Sabrina Carpenter talks Singular, The Hate U Give and the film she wants to make with Joey King

21 December 2018, 12:30 | Updated: 21 December 2018, 14:21

Sabrina Carpenter talks Singular Act I, The Hate U Give and Joey King
Sabrina Carpenter talks Singular Act I, The Hate U Give and Joey King. Picture: YouTube

By Sam Prance

Sabrina Carpenter is just getting started...

You may not know it yet but Sabrina Carpenter is a star.

After wowing audiences alongside Rowan Blanchard on Disney's hit series Girl Meets World, the 19-year-old has since gone on to release one EP, three albums and a variety of amazing singles. Not only that but Sabrina has just starred alongside the likes of Amandla Stenberg, KJ Apa and Regina Hall in one of this year's most critically acclaimed films: The Hate U Give.

Now Sabrina is ready to take her career to the next level. Her new album Singular Act I sees her team up with some of pop's biggest hitmakers and the results are sublime. From the brash confidence of 'Sue Me' to the brooding magic of 'Paris', it's a remarkable project and it's all held together by Sabrina's voice and writing talent.

Sabrina's also just filmed her first leading role in a movie in The Long History of the Short Road and Singular Act II is due out in 2019. We caught up with Sabrina to discuss the Singular era, working on The Hate U Give and when she will finally make a film with her "husband" Joey King.

How does it feel to have released one of the best pop albums of the year?

Well when you give it that title, it feels pretty damn good. It's crazy because it's been inside my own ears and my own head and my own emails for two years and to see how it grew and how people have adapted to my change is really cool. It's really nice when you have such a departure from what you've normally done and people like it.

You've worked with new producers like Stargate and The Monsters & Strangerz on this record but then also with people you've worked with for a while like Leland. How does it compare when you're working with someone you know versus someone you don't know.

Well it's interesting because now I'm so comfortable with all of those collaborators you've mentioned. So I feel like I've been working with them as long as Leland. I actually ended up collaborating on a song on Act II that I wrote with Leland and Stargate, so it's nice when you have those people that you're so comfortable with that you can fit and mould into these other groupings and pairings. I'm a 19-year-old who wants to be everything so a huge part for me was to be able to find people who not only understood me but also saw where I was going and could help me see where I was going.

This is also the first full project that you've co-written every track...

Yeah. Wow that's so cool!

...which is the most personal song do you think?

I would say 'Sue Me'. I mean they're all personal because they all came from my own experiences but I think 'Sue Me' was one of those really rare scenarios where it's not every day that it happens (Sabrina’s ex managers sued her for commissions after she left them) and it's not every day that you're able to write a song about it. So when this particular situation occurred in my life I went to the studio pretty immediately after that and that was the song we wrote. It just felt big.

It's so clever because obviously it's inspired by a legal situation and yet anyone can relate to it.

I wanted to make sure that it was relatable when we were writing it and it made sense because it's such a common saying. It's something that l grew up hearing from everybody. Sue me for being something you can't forget is the sentiment of the song and I think a great anthem for anybody that's leaving a toxic relationship whether that's a romantic relationship or friendship or whatever it may be and just feeling like they can leave on top if they can get out of it.

Every lyric in the song is almost like a life mantra. Is there one in particular that sticks out to you?

I think my favourite in the song is "that's my shape I made the shadow". At the end of the day, no matter what, it's you and, no matter who tries to take credit for anything, it's you. It's your name, it's your face, it's your voice. You've gotten yourself to where you are and obviously people can help along the way but this came from a personal situation where people were trying to take credit for work that I did for a very long time. It just felt like that was something that I needed to say and get out there and I think it was the perfect way to describe it.

Also it's such a body positive lyric as well.

Absolutely. Many meanings.

What other songs on Singular Act I would you like to be singles?

I let the people decide. That's not up to me. They're literally all songs that I love and would be happy to release as singles. I wouldn't want to release a song without thinking "oh this could possibly be a single down the road".

Well when you dropped 'Paris' it felt like such a moment and then 'Bad Time' came out and it sounded like a hit too. Every song on the project feels like that. It's literally an evolution for you.

That's so sweet. Thank you. I'm so glad you like 'Paris' too. The French bridge in that song was because the producer was like: "we NEED a Britney moment".

You're one of the only stars from your Disney generation who's sort of stepping into that pop landscape now and it's really cool to watch.

That's really special thank you. It's kind of crazy too because I feel like I entered Disney at a weird point where everyone else was growing out of Disney. I wasn't the lead of my show either, it was always very much an ensemble. That's why I wanted to keep them separate because I want to make sure that my music is its own thing.

