rules to live by

Sarah Goldberg Can’t Make It Tonight, She Has Lines to Learn

Photo-Illustration: by The Cut; Photo: Getty Images

“It sounds so cheesy, but we came out the other side a lot stronger,” Sarah Goldberg says about creating a show with Susan Stanley, her best friend of 20 years. Both actresses co-write and star in the AMC+ series SisterS, a six-episode dramedy about a Canadian (Goldberg) who travels to Ireland to find her biological father, inadvertently discovering she has a half-sister (Stanley). “Honestly, the thing we’re most proud of is that we made a show and we’re still friends.”

Goldberg says the work on SisterS began as a “labor of love” seven years ago, coincidentally around the time she auditioned for the role of Sally Reid on HBO’s critically acclaimed series Barry, which just wrapped its fourth and final season. The Emmy-nominated actress hopes life won’t imitate art in the midst of this surreal full-circle moment — on Barry, Sally writes and creates Joplin, a show-within-the-show that gets promptly canceled after the streaming service on which it airs declares the show wasn’t popular enough among certain “taste clusters,” according to their algorithm. Luckily for us, Goldberg brings that uncanny ability to tap into existential, emotional extremes to SisterS, making for a performance just as captivating to watch as her star turn on Barry.

SisterS feels so Canadian: the way Sare is written; every time she says “sorry” in her accent. Was that intentional?

I lived in London for years and then New York and now I’m back in London, so when I say sorry I say saw-ree. I had to remember it’s sore-ee. I had to get my sorries back in. Sare was very much me when I moved to London years ago. We’re just culturally apologetic, aren’t we? I had to learn how to wash that off. If you do that too much in England, you’ll get yourself in trouble.

What were some unexpected challenges of co-writing and co-creating this show with your best friend? 

I know a lot of writers who work alone and it’s really isolating. But we could experience all the highs and lows together. There’s an intimacy to working like that — which is challenging, and yet it made our relationship all the stronger. To still be best friends is our great pride. We really got to know each other in new ways; we truly are sisters of the soul. There’s no going back.

Now getting into our Rules to Live By questions — what’s your No. 1 rule for a successful dinner party? 

Good wine, good people, good lighting — I have a drawer of candles — and good tunes.

What’s your No. 1 fashion rule? 

Always buy vintage. This jacket I’m wearing is actually a ’90s Liz Claiborne number.

How about your No. 1 rule for sending a gift? 

I lean toward the sentimental. Something that’s going to last, that has some kind of meaning and will pull on the heartstrings. Make them cry when they open that present, you know? That or something drinkable.

On that note, would you send an Edible Arrangement? 

I’m never really one for the Edible Arrangement, but I think it’s something I’m going to explore in my older years. There’s nothing like getting cake or cookies in the mail, is there? I always opt for bubbles or flowers. But I’m going to lean into the chocolate-covered strawberries soon.

What’s your No. 1 rule for tipping? 

Tip big. You’re never going to miss those extra dollars, and you might make someone’s night. I was a waitress at a pub in Notting Hill, and that money would’ve gone a lot further for me then. They’re not big on tipping in London, and I can’t say I was really making my rent on it, so I’m trying to make up for that in the karma of life. I tip big. You want to leave proud of your tip, not, like, shamefully exiting while covering your face.

What’s your No. 1 rule for advice giving? 

Read the room and listen, because sometimes you might think you have just the thing somebody needs to hear but it actually needs to come from them. So advice that’s led by a question is maybe more useful in allowing someone to come to some decision themself.

What’s your No. 1 rule for canceling plans? 

I try to be honest … but I have given in to the white lie many times. Come up with a good, plausible white lie. Let them down gently. [Laughs.]

What’s your go-to white lie?

I often use work as an excuse, which is quite low. “I have lines to learn!” That’s a lie. If I ever say that to you, I’m lying. A lot of actors use “I have a self-tape.” That’s one that no one can reject, because we know the pain of the self-tape due the next day. You can’t question it.

What’s your No. 1 rule for dating? 

Oh, it’s been so long since I’ve been on a date with anyone except for my husband. I suppose my rule for him is “Let’s try something new.” Take me somewhere I haven’t been.

Do you think it’s okay to ghost after one date? 

When I was really dating, ghosting was not a term that was used yet. When I learned what it meant, I was horrified! It’s not okay to ghost — be a grown-up. Send them a message unless someone is truly awful or dangerous. A kind message can go a long way.

What’s your No. 1 rule for meeting other famous people?

I try to give compliments where they’re earned. I really lost my shit when I met Dianne Wiest; it’s the one time I really lost my cool. I said, “I love you, I love you, I love you.” And she went, “and I love you!” And I said, “No, I love you.” So my main rule would be don’t do that. That one’s out. But if I admire someone’s work, I will always say it.

Has anyone ever lost their cool meeting you?

One guy on an airplane ripped my headphones off my head and told me he loves me. So that was terrifying. There should definitely be a rule that says don’t rip headphones off the head of an unsuspecting person. But mostly people who are fans of Barry will come over in a really lovely, polite, Canadian way, and that’s lovely. Anyone who invades your personal space, that’s always a red flag. Isn’t that just human decency? Don’t grab someone you don’t know!

What’s your No. 1 rule on set?  

Always steal snacks. The crafting on Barry was out of this world, like the most incredible array of food you’ve ever seen. Dangerous. I would usually wear an oversize jacket onto the stages because they’re so cold. Big pockets is the key, I’d fill them with all the snacks to take home for later. Especially sparkling water; we always had so much LaCroix on set. Once a theater actor, always a theater actor.

What’s your No. 1 rule for ordering food? 

Overorder. You’ll always eat those leftovers. Most things that can come by delivery taste better the next day. If I’m buying dinner, it tends to be dinner, lunch, and dinner the next day. Never waste it, and always recycle the packaging.

What rules do you have around your phone?  

I have zero social media. I think that has saved my mental health. Other than that … I try not to use it in bed, but I fail. I tend to wake up and think, Don’t check your email until you’ve had coffee. But I’m often under the duvet scrolling. No social-media scrolling, just email scrolling.

You don’t even have a secret account for a niche social=media platform?

I have nothing. But what’s terrible is if someone lends me their phone and clicks on Instagram, it’s such an assault on the senses because I’m so not used to it, and I become an instant temporary addict until someone snatches it away from me. I feel like I know myself well enough to know that it would be a bottomless addiction, so I never got started.

Do you gossip?

I mean … yeah. Does anyone get through life without gossiping? I try to cut myself off, but sometimes it can be a guilty pleasure. Harmless gossip, you know? Nothing with malice!

Sarah Goldberg Can’t Make It Tonight, She Has Lines to Learn