Coming off its recent release on Netflix, we wanted to speak to one of the stars of the South African indie feature Sodium Day. Taylor Storm sat down with Casting Networks via Zoom to share the story of how she landed her role in the teen drama that tackles some of the social issues in her home country. Keep reading to learn the unique casting process that included Storm and her college classmates having a hand in developing their characters in Riaz Solker’s 2022 film, along with how the actor is handling all the exposure that’s come with its Netflix debut.
It’s great to virtually see you, Taylor. Before we dive into your casting story, I’d love to hear how you’d sum up your character of Victoria Bentley on Sodium Day.
Victoria is the valedictorian at her high school and essentially a version of Hermione Granger. She’s extremely diligent and very much likes to follow the rules. Victoria knows what her family and teachers expect of her, and she kind of operates within that little bubble. The character hasn’t really broken out of her shell yet and has a lot of growing to do as a person. But she takes a lot of pride in her work ethic and truly wants to help the people around her live their best lives. Victoria’s laser focus on that goal can sometimes leave her a bit unempathetic to situations she doesn’t understand, though.
Well, Sodium Day touches on a lot of very important themes, including racism. And I want to pause here to say that any of my responses about the movie that relate to social issues in South Africa come from my own experience. In answering questions about the film, I’ll do my best to bridge the cultural gap with an American audience by explaining issues some South Africans face. But I want to recognize that I’m coming from a place of privilege and can’t fully understand what it’s like to have grown up under different circumstances in my country.
That makes sense.
As far as the character, Victoria doesn’t view herself as racist, but she is very ignorant of the problems experienced by people who didn’t grow up with her level of privilege. She’s aware of the limited opportunities that people of color in South Africa are offered, but the reality of living within those circumstances is sort of lost on her. So, Victoria is trying very hard to help those around her, but in her naivete, she doesn’t fully understand the reality of the situation.
Thanks for sharing that insight into the role. And what can you tell us about the process of booking it?
There wasn’t a traditional casting process for this role because it actually came from a school project during the final year of my undergrad program at CityVarsity in Cape Town. The school brought in an industry professional named Riaz Solker who wrote, produced and directed Sodium Day. He came during the final term of the year and spent about three weeks just getting to know everyone, which also included some general acting exercises. From there, he assessed what types of characters would be a good fit for us. He told me I could easily play someone who is very nurturing and cares but who also — as he phrased it — “takes no sh-t.” [Laughs] And after figuring out the roles, he basically workshopped his concept for Sodium Day in class. I mean, he was the one scribing everything, but we’d read the working script in class and then sort of shout out ideas. Then Riaz would go home, make edits, write some more and bring it back. It was very much his writing, but our voices were taken into consideration.
Because the characters were based on you all?
Yes. How we behaved in class at CityVarsity definitely correlated with how our high school characters were portrayed in Sodium Day. My classmate Ashlon Thomas is a good example. He could be disruptive in class at times because he had this sort of stream-of-consciousness dialogue constantly flowing, and his character in the film — Brian aka “Blah Blah” — reflects that. Additionally, our class was similar to the central class of the film in that people came from different areas. Some were from the Cape Flats, which might be similar to what is called in American slang “the hood.” Others in class had housing situations that were not quite squatter camps but adjacent to them. Some people were always late because they had to rely on the metro system in South Africa, which is so unreliable. And other classmates from more privileged backgrounds would have a hard time understanding the realities that come with living in such circumstances. So, there are some real aspects of the film that directly correlate to our class. But Riaz also pulled from his own experience as a teacher for Sodium Day. The script was inspired by a plethora of real stories from either us or Riaz or somebody he knew.
Behind the scenes during the filming of ‘Sodium Day.’ Courtesy of Taylor Storm.
It’s fascinating to hear how a project you did through your undergraduate program back in South Africa culminated in a feature film that’s now available to Netflix users here in the States. And before we wrap, I’d love to hear how playing the role has impacted your career so far.
Aside from doing background work, it was the first time any of us had been on a professional film set. So, Sodium Day greatly impacted my career at the time because it was a taste of that real-world experience. That meant that when I moved to LA and started acting more regularly, it wasn’t such a learning curve. And then having it come to Netflix and become widely available has brought attention to my career in the sense that it feels like I’m being taken more seriously as an actor. I’m not going to lie to you, though. It’s caused a bit of imposter syndrome because Sodium Day has given me the smallest, most minute taste of fame.
Can you elaborate?
My following account on social media quickly increased after the film released on Netflix, and people rapidly started reaching out with questions for and messages to me. It’s a part of the industry I hadn’t really considered before now. I’d been preparing and training for years to be on camera and on the stage, but the press side of things has been the biggest learning curve. You know, interacting with the public because of Sodium Day has been the biggest shift I’ve felt since it released on Netflix. It’s exciting but also scary because I have no idea what else it will lead to. I know I need to take this one step at a time and just be kind to myself, though. The perfectionist part of my brain wants to believe that this is it — I have to do everything right in order to capitalize on the opportunity. But I’m realizing that I have to give myself a bit of grace and recognize it’s okay if I make a mistake or feel a bit awkward in all of this. That’s been my biggest lesson so far and the one for which I’m most grateful.
Following the Netflix debut of Sodium Day, those interested in keeping up with the actor’s career journey — that took her from South Africa to Los Angeles — can find Storm on Instagram, where she frequently posts about her work.
This interview has been edited and condensed.
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