Tai Freligh interviews Sharon Blynn from Captain Marvel…
Sharon Blynn is best known for her key role in Disney’s Captain Marvel, in theaters now. She plays the role of Soren, a Skrull and the wife of Talos, who is played by Ben Mendelsohn. Blynn shared the big screen and showcased her talent alongside award-winning actors such as Brie Larson, Samuel L. Jackson and Jude Law.
The catalyst that began her acting career was her battle with Ovarian cancer which she successfully beat. As a result of her fight, she founded Bald is Beautiful. The organization supports Ovarian Cancer programs and helps bring awareness to the disease. Blynn wanted to create a platform that utilized TV/Film/Print media to redefine social notions of beauty, femininity, and wholeness for women. Her activism has landed her notable media spots such as hosting the PBS special The Whisper: The Silent Crisis of Ovarian Cancer. She has also been a part of the Kenneth Cole “We All Walk in Different Shoes” Awareness and Bristol-Myers Squibb campaigns. Flickering Myth’s Tai Freligh caught up with her to talk about Captain Marvel, Bald is Beautiful and other projects.
Tell me how you ended up getting the role of Soren in Captain Marvel?
It was fairly “normal” as these things go (only this went exceptionally well!). I did an audition and then was invited to a directors’ session a few days later. My rep called me within about a week after that to let me know that I booked the gig! Those periods between each step can feel like an eternity, although part of the acting gig is the practice of “letting go” and just giving all, I have to the audition or call-back or what have you and then carrying on with life as usual.
What was your audition like?
This was one of those auditions that could definitely feel a bit more intimidating or challenging since it had no sides, no dialogue. It was two sentences on an otherwise blank page with no other context or storyline, and I didn’t know what the actual movie was. So, it was very pure and raw in a way. I was prepared to do it without a reader, but they actually had someone in the room with whom I could “communicate”, and she was lovely to work with, which helped a great deal as well. Once I knew what I wanted to do and established the physicality of how to accomplish the technical aspects of creating the skeletal environment, I loved the openness and freedom of being allowed to explore feeling and paint an intricate emotional story from within, and bring that to the camera and viewer.
Describe the experience of filming Captain Marvel?
OH. MY. GOD. I’M. IN. A. MARVEL. MOVIE. …every day.
How long did it take to put makeup and prosthetics on?
The make-up and prosthetics application took about two hours from the time I sat in the chair. After I was in full make-up and wardrobe, the lenses were put in, and that was really quick. The lenses were actually a bit more challenging as a new experience because I’ve never worn contacts and I’m terrible with doing my own eye drops when I’ve needed them. They are full-eyeball lenses, too, but once they were in and “settled” on the eye, I couldn’t feel them at all. And they looked super cool! The artistry overall with all of the prosthetics is awe-inspiring.
Any funny set stories from filming Captain Marvel?
Since this is the first time introducing the Skrulls in the MCU (previously they only appeared in comic books and in various animated Marvel cartoons over the years), the studio didn’t want anyone to see us in our full make-up and gear unless they were working on the movie. So, we had these special hooded capes we had to wear whenever we were moving between soundstages or being transported to and from make-up and wardrobe or other off-set locations. On one of those first shoot days, I had gone to the bathroom (it was a production in and of itself getting me in and out of the multi-layered wardrobe!), and I was looking in the mirror to adjust the top layer of my outfit when someone from another shoot walked in. I looked at her and froze and she was quite startled by the “actual” alien in the ladies’ room. We stared at each other for a good long second before I smiled awkwardly and waved, then donned my cape and left. The image of that exchange gave me the giggles for days after that.
How does it feel to be part of something so special?
OH. MY. GOD. I’M. IN. A. MARVEL. MOVIE. …every day.
I genuinely mean that as a feeling all on its own and how much it means to me! And . . . as a fan and as an “actorvist”, to be part of the first female superhero lead Marvel movie that also includes the first female director in the MCU, as well as the story having some pretty powerful messages about how we earthlings engage with each other means the world to me. Because my pursuit of acting is fueled by an underlying purpose, Bald Is Beautiful, I am especially thrilled on a personal and professional level to be part of a movie that merges both my creative and activist passions.
Did you get any acting advice? If so, what and from whom?
Not advice per se, but the way that Anna Boden and Ryan Fleck worked together as a team was a new experience for me. I’d never worked with a director duo, and their rhythm created a refreshing and collaborative environment for all of us. As far as working with Ben Mendelsohn, he is so grounded and ready to work, it instantly invited me to dive into that space without pretense and just tell truthful, authentic story.
When did your love of Marvel begin and what character or characters were you reading/watching in the movies?
I have loved Marvel comics and cartoons since I was a kid, and spent many an after-school afternoon in a friend of mine’s garage combing through his plastic sleeve-encased comics! I was really into everything, including Fantastic Four and X-Men (especially Storm and Jean Grey), as well as Silver Surfer, Incredible Hulk, and Spider-Man, and eventually got into all of the movies featuring all the other Marvel characters.
Talk about Bald Is Beautiful and how your battle and victory over cancer has changed your life?
