Photo Credit: Brian Bowen Smith
Sosie Bacon calls us from the gas station. The actress who starred in Amazon Prime’s heartfelt hit As We See It and HBO’s breakout thriller Mare of Easttown is coming back from a long day at the barn—she’s working with a horse named Diamond in hopes they can soon take a ride—and thrumming with the “omg” vibes of fresh air and free time. (Something harder and harder to get, thanks to her emerging rep as The Actress You Need to Know.) We talked with Sosie about radical kindness, grassroots movements, and being hard on yourself vs. being hard on the system.
As We See It, and in a different way Mare of Easttown, are about learning to meet the world as an adult. How does nature play into your sense of growing up?I grew up in New York. When I moved to LA for work, what I found was there were so many more parts of nature that were so easily accessible. I really thrive when I’m able to get outside. I surf, I ride horses, I love to hike. I’ve found that nature is an incredibly important part of my life, so as an adult, I need to build in time to make it a part of my life… But I have to say, California has amazing nature but at great cost. I have to acknowledge that I’m able to enjoy the planet and its resources because of my privilege. I try my very best to treat the planet with respect, and to me, part of that is uplifting the voices of indigenous communities, and people who are having direct experience with climate change or environmental crisis. Being in nature as an adult means acknowledging privilege and taking steps to use your own power for good, and that’s a very important value for me.
How do you find people and organizations you want to support?A lot of the work I’ve been doing in LA and other parts of California is dedicated to grassroots organizing. It’s not connected to one nonprofit; it’s more water drops for refugees, setting up mutual aid, things like that. I have a friend whose lens is very different from mine. So I ask her what she needs, and I use my privilege—time, money, access—to provide those things. We’ll drive down to Tijuana together and work with specific on-the-ground aid groups, for example. It’s a bit more local and a bit more radical; it’s not exactly tied up in a bow I guess? But an amazing non-profit doing lots of great work is Border Kindness.
But it involves listening directly to those who have been displaced or harmed, and giving resources and power back to them.Exactly! You’ve got to listen to the people who are already fighting on the ground. Look at the pipeline protest sites on indigenous lands. The whole point is that someone has gone into their community and said, “This is what we need to do on your land and we’ll make it happen by force!” But the communities fighting on the ground are the experts in what they need. So grassroots organizing, to me, is the most effective way to help indiginious communities reclaim their sovereignty . Especially because these communities are the ones most affected.
Well, racial justice and environmental justice are linked.Yeah! And some people, even some organizations, try to keep those issues separate. Like, I guess you could? But that’s not the truth. The truth is, change and progress are messy. But that’s not just the truth of environmental justice, it’s the truth of life. Do you know I was really kind of nervous for this interview?
What? Why?Because I can say, like, I drive a Prius. I don’t use plastic water bottles. I shop at farmers markets. And that’s all true (most of the time). But those are tiny, tiny drops in the bucket. Those choices I make feel miniscule compared to the people that are fighting for their lives and their community. There are people who have to fight to keep their own land clean, and their own families healthy, and they’re getting pushed against every day. And here I am, going to a TV set and buying a Hydro Flask. Like, does that really matter?
It does, though! Like, yeah, they’re tiny drops in the bucket. But if we all stopped using plastic bottles, and we all ate more plant-based meals, we would have a drastically better outlook on the planet’s future.Yes, that’s true, but even that involves privilege. I have the privilege to be able to have clean water that comes out of my tap, so I don’t need to buy plastic bottles of water. Whereas there are people in the Central Valley of California who can't even drink their own water. And yes, I will do as much as I possibly can, as a person with this privilege. So I think what I’m always trying to solve, or at least confront, is like, “How do we place value in our own choices, because they do matter? And how do we prioritize people more affected, and uplift their voices to prioritize their needs first?” Because the other thing is, right now, only some communities are suffering because of the climate crisis. But eventually, it will be all of us, and we’ll be kicking ourselves that we didn’t do something sooner. I just want to scream, “Why aren’t you listening to people who have been stewards of this land since before we had words for this land?!” It can get infuriating.
Anger takes up a lot of space. What kinds of rituals or resting phases do you have so that you can keep going?Surfing is a big one for me because the power of the ocean is always going to top the power of one person. It’s so relaxing to me. It reminds me that nature lives on and we’re just lucky to be here enjoying it. Also, and this is where I need to talk about privilege again, I just got a horse out here. I can’t even ride her yet—she's way too nervous. It’s so ironic that I ended up paired with this horse specifically, because she’s so neurotic, well more alert than neurotic. I needed to control my anxiety to create a relationship with her. I needed to gain her trust. So I walk her around, I brush her, I clean her feet. I’m building a relationship slowly with her. I think it's such a powerful thing that you can have an emotional relationship with a wave, or a horse, or a mountain. It’s a real reminder we’re all connected to something bigger than just us.
Do you have a favorite vegan junk food?There is this place in LA called My Vegan Gold. And when I first moved here, they had these vegan chicken nuggets that I would eat over regular chicken nuggets any day of the week. They're stringy on the inside and crispy outside, which sounds gross but it’s amazing. If you can’t get those, the ones from Whole Foods are also very good.
Everybody says vegan chicken nuggets!It’s a comfort food! It’s what you have when you’re little. And I love ketchup, that’s vegan right?
Our motto is “Let good grow wild.” What does that mean to you?I think one of the most radical things you can do for the planet, and the world, is just to love and accept things as they are. You can love wildly, and you can do good wildly, and you need to love yourself wildly. Don’t be too hard on yourself, because if you are, you’ll just get stuck, you know? I like that I said that after I was just so hard on myself in this interview. [Laughing.] But yeah, those small steps do really matter. Don’t count yourself out.