“Aussies are my people. There’s nature here on the Gold Coast, always something beautiful to look at,” Sophia Ali shares with BLUNT. She’s been spending time down under filming the highly-anticipated second season of Amazon Prime hit The Wilds, a thriller that starts with teens getting stranded on an island and only gets more sinister from there. Ali adds that she had “hoped for a positive response” to its debut last year, but caveats: “You never know what people will think.”
She plays Fatin Jadmani in the show, a character impetuous to the superficial judgements that she’s subject to from her peers who proves herself to be more complex and likeable than all of them put together. Be it disrupting the predominantly white casting model of the film and television industry or playing a character like Fatin that deconstructs stereotypes herself, Ali deliberately continues to advocate for meaningful representations of women in her work.
Looking back on the first season of the show, she asserts that filming it in New Zealand was “life-changing” and adds: “I always learn something on a job, but that was a pivotal time in my life, I was absorbing everything and changing every day.” That energy is being carried through to the show’s follow-up season, as Ali points out that the people that she’s met filming recently are inspiring her the most right now. “They’re working so tirelessly to make something good and I find it inspiring. It’s a reminder that everything is good for you if you care about it.”
It would be hard to argue that Ali doesn’t care about everything that she does, as she continues to knock her goal of fostering diversity in film and television out of the park. Her recent feature in Geeta Malik’s India Sweets and Spices sees her portray the daughter of an Indian-American family in a unique yet undeniably resonant coming of age narrative, credited at Tribeca recently as a triumphant representation of real intergenerational experiences.
“When I was a kid, I didn’t have someone on TV I could relate to so if I can provide that for even just one little girl,” Ali explains, “then I’ve done my job.” When asked if she ever felt like it would be a challenge for her to pursue that, she answers: “Going back to not feeling represented on TV as a teenager, I grew up in a world where everyone’s idea of who I was shifted based on that individual’s exposure. I’m hoping for a chance to be myself and not have to answer to the people who wonder why I’m not culturally like whatever ethnic background they think I might have.”
You’d have to imagine that Ali does feel like she’s achieved her goal. Her stint on Grey’s Anatomy as the first doctor to wear a hijab is widely recognised as a milestone for television, although contemplating that it took this long to represent a character like hers on one of the longest-running shows in history should make us all feel a little bit ashamed of ourselves. So, does Ali think we’re evolving? “I think so,” she answers. “I’m on TV playing fully-fledged characters. That seems like a big indication.”
By all accounts, Ali is set to do more than just play characters on television, although that’s obviously an achievement few ever get far enough to tuck under their belt in and of itself. She wants to direct her own features someday and continues to pursue her passion for writing, despite admitting to being “a perfectionist” when it comes to exploring it more in the future.
She elaborates: “I have so much I want to do. I want to challenge myself to all kinds of extremes as far as characters. I want to experience it all, when it comes to acting, I want to explore every avenue. I’m going to reiterate I’d also love to direct my own feature someday.”
On the subject of exploring other avenues, Ali is about to enter an entirely new world when the Uncharted film finally drops next year, a major blockbuster that’s going to shoot her into the stratosphere of super-fandom sooner rather than later. Co-starring alongside Tom Holland’s Nathan Drake, Ali plays Chloe Frazer, an Indian-Australian treasure hunter in the video games that even got her own installment independent of Drake in the form of Uncharted: Lost Legacy. Given how beloved the series is, Ali is feeling the heat a little bit, but that’s never stopped her before.
“So much pressure, man. Chloe is a badass,” she points out, “I mean she’s a video game character. I’m a fan of the games. I only hope I did Chloe and fellow gamers justice in my rendition of her.”
There’s no doubt that she did, as Ali continues to build upon the foundation of integrity, authenticity, and hard work that’s paved the path to where she is right now. That’s what success looks like for her, and in that case, at the age of only 25, Ali has achieved exactly what she had always hoped to.
“Gavin DeGraw puts it perfectly,” she jokes. “I don’t want to be anything other than what I’ve been trying to be lately.”