My Bald Is Beautiful movement and organization was inspired by my experience with ovarian cancer, especially losing my hair during chemo and ultimately both of my ovaries. As a result, I had to abruptly face questions that arose in me about my femininity and wholeness as a 28-year-old woman. I found it disconcerting that while fighting for my life, I had to also worry about my appearance and womanity, and I was determined to do something to change that dynamic. So, I decided that when I finished with this ovarian cancer “thing”, I was going to start Bald Is Beautiful!
People are very visually oriented, especially in contemporary times, and the saying that a picture is worth 1,000 words is at the heart of my Bald Is Beautiful movement. I recognized the power of working within the visual media — be it print, TV, or film — to expand and shift the conversation about beauty and womanhood, and how those are represented. Seeing a bald woman in TV or films who is not covering her head in shame or feeling less beautiful or womanly without her hair (or breasts or reproductive organs) speaks volumes, and it can and does unconsciously create possibility for a more expansive and radical concept of what can be received and perceived as beautiful, attractive, feminine, and whole. I had never done any acting before this, so my cancer journey dramatically (pun intended!) changed my life in ways I could never have predicted!
Bald Is Beautiful is also specifically about awareness for ovarian cancer, since it gets very little attention in the mainstream media. Because there is no screening test and no early detection, it is most often diagnosed late stage and has the highest fatality rate of all women’s cancers. I was Stage 3C with a 30% chance of surviving, and I am dedicated to improving those odds!
How does Captain Marvel fit into the conventional notions of what beauty and femininity are?
While her physical appearance may fit into more conventional concepts of “beauty”, Captain Marvel challenges notions of what “femininity” means in society. Her fierceness and strength and aggression, her ambition and toughness and unwavering determination — typically considered “male” qualities — are portrayed as decidedly feminine, making her a fully embodied woman. Captain Marvel comes to know her true self once she tunes into her inner voice, her intuition, and lets that be her guide. And she recognizes that being vulnerable and caring and sensitive are not weaknesses, rather they make her a more powerful woman.
What are your upcoming projects?
I can’t say much about things in development, but folks can stay tuned by following me on the socials! My website is www.baldisbeautiful.org, my Instagram is @bald.is.beautiful, and I’m at @sharonblynn on Twitter!
How do you survive the zombie apocalypse?
My first thought was to become a zombie! Can’t beat them join them, am I right? But I also thought about fashioning a body suit out of that material that police dog trainers use to keep trainers safe from those powerful dog jaws. That could work, right?
What’s better – TV or movies?
Hmm, this one’s a bit complicated. These days, the approach to making TV shows has changed significantly. With some networks doing these limited series formats, and also streaming outlets doing both TV series and films, there seems to be a more cinematic feel to a lot of the newer TV programming that I find fascinating! Both mediums offer audiences the space to imagine new worlds, to see themselves in each other, and to transcend their struggles and become better humans being.
If you weren’t acting, what would you be doing?
In addition to Bald Is Beautiful spokesperson and advocacy work, I might be running my own non-profit artist development-production-record label outfit, Berry Gordy-style. Music is still the fire in my belly and I think that perhaps my passions for activism and also for sharing and shining light on great artists on the world stage will merge somehow.
Who is your female inspiration and why?
There are a handful of women who always immediately leap to mind when I’ve thought about this question: Lucille Ball, Grace Jones, and my grandmother, Lillian Rae Levy. The main quality they all share is that they are trailblazers. They are talented and fierce in their fields, and they forged their paths unflinchingly and undeterred by societal (mis)conceptions of what is possible.
Most would be familiar with the first two. My grandma was a science writer and photojournalist for NASA at a time when women were most definitely not typically doing that kind of work. She also wrote and edited a book called Space: Its Impact on Man and Society. She was a badass and my soul mate, and given her affinity and passion for space exploration and science, I’d like to think she’d be particularly tickled that I’m playing a space alien in a blockbuster movie as a bald woman underneath it all!
What’s your dream role?
My dream role in general is to play a character that has depth and layers to explore that I can really sink my teeth into. Current shows like Black Mirror or The Handmaids Tale or the upcoming reboot of The Twilight Zone that have a wide range of emotion couched in powerful, nuanced, and thought-provoking messages and compelling stories are very exciting to me.
On what may seem like a different tip, it being a procedural and all, I would love to be a series regular detective on Law & Order: SVU and work with Mariska Hargitay! I’m a bit of a L&O freak, and also, I greatly admire Mariska for using her platform and voice as an actor to make real, positive change in the world. (She’s an “actorvist” like me!) The L&O franchise and the Dick Wolf universe also carry a special significance to me, because those shows were actually part of my healing regimen during chemo. I’ve always loved detective and legal and forensics-oriented show, and there is always an L&O episode on at several times of the day. The cases highlighted in the L&O world are prescient and the acting is so real and good, and it brings me home to NYC, so those periodic syndicated episodes throughout the day were like tiny points of light in what felt like an otherwise endless dark tunnel.
We thank Sharon Blynn for taking the time to chat with us. She can be found on social media on the following channels:
Tai Freligh is a Los Angeles based writer and can be followed on Twitter.