Town & Country
Why Actress Sophie von Haselberg Is Suddenly Everywhere
by ADAM RATHE
MAY 31, 2017
Perhaps you noticed her as the smart, put-together lawyer working for Bernie Madoff in the recent HBO movie The Wizard of Lies. Or perhaps you clocked her as the similarly no-nonsense political staffer Tanya Benson in the just-released fifth season of Netflix’s House of Cards. Either way, Sophie von Haselberg has made her mark on some of the season’s most talked about releases—she also starred in and produced the short YOYO, which appeared at the Tribeca Film Festival.
The New York-based actress, the daughter of the artist Martin von Haselberg and the multi-talented performer Bette Midler, isn’t planning on slowing down any time soon. Here, she talks to T&C about her latest roles, as well as taking up acting despite making every effort to find another career.
You’re on the new season of House of Cards, which just came out this week. How’d you land that?
Honestly, I was called in for an audition. I went. And then I totally forgot about it until they called me again. I tried to push it out of my mind. Later, I was in Norway on a trip with friends and my manager called me to say, “You got the House of Cards job.” I was in a car with all of these people and we all started freaking out. Then I had to fly back a couple days later to start work.
This season, the series seems to mimic some real-life political hijinks. Was anything on the show pulled from the headlines, since they’ve been almost stranger than fiction over the past few months?
I have no idea if they were intending for things to unfold on the show as they were in real life, but the parallels are uncanny. I remember reading one of the episodes I was in and just being shocked at how real it seemed.
In Cards, you play a character in the show that doesn’t feel so different from the lawyer you played in Wizard of Lies. They’re both smart, young, ambitious, and involved in things that are much bigger than them. Were you looking for that kind of role?
They do feel like they’re cut from the same cloth. It’s funny because I love to do comedy, but these two things that are coming out back to back are quite serious, business-minded characters. They have some of the same ambitions.
Playing two character like that in a row, does that change what you’re looking for next?
I try to be very open in terms of what comes my way and to not be goal-oriented about what happens next. I don’t want to be disappointed! I just want to work more, and whatever those characters are, they will be.
You had YOYO at the Tribeca Film Festival—and you were a producer. What was that experience like for you?
This was actually my first time producing. People in my life, at drama school or wherever, have said that as an actor you’re going to want to get involved in producing because there is going to come a time when you want more agency over your career. I always put that thought in the back of my mind, until my friend Nicole Delaney, who’s a wonderful director and writer, and I decided to make something together. She said that we’d produce it also, but at the time I had no idea what that meant. It ended up being an amazing experience, and we collaborated the whole time and it was quite seamless. I feel so lucky that my first experience producing was with someone who, although she’s young, had a great handle on how to make things happen.
I’d heard that you tried your hand at a number of other careers to try to avoid becoming an actor. Why’d you do that?
I studied a lot of things, I’ve lived in a bunch of places, and I tried not to become an actor. My mom, when I was a kid, would tell me, “Save yourself.” She didn’t want me to go into the business, even though in the back of my mind I always knew it was what I would end up doing. I tried to focus on other things for a long time, but eventually I wanted it so badly that I couldn’t anymore. I didn’t want to go through life being miserable because I couldn’t do the one thing I wanted to do.