acting in the film Simulacrum (which received the Norman Jewison Filmmaker Award) was instrumental in her appreciation of the subtleties possible in character presentation. A sociological sci-fi tale, Simulacrum presents many of the ways in which technology affects our culture and relationships. Although set in an alternate reality, many of the ideas presented more than fifteen years ago, are coming of age in modern society. While the overall theme questions mankind’s use of biotechnology, Fay’s stand out role gives a glimpse into the complexity that she would bring to following productions.
In a very clever manner, Simulacrum presents the possibilities of our own world, by presenting the events in one, which we feel could not exist. Asking the audience to suspend their sense of reality, immediately disarms them into accepting any possibilities. The story takes place in a pre-apocalyptic Soviet world. Dallas is a young technician who has a clone (common place in this futuristic society) who seeks her assistance. The clone needs her to help with a government test because the two share the same DNA. What unfolds is a story of deceit, governmental constriction/abuse which eventually sees Dallas fleeing for her freedom. At the heart of the story is the question “What is identity? What is self?”, and the answer is not easily defined for the viewer.
Perhaps the most interesting aspect of the film is that the lines between right and wrong are not presented in a clearly defined manner. The living embodiment of this, in the film, is Sarah’s character who, in congruent fashion, is known only as “Taxi Driver”. This only enhances the mystery and mystique of this pivotal character in Dallas’s search for truth and resolution. Fay so convincingly plays the unknown intentions of the character, who is both taxi driver and either governmental agent or agent of freedom, that viewers of the film differ in their conclusion of her motives. Sarah remarks, “An actor must always make clear, defined choices within themselves. I knew who I was and why, as the Taxi Driver and that was decided with the Director and in my own creative discovery. I don’t see a duplicitous character as undefined. Both types of characters have an alliance to themselves. A good wholesome character has an alliance to themselves and their belief in good, truth, and love. They act with those motivations. An evil character has less honorable motivations but is still true to themselves. They may not have a moral compass but they will defend their actions. A duplicitous character will flow with the wind but still remain true to their own survival and their self- alliance. Both the audience and society like to label. I think part of the joy of acting, for me, is discovering the true gray area of human existence, in different circumstances. The more layers you have as a character, the more real you are, the less you fully fit into a label of completely one way or another. Either way a character must have consistency to be connected to and duplicitous characters have that too.”
A role like this is intriguing for any actor, but can only be presented as such when the director also sees the potential for the role. Sarah worked extensively with Director Anita Doran to present this character in terms of dialogue and physicality to create the mystery that made her so fascinating. Doran saw a quality in Fay from the very beginning and notes, “I hired Sarah for the film because I saw a lot of stand-out qualities in her audition. She took great care to understand her character with a depth that many others would miss. Sarah was precise and concentrated, revealing a dedication to craft that has only grown since this early state. Once on the set, she was generous with her creativity and a consummate professional. I’ve rarely seen an actor throw themselves so deeply into a role. She had immense commitment and made it her responsibility to add as much as she could to the overall quality of the film, and I think the end product is exponentially better thanks to her presence.” Fay confirms that this is her normal approach. Her intense discipline and dedication has served her well since this early experience. Contrary to being restricting or overwhelming, she finds this intensity frees her in roles and allows for less thinking and more feeling. These days, as an LA resident she finds that this mindset is expected in an entertainment centered city. Sarah states, “I’m pretty obsessive and singular in my focus and strive for success, but it makes me happy. To be in L.A. doing this, I am living my dream. In terms of the others in my life, everyone knows if I have an audition…I’m going to need to cancel with them. That’s part of the thing I love about living in LA. It’s an actor and industry town. People understand and we are all here to succeed, so they get it. All the people in my life get it. In Toronto, I experienced a little more frustration and eye rolling. I’d hear, ‘No really, when are you going to give it up and find something stable?” a lot more. That just doesn’t happen in LA. The key to life is finding a place where you fit in and I feel like I’ve found it here. I am working on filming ‘CON’, a great film that is also going to be a series, with Oscar nominated producer Joseph Wesley Adams and I just got a couple new roles I am overjoyed about. When you work towards a goal your entire life and people see it as a positive rather than negative, it makes you feel that you finally fit in. Taking chances like I took in Simulacrum were part of the journey that got me here.”