As its second season comes to a close (with the finale September 20th), MTV’s Awkward continues to delight fans and critics with its quirky but grounded take on high school. And what would high school be without its bullies: Molly Tarlov plays Sadie, a mean girl with her own set of neuroses.
We talked with Molly about stepping into Sadie’s shoes, finding sympathy for the devil, and where she falls on the Team Matty/Team Jake divide.
LP: When you first auditioned for the role, how did you get into Sadie’s mindset?
MT: I kind of feel like it’s written so well that I didn’t work on really building a character. It kind of just came out. There were three scenes that I got for the audition – and one was a scene that has never made it into the show, but it was a scene between Sadie and Lissa. I felt like the character was just so clear from that scene. The first line was, “I’m not suggesting you cut your hair, but maybe you should rethink the color. It doesn’t go with your skin.” You know? It just was so clear to me that this girl was such a bitch but not gonna act like a total bitch – not outwardly like, “I’m a bitch.”
And the second scene was in the first season, episode six, and it was the scene between Sadie and her mom. I don’t know – the audition was pretty crazy. The first audition was fun, and then the second audition [series creator] Lauren Iungerich was there, and I was a little scared. She gave me notes, which is a good thing but also it’s a horrible thing, because you want to be immediately perfect. She was super enthusiastic, but she was with everyone.
And then the test at MTV was really fun. It kind of felt magical. The only person on the show who was there was Brett [Davern], so I met Brett on the test. Oh, and Nikki [DeLoach] and Barret [Swatek], who plays Aunt Ally.
LP: We get little glimpses of Sadie’s softer side. Do you ever see her really changing, or do you think it’ll always be a back and forth?
MT: I think that there will always be a back and forth, but I do see an evolution happening. I really think in Season 2, Sadie has become more of a human and someone that we like to watch, I hope. I think in the third season we’re gonna see a lot more. That’s what I think is amazing about being on a TV show that airs for more than three seasons, which happens now – first season, you set up the characters, second season, they all live in this world together, and then who knows what could happen in the third season. Everyone’s living in the same world: audiences, characters, everyone.
LP: Well, do you think that Sadie and Jenna will ever become friends?
MT: Gonna have to say no on that one. [laughs]
LP: How do you find sympathy for Sadie when she’s doing something like outing Clark, or ruining Jenna and Jake’s relationship?
MT: I personally, between Sadie and Clark, I have an issue with that storyline because I think Sadie and Clark would be best friends. And I keep saying that to Lauren, but whatever, she’s not listening.
But I think I definitely can find sympathy for her. When I read the script, that’s kind of the whole point of the character – she’s not just supposed to be a mean girl, but to come form a different place than we usually see mean girls. I can relate to Sadie in a lot of ways. She is completely vulnerable and terrified of being vulnerable. Sadie operates through fear, and that’s not saying that she loves fear in others – I mean, she does – but she operates from fear of her own. So, yeah, I do completely have sympathy for her. And that’s the only way you can really play that character.
LP: Have you had any awkward fan interactions with people who assume you’re going to be anything like Sadie?
MT: People have been pretty good, but I was thinking about it. There are probably more people who recognize me than come up to me. I think that probably the ones who don’t come up to me, if they saw Ashley [Rickards] or something, they’d be like, “Oh my God!” They don’t like me. I feel like the only ones who approach me are the ones who like Sadie.
LP: When you’re on set do you stay in character?
MT: No! But you can start that rumor. [laughs]
LP: I know it’s cliché to ask if you get along on set, so I’ll just say it seems like you really get along on set.
MT: We do really get along. Everyone is just – it’s kind of a passion piece. Everyone who’s involved is there to be there and not for any other reason, other than that we love it and we love what we’re doing. I would say that it’s a group of people who are just starting out, but like, Nikki DeLoach, who plays Lacey, was on the Mickey Mouse Club and has been working ever since, and she’s like the nicest person I’ve ever met. Kris Polaha, who came and did a guest spot with us – we all had to sit at the wedding in a dining hall for the entire day, and he just sat and chilled with us. Everyone is really amazing and super fun.
I have a question for you: are you Team Jake or Team Matty?
LP: I’m Team Matty. Is that OK?
LP: Do you have a preference?
I am Team Matty, but I want Jake to be happy. I just don’t think he and Jenna are right for each other.
LP: This is a show with a very passionate fanbase. What do you think has made it such a hit?
I think it’s kind of the perfect mix between believable and out of the realm of reality. It’s in such a heightened reality that it’s fun and it’s funny, but it’s also real. It’s so inviting to a viewer – you just are in the world. When I watch it, I’m in the world. And I’m not just watching Sadie. It really happens in the scripts – we read the scripts, and we’re all emailing and replying all, “Lauren [Iungerich], I’m gonna kill you!”
Like when Matty showed up at Jenna’s door in the second episode of Season 1, I was like, “I’m gonna die.”
And Lauren doesn’t apologize for anything. I really feel like she didn’t make something in order to please other people. She made it in order to stay true to herself, and luckily it worked.