Sascha Nastasi is turning heads for her role in the new Black Beauty movie on Disney+. Sascha stars in the movie alongside Kate Winslet and Mackenzie Foy. Black Beauty follows the story of Jo, a teenager who bonds with her family horse while grieving the loss of her parents. Sascha plays Jennifer, a competitive and persnickety equestrian and the main antagonist. Black Beauty is a timeless tale that has been shared with generation, based on the classic American novel by author Anna Sewell. YEM spoke with Sascha about her role in the iconic tale, and what she likes to do when she’s not on set!
Young Entertainment Mag: Had you read the novel Black Beauty before taking on the role?
Sascha Nastasi: Yes! I read it when I was little. I also remember watching the 1994 version and loving it.
YEM: Tell us more about your character Jennifer in Black Beauty.
Sascha: Jennifer rides at the barn where Jo and John live and work. She is always with her best friend, Jasmine. She’s quite posh and a bit haughty. She definitely feels competitive with Jo and is jealous of Jo’s natural horse(wo)manship.
YEM: Had you had any experience with horses before? How did you prepare for your role as an equestrian rider?
Sascha: Yes, I had ridden horses a few times as a young girl and loved it, but had not touched a horse in many years before Black Beauty. I watched a lot of equestrian YouTube videos to prepare, learned the horse / competition vocabulary, and researched different young riders online. Also I’m very lucky to have a friend who used to ride competitively — I texted her a lot of questions and she was incredibly helpful.
YEM: The Black Beauty book addressed animal cruelty as well as advocated for animal rights. How does this new version of the story tackle those issues?
Sascha: In 2020’s Black Beauty, Beauty is born a wild horse. The next part is a spoiler, but throughout the film, first at Earlshall, we see her being mistreated greatly. The message of the film is one of kindness, compassion, and mutual healing — for horses and humans both.
YEM: Why do you think it’s important to address the fair treatment of animals in a modern setting?
Sascha: I think that it’s always important to address the fair treatment of animals, and in terms of horses in particular, the wild horses are facing many issues today. They are being rounded up and killed in huge numbers. Ashley Avis, the writer and director started The Wild Beauty Foundation in order to help combat the aforementioned issues.
YEM: What did you learn about being an equestrian and how to care for horses responsibly and humanely?
Sascha: I think the biggest thing I learned in that regard is how sensitive horses are to your energy — they’re such smart, intuitive beings and if you’re nervous or calm or whatever, they feel it. I initially felt quite nervous around them just due to their size and power, but I think over time and after a fair amount of off screen bonding, I became much more comfortable and noticed their change in regards to me. Also — the horses on set were liberty trained and I think that’s of the utmost importance in terms of responsible and humane care for horses.
YEM: You have a passion for writing as well as acting. What are some plays/movies that have inspired your love of dramatic writing?
Sascha: Every Annie Baker play, especially John, The Flick, and The Antipodes. The Food Chain by Nicky Silver. Dance Nation and I’ll Never Love Again by Clare Barron. Dead Man’s Cell Phone by Sarah Ruhl. Power Strip by Sylvia Khoury. Fool for Love by Sam Shepard. Bug by Tracy Letts. Those are the plays I’ve read recently which have inspired me greatly. Movie wise, there are so many. The Killing of a Sacred Deer, 3 Women, Raw, Jennifer’s Body, Get Out, Goodbye First Love, Margaret, Adaptation, and The Holy Girl are some of the ones whose screenplay’s I admire greatly.
YEM: As an avid thrift store shopper, what do you love about second-hand fashion?
Sascha: Everything – I love that it is sustainable and more economical. I love the search — through stores, online. I love finding one of a kind pieces and the satisfaction of that. Second hand shopping feels more personal. I like thinking about the people who the clothes originally belonged to. That sounds a bit odd but it’s cool to imagine, to instinctually sort of make up stories based on it, especially when the clothes are multiple decades old.
YEM: What do you enjoy doing when you’re not busy with school or work?
Sascha: I sleep. I love to sleep. And I watch a lot of movies, read a lot of books. I’m a pretty obsessive person when it comes to fictitious work. So if I like a movie or a book or a tv show, I go down a complete rabbit hole with it, watching all the interviews, reading every review, googling the author or creators and the actors. I like seeing friends, for a walk or for some food. And I like to collage and make stuff. I’m not all that visually artistic but I really enjoy simple crafts, decorating my room.
I went to the Met recently, which was lovely. I want to go to museums more. Also I used to watch a lot of live theatre, and am excited for it to eventually be back — I am very lucky to live in New York City. I spend a lot of time with my mom and my dogs in our apartment. We entertain each other. Hanging out with the three of them is probably my favorite thing to do besides acting stuff.