Welsh actress Jessica Sula made her acting debut in 2011, playing the character Grace Violet in the critically acclaimed British television show Skins. After a multiple episode stint on that show, she scored the part of Scarlett Quilter on Love & Marriage. In 2014, she landed her first big screen leading role in the movie Honeytrap, the story of a fifteen year old girl who sets up the murder of the boy who is in love with her. Now, she’s starring as Maddie Graham in the new Freeform drama Recovery Road, which centers around a group of people of all different ages striving to overcome their addictions to drugs and alcohol. I recently had the opportunity to chat with Sula about her new role on Recovery Road, what she’s learned from the show and her love of comedy writing. Check it out below!
What appealed to you about “Recovery Road”?
Well, I was unemployed and going through the motions of auditions, and when you finally get a screen test for something, you wouldn’t turn it down or say no. But, that’s when I actually got to read the script; I was flying out to Los Angeles from New York to actually test for it, and the next thing you know, you realize “Oh, this thing I’m going up for is more than just a teen drama.” It has a subject that is affecting so many people, and it’s a story about sobriety, which is not something that you see on television, especially in a show about teenagers, or any age range really. It’s a show about a group of people staying sober, so that was interesting.
What do you like the most about Maddie, and what do you think is her biggest flaw?
What I like about Maddie is that she has a nice sense of humor. She does have a mature like loving side about her, which is what makes her so manipulative because nobody really knows that she’s abusing all of these substances. She’s balancing everything very, very well when it comes to her home life and academic life and all of those situations. But, Maddie…sometimes, she’s just a little too obstinate. She’s not willing to compromise and admit that she’s an addict, but from the end of the first episode, she has an understanding which makes her stay, so I think that this season, she lets her guard down a little bit.
So, besides maintaining her sobriety, what other challenges will Maddie face this season?
Well, her relationship with Wes, because she knows that it is simply not possible; the balance of trying to continue to be this fun party girl in high school with her friends but she isn’t at all anymore—but I think the whole challenge is staying sober. That’s going to be the biggest one of all.
What have you learned due to being on “Recovery Road”?
It’s opened my eyes more to addiction, and to teen addiction in particular, because it’s such a normal thing to go out and go drinking. When I was in school, that’s what everyone did. It makes you realize that it starts with abuse and then there’s addiction and it makes you start to think about those things a little bit more. And, how much no one is actually willing to talk about, to be honest with you. It’s still a subject that is quite off-limits and a lot of families won’t be open about it. And now, you’ve got this show on Freeform that’s becoming a mainstream show and they’re talking about addiction in a very honest way.
Will we see Maddie and Rebecca become friends again this season?
I cannot say (laughs). I’m sworn to secrecy. Actually, I haven’t discussed whether or not I can say certain things so I think it’s best if I don’t say anything because, knowing me, I’ll just like blow it all (laughs). So, yeah, I can’t say, but they’re relationship is certainly a challenging one.
Who would you say has had the most influence on your career?
A lot of strong women have had an influence on my career. Some of them aren’t even actors or actresses, such as Linda Green, who is a really strong writer. And, you know, I enjoy so many different films and I’m obsessed with cinema in general because, for me, it goes in waves for who I’m loving and what inspires me. I can’t pick one particular person. I’ve been shaped by a lot of different beings. I like a lot of French actresses. I really like Charlotte Rampling—well, she’s British, but she’s acted in a lot of French cinema as well. Marion Cotillard is really amazing. Then, there was this German movie that I saw called “The Lives of Others” that was so moving and so wonderful that I wanted to be in films that told stories like that.
Besides acting, what are you passionate about?
I really wanted to write. When I was living in New York with a friend of mine, we were really passionate about writing, especially comedy sketches. She’s actually doing stand-up now around New York and she’s a part of that scene. But, that’s what I was really planning on doing. We wrote a lot and that’s what I wanted to do. But, then I just sort of started auditioning and I haven’t really kept it up for a while. Hopefully, I’ll continue with it at some point. I mean, I love sketch shows; I watch a lot of British comedy sketch shows and French sketch shows. I like humor because—and this is going to sound cheesy—but the world is a very dark place, and we have people that are creating things to make people laugh or it’s just a satire of what’s happening, and I’m always interested in people who can do that so well.
Recovery Road premieres on the Freeform network at 9:00 pm EST on January 25.