Sara Lindsey Finds Success In Physical Preparation

by Clementina Marini Clarelli

The writer/actor recounts early ambition, a (meta)physical observation, and how her name inspired an unexpected skill.
Sara Lindsey always knew she wanted to be an actress. That knowledge is what she calls the greatest gift of her life. Lindsey has been performing in front of an audience since she was six years old, and now, at twenty-six, she is acting side by side with Will Smith, enjoying what you might call her big break. But, did you know she used to play the oboe? Today, I speak with the convivial actress on the phone and she opens up about her life, her art, and the journey that lead her to today.

Lindsey was only six years old when she performed in her first school play. It was her first time on stage. Her first grade class was putting on an adaptation of Shel Silverstein’s A Light In The Attic, and young Lindsey had to sign ‘I love you’ to another kid during one of the scenes. “That was my first case of the gossip where you’re falling in love with you scene partner,” she laughs. It was one of the first times she remembers being embarrassed. “I remember being like, ‘How do I deal with this?’ I’m just trying to do the scene for our little play.” Fortunately, it wasn’t enough to keep young Lindsey from pursuing her dreams of performance.

Today, Lindsey can be seen in theaters across the country performing alongside Will Smith in the film Concussion. Based on true events, the film recounts Bennet Omalu (portrayed by Smith) and his desperate struggle to reveal the truth about the dangers of football—a fact the NFL is just as desperate to cover up. As he works to expose the connection between concussions and long-term brain damage, he encounters Gracie (played by Lindsey), an assistant to a forensic pathologist.

To prepare for the role, Lindsey spent weeks studying the world of pathology, immersing herself in the research so deeply that she even spent a whole day in a morgue. “For the first 15 minutes I was just clutching onto Will and our prop person, Matt,” she laughs, “Once that turns over, it’s very scientific and incredibly thorough and intense.”

Lindsey doesn’t shy away from immersing herself completely in her projects, quite the contrary. Blue Jay, a thriller she recently starred in and co-wrote with her husband, was filmed in its entirety on location at 9,000 feet on the Eastern Sierra Mountain Range. Getting an indie movie to the production phase was a challenge in and of itself, but that was just the first hurdle she and her husband had to overcome. Once they started shooting, the snow kept melting.

“We would scout our location and in a week the snow would be different or melted and we couldn’t use it because they were going up a mountain.” And yet, in spite of unforeseen challenges, the hardships of writing and acting in the same film, Lindsey is already working on her next collaboration—with her husband again—this time an emotional drama.

As a writer, it seems Lindsey is focused on writing movies she will star in. “When you write the role yourself you have a sense of ownership over it that is more difficult to find when it’s someone else’s character,” she explains. “Writing your own character gives you a level of confidence you wouldn’t get otherwise: the knowledge that your performance touches on everything you wanted to include as a writer. When it’s someone else’s work, on the other hand, that confidence gives way to a sense of duty, a duty to be true to someone else’s vision.”

Lindsey had her first feature film experience when she was still a student at Carnegie Mellon University. She was cast for a small role in J.J. Abram’s thriller Super 8, and from the moment she stepped on set, she knew she was where she was supposed to be. That next year, right after graduating from Carnegie Mellon, Lindsey moved to L.A. to pursue her career in film full-time.

With experiences performing in plays, and a degree in Performing Arts, Lindsey is emerging as a physical actor. Her visit to the morgue in preparation for Concussion, further affected the way she approached movement in regards to acting. “When you see a person on an autopsy table, their body is not what defines who they are—it’s how they moved [it]—[their body] is only the shell of who they are.”

Growing up, Lindsey wasn’t only performing physically as an actress, she was also a skilled singer and musician. Worried that the name Sara was too common and boring, an eight-year-old Lindsey decided to play an instrument that would make her unique: the oboe. Her elementary music teacher taught her the basics of the instrument, but one year later Lindsey had already surpassed her instructor’s knowledge. She kept taking classes outside of school and ultimately performed as lead oboist in the Peabody Preparatory Sinfonietta in Baltimore for several years.

It surprised me to hear Lindsey admit that singing was, ultimately, her firstmost passion, more than film or theatre. She clarifies, though, that “singing was always a way to be acting and to be performing.” In fact, Lindsey’s diverse passions allowed her to use her multiple talents as complementary tools for her acting. When I asked her if Broadway was ever on her radar, she disclosed that it is a dream that she still hasn’t given up on: “I’m still in that phase, definitely still going to be on Broadway at some point, probably not in a musical, but I'd love to be in a play.”

Photography: Kathryna Hancock for 7 artist Management.

Stylist: Lisa Cera for The Rex Agency.

Assistant Stylist: Kenneth Crowder.