As a young woman in the industry is it hard to get people to listen to you? And as you've gotten older has it become easier?

Easier? Um?! (laughs) Yes and no. I think there are a lot of people around me that see the passion I put behind my music and how hard working and dedicated I am that trust me in a lot of scenarios. I still think there's people that question and maybe don't understand certain choices of mine. It's been really interesting to see the people that are super open and the people that are more critical. I mean that's part of life. You deal with those people in whatever industry you're in.

Sexism really is screwing women over everywhere.

It's in every industry and you see it now more than ever. I think because social media's given us that opportunity to be able to share our experiences of it from the smallest of levels to the largest of levels, people can't ignore it.

Talking about social media (tenuous link), it's been so important to the Black Lives Matter movement which is what The Hate U Give is based on. What was it like to play Hailey who is a character who isn't...

Likeable?

Yeah.

I don't think anybody had seen me play a role like this (Hailey is one of Starr's best friends who fails to understand the ways in which she is complicit in racism). The reaction has been so interesting because people have been like "I really wanna say good job but also I don't want people to know that I know you". That kind of reaction is great because it means that I did what I had to do. As much as it's not a role that people like, it's unfortunately a role that helps you understand why the movie was made.

I think as white people we always need to check ourselves and the people in our lives when it comes to racism and microaggressions.

And there's some extreme and some non extreme but it's the littlest of things that you don't realise that have effects. No one wants to say they are ignorant but so often these things come from a place of ignorance because of privilege. Hailey wasn't just an evil girl or a villain or the mean girl in school. She was Starr's friend so that's what made it hurt more. So yeah it was hard for me but I also believe that it will be beneficial to lots of people.

The response has been crazy worldwide.

Yeah. And I think a lot of my fans or even just people in the young teen generation will go see the film because Amandla's in it or KJ's in it or the whole young cast like Lamar and Dominique. And if they don't know what they're going to see, I think they'll leave with a lot of questions and wanting to talk to people in their lives which is what we hope for.

You mentioned you worked with KJ and Amandla. The whole cast is incredible. What were they all like to work with?

Amazing. Every single person. I obviously spent a lot more time with Amandla and Megan on set but you could tell everyone a part of that project believed in it a hundred percent and their heart was in it. You could tell everyone was focused but we had so much fun. There was a lot of love, ironically, on the set of The Hate U Give.

You're next film is The Short History of the Long Road which is an indie project. What was it like for you going from doing a blockbuster film to that?

Crazy. I'm so lucky to be able to try out so many different things in my career so far. I actually did a sitcom, a multi-cam pilot for NBC earlier this year too that ended up not being picked up but seeing that, compared to The Hate U Give, compared to this indie project, they're all so different. And that's what I was really hoping for because I'm young and I can do all these crazy things and not have the wind knocked out of me.

Was there something about that film in particular that drew you to it?

Yeah. One I had never played a character like that before, I had never done a project like it before. It's this girl who grows up in a van her whole life with her father and then spoiler alert her dad dies and she's alone. There was no sense of a love story, it wasn't sexualised, it wasn't making the girl out to be dumb. It was very much a young girl surviving and finding her way through the world. It was something that I got to transform myself for which was really cool.

It's really inspiring now to finally see more films with female leads now, even Disney ones like Moana, which don't even have love interests. So it's great to see people like you get involved in these sorts of projects.

For my age group, unfortunately, for young women, there's still not a whole lot to choose from that's like that. It's a coming of age story and I felt like if I didn't do that now I probably wouldn't get to because in a couple of years I'm not going to be coming of age anymore which is so sad.

I don't know. 30-year-olds play 18-year-olds all the time.

That's so true. Hollywood is nuts.

Now when are you and your husband Joey King going to be in a film together?

I've actually been talking to so many people about this recently because we could totally do a Tina Fey Amy Poehler style comedy. We have so much fun together. We had the best time making the 'Sue Me' video.

It would be so great to see you both do proper comic roles together.

I know. I'm shocked we haven't done that yet. Maybe we just have to write it. Maybe we have to do the whole thing. It will be fun when it happens.

And last but not least Singular Act II is coming next year. Is it finished?

It's almost done. I'm being a little bit more critical now that Singular Act I is out cause I feel like you start to question "Is this even good?" but I think most of it is done. There's only a few final things I have to do.

The same sort of length?

Yeah eight songs on both halves. I didn't want anyone to get mad at me for less or more songs.

This time next year what do you want to have achieved?

That's a hell of a question. You fill in the lines for that one.

Singular Act I is available on all platforms and The Hate U Give is still showing in cinemas now.