One of the standouts of Richard Bates Jr’s latest King Knight is a familiar face to fans of HBO’s Westworld. Angela Sarafyan has been playing the robot host Clementine Pennyfeather now for nearly a decade and in King Knight, which is premiering at Fantasia she plays Willow, the partner of Thorn, leader of a coven of hipster Wiccans. When Thorn is invited to his high school reunion, Willow discovers a dark secret about her partner that threatens to tear their relationship and coven apart. Think What We do in the Shadows meets Hail Satan! It’s a more comedic turn for the actor, that I was happy to see in a film that gave her the space to flex her comedic chops.
It was a blast chatting with Angela about not only King Knight and how she got her start into acting, her process, but also her role on one of my favorite shows on TV.
Dan: So keeping with the crux of King Knight, what were you like as a teen? Were you popular or were you “coven material”?
Angela: I was definitely “coven material”.
In high school, I wore these black jeans that were for men, and I would always wear those with these black leather boosts that were the most expensive things I’d ever had. My mom and dad got them for me for a hundred dollars, which I still have by the way. I still wear those boots and they’re my greatest treasure. But anyway, I was a loner. I kind of didn’t fit with anybody in high school. But definitely “coven material” a hundred percent.
Awkward, wore glasses. I still wear glasses.
Dan: Kind of bouncing off that I saw you attended magnet medical school in LA, was acting always the end goal for you, or what got you into acting?
Angela : That magnet was supposed to be one of the best schools in the city, I think at least that’s what they said. My dad was like, maybe you should be a doctor and I was like, no, but I’ll go there.
It’s like, imagine a five story enclosed building. We didn’t have a football team. We didn’t really have an outdoor area. So it felt like a little correctional facility. I happened to know that because I filmed a little indie movie in a correctional facility, a women’s correctional facility, that was no longer functioning. And the structure of the building looked just like my high school. So I kind of went to a correctional facility for high school. (Laughs)
My dad used to be an actor in Armenia, so I’m Armenian. I grew up in the arts and my mom wanted me to be exposed to everything creative, to find what it is that I like. If it’s creative, it’s science, if it’s sports, whatever it was, she kind of opened the doors for the possibilities for me to see what inspires me and acting was definitely a thing. But I grew up on stage. I used to dance ballet and play the piano, and be a part of a choir. I always knew that this is what I wanted to do from a very young age. I love filmmaking. I think there’s so much magic, so much talent both behind and in front of the camera.
Dan: What lured you into King Knight, it’s great to see you not only front and center, but doing something more comedic?
Angela: When I got the script, I knew like less than five pages in. I love the humor. I love comedies and I really wanted to kind of be a part of something in this way, that I would find interesting and something that I’d like to watch. I thought this had such great humor and then I had a conversation with Ricky (Bates Jr.) on the phone, and yeah, the rest is history. He had reached out to me because he wanted me to play this role and I felt really honored to be considered.
Dan: How do you approach a character like Willow, because there’s sort of a raw vulnerability in the characters you craft on screen?
Angela: The turnaround for this film with me specifically, was very quick. I got cast fairly late in the game. I got the script a week prior and then got cast around Wednesday or Thursday of that week, and then had a fitting on Saturday and started filming on either Sunday or Monday. My approach with the film was really to use everything as a form of inspiration. So my first interaction with Matthew (Gray Gubler) was he was so welcoming, and he came over and gave me a big hug. From that moment, I was like, oh, this is the relationship. And that sort of was what led me to go, okay, that’s what it is.
We had one rehearsal that very day that we met, and I really found her voice and we were playing around with some ideas and everything seems so easy. It just happened so easily. You know, how in life, sometimes things just happen so easily and there are things that just don’t happen at all, and you can struggle and struggle and struggle, and they still don’t happen. Well, this was one of those things that happened very easily. I just trusted in the process and I trusted Ricky and I trusted Matthew as my acting partner and I was so grateful to work with both of them. So it was kind of following my intuition, my gut, and following their lead as well.
Dan: Yeah. You have a great dynamic on screen with him and I love the relationship. How Willow is the one that’s got it together, way more than Thorn does. When the film starts out, you think Thorne knows what he’s all about and he’s the one that’s got it all settled, but no, we find out later Willow’s the boss, and Thorn just has his bird bath internet business.
Angela: (Laughs) I love the bird baths! He’s got such a sensitive soul and heart. I do think that they’re such a unit. I think the relationship they have is such a unified one, that the wonderful thing is that Willow isn’t going to let him off the hook and that he has to go through this experience and she wants to be there to support him in the process. But there is nothing that you can’t do if two people are honest and loving and have a sense of humor, and a coven, and witches.
Dan: So full disclosure, I’m a huge Westworld nerd. I’ve been watching and writing about the show since the first season, and I love you as Clementine. So I have to ask, have we seen the last of her and do you think she’ll get some sort of closure as a character?
Angela: Oh God, I wish I knew.
Dan: Because whenever you think she’s gone, she comes back and I love it.
Angela: I don’t know. I love her so much.
I’ve lived with her for you won’t believe this, but it’s been eight years since we shot the pilot to the first season. We only have three seasons, but yeah, it’s been an entire lifetime, almost like a decade with Clementine. And it’s funny in the process of working with her, I feel like, obviously, I have grown up and I’ve changed and things have shifted, but she’s colored the way that I’ve evolved as a woman, as a person, in my life. I think she serendipitously evolved in the same way. Like some of the things that she would go through, I was going through.
So it was interesting, like finding my way with her. I don’t know what’s to come. I love that show and I love everybody that’s involved on that show so much. I love and feel very grateful to be working with Jonathan and Lisa Joy and I actually have a film coming out that Lisa Joy directed recently Reminiscence, August 20th!
Dan: I’m definitely going to check that out! Thank you for your time.