Sosie Bacon Wants You to Stick With Kristen

By Allie Waxman

The actor behind the impassioned Kristen Bayer-Boatwright talks about growing up in the age of social media, teenage insecurity and standing up for yourself.


HBO: Who is Kristen to you?

Sosie Bacon: Kristen’s grappling with the ideas of growing up in this day and age, being “woke,” but also not quite understanding where she comes from and her privilege as a white person in this family of people of color. She’s so wrapped up in her own life, which is typical of a lot of young people, she can’t really step out and see how good she’s had it. Her journey is coming to understand that and getting some clarity on her privilege. Privilege is invisible to those who have it, and that’s what I think Kristen’s character is showing.

HBO: Why does Kristen make a fake Facebook profile?

Sosie Bacon: When you’re on social media, all you see are people having a better time than you. People who are prettier or smarter or who have more boyfriends than you, and that jealousy is so powerful. She’s not doing malicious catfishing, she’s just trying to be cool and pretty and have guys like her, which is such an age-old thing for a teenager to want. Nowadays, we get that validation and that love through having people like our Instagrams.

HBO: Does Kristen feel like an outcast in her family?

Sosie Bacon: I don’t know that she feels like an outcast because the family is very strong and they love each other very much. She does get a good amount of attention from her parents and her siblings. I think it’s a bit deeper than that because she feels like she’s not as interesting, cool or as worthy as her siblings. Her parents are very liberal; they almost want to apologize for the wrongdoings of the history of America. They love other cultures and she sees that, and she sees she’s not a part of it.

HBO: Kristen seems to be closest with Ramon. Why do they have such a close bond?

Sosie Bacon: Ramon and Kristen are the closest in age and she finds Ramon comforting. He was always there for her and I think vice versa. Ramon maybe felt closest to Kristen because he could tell her anything and she wouldn’t judge him. She’s a lot of things but she’s definitely not judgemental.

HBO: All of the kids respond differently to what Ramon is going through. What’s Kristen’s take?

Sosie Bacon: I think she’s lost a really important support system, and that feels like the rug being ripped out from under her. Ramon is her rock and he’s spiraling. I think she feels sad and stressed about that. She wants her mom to stop trying to identify his issue, but she’s at a loss; she has no tools to understand what to do in that situation. I think she’s just frustrated with her mom.

HBO: Tell me about Kristen’s relationship with Audrey.

Sosie Bacon: I think she struggles with Audrey but I don’t see their relationship as this incredibly fraught thing. I think they say a lot of things to each other that can seem very cutting, but sometimes when you get used to talking to each other like that, it just comes out. I don’t think either means much by it. Audrey’s helicopter parent behavior can be a little frustrating. You’re watching her do all these things for her kids, and her kids are like, “I don’t want you to do those things for me.” But at the same time, they’re super-close.

You can see that in real times of duress, Kristen goes to her mom.That scene where she tells her mom she has chlamydia, and her mom softens is a really telling scene. A lot of parents would freak out and disown you. Kristen’s surprise that her mom was sweet about it is truly the nature of their relationship.

“Kristen is not this unredeemable person that never understands she’s behaving badly. She’s 17 and when she messes up, she gets it.”
— Sosie Bacon

HBO: Why is sex such a big focus for Kristen this season?

Sosie Bacon: Insecurity is a beast. The thought of being “chosen” by a man, when you think you’re ugly and unworthy is a major aphrodisiac. If somebody likes you and you feel like sh*t about yourself, you’re going to do things that you wouldn’t normally do. I don’t know any woman who wouldn’t say that. That’s the truth of growing up in a patriarchal society. I hope it’s changing.

HBO: But she stands up to Rob at the end of Episode 4 [“Hide and Seek”].

Sosie Bacon: That’s where Kristen is a badass. She realizes, OK, that’s too far, that’s my boundary, I’m not going to cross it. And then she basically does something that a lot of people would consider incredibly humiliating.That’s where Kristen is maybe a little different from me when I was a teenager. It’s hard to stand up like that when you’re young.

HBO: “Hide and Seek” is the first time Kristen and Navid interact. Why didn’t she take to him initially? And what changed?

Sosie Bacon: The power of popularity and coolness as a kid is so strong. Your initial instinct is to hang with the kids that are cool. After the Rob situation, she realizes “God, these people that I wanted attention from so badly aren’t doing anything for me.” So she’s like, “I’m going to go hang out with this person,” and she realizes in that initial conversation with Navid that this is her person.