Sabrina Jalees on “Portrait of a Serial Monogamist” and writing queer storylines on NBC’s “Crowded”

AE: I want to talk about acting now. It seemed like you did have fun shooting Portrait of a Serial Monogamist. Do you want to do more acting?

SJ: Of course, yeah. I just signed with WME, which is William Morris, which is like a huge agency.


AE: Yeah!

SJ: As soon as I signed with that agency was when I got the writing gig for the NBC sitcom, which is called Crowded! And that’s going to premiere probably in March sometime. But it also means that I’ve got this great new agent who looks out for me for acting roles. And I recently auditioned for this movie that I really thought the script was funny. All of a sudden it’s like kind of this thing where when I was talking about that period in time where I moved from Toronto to New York and I sort of fantasized about all these opportunities at that time I felt entitled to, it’s like there’s been a seven, eight year delay and all of a sudden–and I couldn’t be happier for the timing. Because we’re so impatient as people. Especially when you’re ambitious and in this field, you have this idea of like, “Well I’ve got to get this now! And I want to do this now!” And what I’ve realized in moving here and then rebuilding my act in New York and then coming to LA is that the timing aspect of it, you put that on the backburner and focus on getting better. So for the acting thing, in terms of these opportunities coming now, I’m so excited. Because I am more ready now. Working on Portrait of a Serial Monogamist was really cool, and that was like a cool step into having scenes in a movie where it was so supportive. Like everyone on set was either a friend of mine for like almost a decade or they felt like a friend of mine. There was a very warm, comfortable set environment. And what I’m realizing too, as I get better as a stand-up comic, is it’s the same sorts of things that make you great on stage that make you great as an actor. But different.

When I am cast, it’s when I am being me. I’m never going to be like a Meryl Streep-type actress that you’re like, “Oh my god, is that Sabrina Jalees, or a real dragon?” Meryl Streep doesn’t play dragons. “Is that Sabrina Jalees or–“ Anyway, I don’t want to go there. We don’t have that much time. I don’t want to riff on roles that Meryl Streep plays. What’s a role that Meryl Streep plays? I’m desperate.

 Sabrina Jalees (left) and Diane Flicks (right) in PORTRAIT OF A SERIAL MONOGAMIST - Courtesy of Wolfe Video

AE: Margaret Thatcher in The Iron Lady.

SJ: Yes. Thank you so much. No one’s ever going to be like, “Is that Sabrina Jalees, or the real Margaret Thatcher?”


AE: Speaking of roles that are more maybe in line with you, your character in Portrait of a Serial Monogamist, she’s pretty smooth, and she has these amazing instincts. Are you “that kind of lesbian”?

SJ: I think I am, but I think that something you need to know about Sarah is like she does talk like she’s pretty smooth, but she also fucks up. My perception of her was–just actually going back to what we were talking about of like being a role model, I like talking as if I know everything. I like talking in absolutes like, “No, no, no, no. This is the bar where you meet the hot girls.” And then in walks just a bunch of weird looking construction workers. But I think that Sarah thinks she knows everything about picking up women, but by the end of the movie, and I don’t want to spoil anything because there are a lot of Sarah-heads out there that would not want me to give anything away, but she’s not the player that she thought she was.


AE: So one of the things I really liked about Portrait of a Serial Monogamist is that it pays tribute to Toronto. How accurate of a depiction of Toronto’s queer lady scene do you think the movie presents? If you can remember it. I know it’s been a while.

SJ: Let me get out my memory book. I think it’s pretty accurate. I mean, if not for the fact that it was made by and stars a lot of people in the queer community in Toronto. And I love that part.


AE: Can you tell us more about your work on Crowded!? The premise of the show, and also if there’s any possibility for a lesbian storyline on the show.

SJ: Guess what?


AE: What?!

SJ: The character Stella, one of the daughters, is sexually fluid. And yeah, she makes out with a girl in the first episode that I was writing on. We got to play with that kind of storyline, which was really refreshing and indicative too oflike this is an NBC sitcom, so the fact that everyone was game to be casual about sexuality the way someone that age–Stella’s in her early 20s–would be, is really cool.


AE: It kind of sounds like it won’t be a one-off. This is one of the main characters, right? That itself is great. But also, if she’s sexually fluid, this is probably something that will be revisited again?

SJ: Yeah, for sure. Totally. This is part of her identity and she in the first season, I mean not to blow anything, but I think she’s very much open to dating more women in the second season. The show, Crowded!, the premise is that two daughters move back in with their parents, who were just about to enjoy having the empty nest and all of a sudden everything’s crowded. But also the grandparents were going to move away because of the kids were gone, but then the grandparents don’t move away.


AE: And potentially it gets more crowded if their daughter’s maybe future girlfriend moves in.

SJ: I mean, yeah.


AE: Are there any other projects you’re working on right now?

SJ: Yeah. My friend Liza Treyger and I are developing a show that we’re hopefully going to sell in the next couple of months. I don’t want to say too much about it, but it’s a travel show, and I’m really excited about that. I also have a pilot, an original pilot, called Sun-in-Law that’s kind of based on if my wife and I moved in with my in-laws.


Portrait of a Serial Monogamist begins its theater run in Los Angeles at the Arena Cinema on Jan. 29 and in Toronto on Feb. 12 at the Carlton Cinema. Wolfe Video is releasing the movie on DVD and VOD on Feb. 9.

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