*This press was established and completed prior to the commencing of the WGA/SAG-AFTRA strike*
Photo Credit: HULU | Creator: Paloma Alegria
“Saint X”’s Sara Lycott is a complex woman. She is both beautiful and intelligent, however being the daughter of a minister and witnessing her mother’s abusive relationship during her teens, causes complications in her relationships. Early on in life, she also has a son with Gogo, played by Josh Bonzie, around the same time he’s wrongfully accused of the rape and murder of a young woman vacationing at the resort he works at. This causes Sara even more internal and external conflict.
For Bre Francis, the actress who plays Sara, the role came about after her mapping out her auditions for the year. Shortly after the audition, she learned that she landed the role and would begin filming in the Dominican Republic with the rest of the crew, including showrunner Leila Gerstein and director Dee Rees.
Bre’s challenge? Playing a character who is so fundamentally different than she is. I caught up with Bre, and talked about navigating complicated relationships, playing the role of a young mother in Caribbean culture, and the family dynamics that she portrayed in “Saint X.”
Shonette Reed: How did this role come about for you?
Bre Francis: It was the beginning of last year and it was my first audition of the year. I remember I set out, I said “This year I’m going to do this, this, this, and this.” The first audition comes, and I was like “Yeah!” I do the audition and I got it. I was like “Oh! Okay!” Then there was a chemistry read and by March I was in the Dominican Republic, which was just crazy. It felt like it went so quickly.
But, yeah, it involved a chemistry read, then I met with Leila who’s our showrunner and Dee and some of the other cast as well – which was cool.
Shonette Reed: For Sara, she’s a very complex character that we don’t get to spend a lot of time with, but we do get to see some of her backstory and upbringing. She’s said to be the daughter of a minister and we never see her father or hear too much about him outside of that. Then she sees her mother in this abusive relationship. What is the thing that got you prepared for this part of your role as Sara?
Bre Francis: Getting into that kind of headspace, that mind space, obviously isn’t easy. Especially, when it’s something you can’t fully relate to. In the beginning, there was a lot of theoretical study– just reading and looking at different articles and excerpts from different books. And then, after there was a lot of, “how do I explain this?” A lot of my process was connected to physical sensations almost. So certain things I would listen to, it’s hard to delve into and explain, but certain things I would listen to, and experiment in different temperatures. Almost to make me feel the discomfort that she felt at certain times, and also draw from my own experiences. Which, obviously I’m not really going to talk about too much. But, yeah, mostly that.
Shonette Reed: What are some similarities between you, Bre, and the character you played in Saint X, Sara?
Bre Francis: I didn’t grow up in the Caribbean, but part of me feels like I did, so I think just being able to kind of delve into Caribbean culture, and obviously this is based on a fictional island, which is why I’m generalizing and saying Caribbean culture. Speaking to a lot of aunts as well that might’ve had a similar upbringing to Sara. Then you kind of realize, just, a lot of the feelings that are shared, even though I grew up in London. I felt we were similar in that way and she’s quite stubborn.
Shonette Reed: While you’re not from the Caribbean, you talked to others who are. What are some things that you learned as you read the script and played this character?
Bre Francis: I learned a bit more about that desire that people have to move to another country, for example. I also learned about what it might be like to have a child so young while living in the Caribbean. I learned how it affects education, how it may affect schooling, and attitudes around that as well. How religion plays into the Caribbean culture as well. A lot of the islanders in “Saint X” go to church. God is an essential part of the family dynamic as well.
Shonette Reed: Another part of Sara’s story is that she’s young and she’s in a relationship with Keith Lee. She has a child with Gogo, but she’s never in a relationship with him. And toward the later part of her life on the show she’s married to Edwin who is Gogo’s best friend. What was it like getting into the headspace for acting out relationships with such a complex dynamic?
Bre Francis: Do you know what, there was actually one day when we filmed– I can’t remember exactly what it was, but we filmed the timeline that you see [on the show]. Then me 10-15 years in the future, then one when I was younger. One was like 4 years before. Having to do all of that in such a short space of time, it was quite tricky, but I think what you wear can really affect how you feel.
On days when you don’t really feel like doing anything or you sit in your pajamas, you feel more sluggish. When you put on something else, you feel great. So I think that specifically helped me a lot on a day like that, for example.
Shonette Reed: Your character has a child very young, and we see the dynamic between mother and son, but not too often. How did you bring that to life?
Bre Francis: Well, I love working with kids. Before I was an actor, I was a tutor for like 5-6 years. So, that wasn’t necessarily as difficult to access. I think what was tricky was then translating that love for children to playing a parent. You know? Because that’s a very different thing. I drew from the relationships that I have with my little cousins, for example. I used to do a lot of babysitting.
And the little boy, well, they were twins, who were playing my son, they were very easy to work with as well which made it a lot easier.
Shonette Reed: What was that like, having twin actors playing your son on the show?
Bre Francis: It was like, it was a bit tricky sometimes. Because you have a bond with one and you’re great and they have to switch them out because of time, or whatever, and then the other one’s like “Oh gosh, who are you? What’s going on?” And it depends on what time of day because they were about two. They were children. So, I think that comes with its own difficulties but there were so many positives to it as well. Yeah, there were two of them which is like double cute. Great.
Shonette Reed: In the show, you have this child with Gogo, but because of wrongful accusation by a family who vacations at the resort he worked at, he and Edwin were accused of a crime they had no part in and spent time in prison. How do you think your character navigated the physical distance from with him being in New York and you in the Caribbean?
Bre Francis: I think she feels a lot of shame about having a child young, being with this guy that she doesn’t really like. The aftermath of that: him going to prison. There’s shame around it. There was a lot of internal conflict there where, based on principles, she’s like “I wanna keep in touch. That’s his son.” But, in terms of reputation, she doesn’t want anything to do with him as well. And there’s that sort of battle going on. Which was quite tricky because I have my own opinions as Bre, of the situation, but at the same time [I couldn’t] judge my character.
Shonette Reed: What are some things you did to decompress from acting as Sara?
Bre Francis: I like to listen to music. While playing Sara, I didn’t listen to certain music. There was a time where I didn’t listen to any music at all. That’s kind of what I was talking about when I was talking about the sounds and temperatures.
So, my winding down is just going back to myself. I listen to my music, watching the films I wanna watch. And also, kind of just meditating on a lot of things, writing, journaling, doing some kind of reflection on things just to kind of lay it to rest.
Shonette Reed: What have you learned about yourself since playing this role of Sara?
Bre Francis: I learned how– I think before I started playing her, I was really out of touch with the sadness that I feel as a person and I think Sara forced me to get back in touch–– I can literally feel butterflies in my belly because I can remember that process of getting in touch with my own sadness and the things that I hadn’t addressed to get in touch with hers. Because that was such a block. There’s a thing we say in training where, basically, you can’t leave your real life outside the room- it comes in with you. You know? So, I think Sara taught me how to get in touch with the hard parts of my life.
Born and raised in South Central Los Angeles, Shonette holds a BA in Journalism and Integrated Media and an MA in Intercultural and Urban Studies. She enjoys art in its many forms, reading, cooking, and exploring. Shonette is also the creator of Resolute Magazine– an arts and culture magazine for BIPOC creatives and entrepreneurs pursuing their God-given path.