For Sinclair Daniel, working in Hollywood has been like the schoolyard game Red Light, Green Light. "I've only been professionally acting since 2019, but that was cut abruptly by the pandemic," she says, speaking the day before talks between SAG-AFTRA and AMPTP stalled. "This year, with all of the negotiations, contract disputes and strikes, it feels like this is the nature of the beast. You get one step forward, one step back."
Yet things are definitely moving in the right direction for Daniel. While filming her "first role of sizable matter" in the horror feature Insidious: The Red Door, she auditioned for Hulu's adaptation of Zakiya Dalila Harris's 2021 novel, The Other Black Girl. She plays Nella, an ambitious young book editor whose workplace tensions seem to evaporate when a Black coworker named Hazel (Ashleigh Murray) is hired. Their sisterhood turns sinister, however, when Nella discovers Hazel's horrific intentions. All ten episodes drop September 13.
While reading The Other Black Girl, Daniel appreciated the mistakes Nella makes while searching for the truth about Hazel. "We don't have a lot of young Black female characters like this," she says. "Oftentimes we're put on a pedestal of being sage, brilliant, wise, soulful, magical — or problematic, angry, antagonistic. But Nella is a young modern woman who is all of it."
She found another connection: "Nella was raised in Connecticut and around a lot of whiteness. Even in her twenties, she's still in conversation with her own Black identity," says Daniel, who grew up shuttling between Pasadena, California, and the D.C. metro area but now calls Brooklyn home. "Nella has this shame and curiosity about herself, which I really relate to. Having gone to a lot of PWIs [predominantly white institutions] — and as a lot of the Black women I've met can relate — it's a journey," she says. "Her story encapsulates that."
The interviews for this story were completed before the start of the WGA and SAG-AFTRA strikes.
This article originally appeared in emmy magazine issue #10, 2023, under the title, "Green Light."